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Edwin Paraison
Posts: 84
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:32 pm


Post by Edwin Paraison » Sun Aug 05, 2007 6:40 am

Italian film bids to help Haitians

Movie exposes Dominican sugar plantation abuses

ANSA) - Rome, July 20 - Italian director Claudio Del

Punta is hoping his new, hard-hitting film

about the exploitation of Haitian sugar plantation

workers in the Dominican Republic will focus

public attention on abuses that have been repeatedly

denounced by human rights groups.

"Haiti Cherie throws the spotlight on a tragedy that has

been going on for many, many years," Del

Punta said in an interview with ANSA on Friday.

He said he was thrilled Haiti Cherie had been selected

for next month's Locarno Film Festival, where

it will be the only Italian movie vying for the event's

prestigious Golden Leopard.

"This should get people talking about the film and the

problems it exposes," he said. "The festival

is interested in films dealing with strong social issues

so I can't think of a better place for it

to debut," said the 47-year-old Tuscan filmmaker. Del

Punta shot the movie in the Dominican

Republic, where at least 500,000 Haitians toil on the

country's sugar plantations in conditions

described as modern-day slavery by international human

rights organisations.

It recounts the tale of a Haitian couple and a

14-year-old boy who decide to escape their desperate

lives on a plantation and make their way back to Haiti.

The main actors - Yeraini Cuevas and Valentin Valdez who

play the couple and Jean Marie Guerin who

plays the youngster - are all Haitians who actually work

and live on the plantations.

The director stressed that while the film's plot was

fictional, the experiences suffered by the

characters were completely realistic.

"I wanted to show what life is like in the 'bateyes',"

Del Punta said, referring to the encampments

set up on the outskirts of the sugar plantations where

the cane cutters are forced to live.

The workers live crowded together in the communal bateyes

which usually lack running water, toilets,

electricity and cooking facilities, as well as health

care services and schools.

There are some 400 bateyes scattered across the Dominican


The cane cutters toil for up to 14 hours a day for what

human rights organisation Amnesty

International has termed "derisory wages" (typically the

equivalent of $2.5 a day), while some are

paid in vouchers which can only be used at plantation


The freedom of workers to leave the bateyes is also often

restricted, turning them into virtual

prisons that are patrolled by armed guards. A March 2007

report by Amnesty International detailed

its long-standing concerns regarding discrimination,

racism and xenophobia against Haitian migrants

living in the neighbouring Dominican Republic and

particularly its bateyes.

According to a 2005 world anti-slavery report funded by

the European Union, claims of batey abuses

by international authorities range from "murder to

maltreatment, from mass expulsions to flagrant

exploitation, from deplorable living conditions to the

failure to acknowledge workers' rights".

Del Punta highlighted the contrast with the thriving

tourist industry in a country visited by five

million people, mostly Westerners, every year.

"They go for holidays in luxury resorts without realising

that just 30 minutes away from these

amazing beaches, a situation exists that is akin to the


He said the blame lay with the Dominican government,

military and industrialists.

"They all share responsibility because they're the ones

reaping the benefits. This is knowing

discrimination by a country towards its weaker, poorer

neighbour," he said.

"I appeal to journalists to talk about this problem. The

only solution is applying political

pressure to the Dominican Republic to stop these abuses,"

he said.

Del Punta filmed Haiti Cherie - his fifth feature movie -

between December 2005 and March 2006.

Initially unable to gain a producer's interest in the

movie, he financed it entirely by himself,

taking out a bank loan and shooting in digital.

The only person he took with him from Italy was the sound

technician - the rest of the crew and cast

he found locally on his arrival in the Dominican


He said a lot of the filming had to be done secretly and

that twice he was kicked off plantations by


“It was okay for me because I'm white and Western but for

the actors it was very dangerous,” he said.

Amnesty International praised the initiative.

Riccardo Nuri, spokesman for the Italian branch of the

London-based organisation, told ANSA: "It's

important that a film has taken on this highly serious


"Cinema is a powerful tool for bringing issues which are

often ignored by the traditional media to

the public's notice".

Del Punta is now hoping participation in the Locarno Film

Festival, which runs from August 1-8, will

help him find a distributor for Haiti Cherie.

Asked if the actors would be attending, he replied:

"Unfortunately no. They don't have a passport

and are unable to leave the country. They are living in

the bateyes and have never even seen a film

in their lives".

Hi everyone,

The director of this movie is Luce Turnier's son-in-law.

We hope that the film will win a prize at

the film festival Locarno Switzerland in August. Will let

you know next month. It is the only

Italian film nominated.

Jimmie & Gisele

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