London audience gripped by Jean Dominique film the Agronomist – Haiti Support Group press release, 4 May 2004
There was a full-house on 28 April at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, south London, for the special screening of The Agronomist, Jonathan Demme’s film-portrait of Haiti’s pioneering radio journalist, Jean Dominique. The film was shown as part of the French Institute’s Sixth Mosaiques Festival celebrating cultural diversity through films, live music and discussions on world literature, music and cinema.
The documentary tells the story of Jean Dominique’s trail-blazing Radio Haiti Inter and the station’s role in the continuing struggle of Haiti’s majority population for inclusion and participation in a grotesquely unequal society.
After the screening, Rod Prince, author of Haiti: Family Business and former editor of Caribbean Insight magazine, described the film as “a remarkable piece of work”, and said he hoped that it gets a run at other cinemas throughout the UK. “It’s an impressive and emotional introduction to Haiti that deserves considerable exposure”, said Prince.
In a discussion following the screening, Haiti Support Group director, Charles Arthur, outlined the as yet failed investigation to bring Jean Dominique’s murderers to justice. He also expressed his hope that Radio Haiti Inter – forced to close down again in February 2003 because of fears for the safety of its staff – would soon re-open.
Arthur said that Jean Dominique’s voice and analysis were sorely missed in Haiti. He remarked that given his run-ins with the Haitian Army over the years, Dominique would have had plenty to say about its reappearance on the political scene today.
Another member of the Haiti Support Group, Leyla Werleigh-Pearson, also spoke movingly about Jean Dominique and Michele Montas, family friends whom she last saw ten years ago.
Ian Thomson, whose book, Bonjour Blanc, a journey through Haiti, was re-launched the same evening, described his enduring attachment to Haiti and its people, and reminisced about his first travels around the country in the early 1990s.
Among the audience were Octavio Zuniga, who worked at Radio Haiti Inter in 1997, and Anna Wardenburg, a former Reuters correspondent in Haiti.
Wardenburg told of her experience at Jean Dominique’s funeral service in Port-au-Prince’s football stadium in 2000, and remembered how supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide spoilt the occasion by chanting their support for the Lavalas Family party leader. She said, “Aristide could easily have told them to stop their inappropriate behaviour, but he did nothing.”
Other guests included Tim Gopsill from the National Union of Journalists, Patricia Lamour, a member of the Pan African Women’s Liberation Organisation, and Zadie Smith, author of the award-winning novel, “White Teeth”.
The Haiti Support Group hopes to arrange further screenings of The Agronomist in the UK.