|WHEN THE DRUM IS BEATING
(director/writer: Whitney Dow;
Marritz/Niels Alpert; editors: Nancy Kennedy/Federico Rosenzvit/Hemal
Septentrional; cast: Nikol Levy, Ulrick Pierre-Louis, Yvenel 'Saure' Etienne, Michel Tassy; Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating:
NR; producers: Jane Regan/Daniel Morel/Jennifer
Latham; PBS; 2011)
"No-frills, straightforward documentary on the history of Haiti as seen through the eyes of Orchestre Septentrional."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Whitney Dow ("Two Towns of Jasper") directs this no-frills, straightforward documentary on the history of Haiti as seen through the eyes of Orchestre Septentrional (translated as From the North-the group is associated with the northern city of Cap-Haitien), one of Haiti's most popular and celebrated bands. The energetic band plays a blend of Latin jazz with African rhythms. The group was started by Ulrick Pierre-Louis in 1948 and he's still running it as a 20-member band with lead singer Michel Tassy, making it Haiti's oldest live band.
By chronicling the band's
history, it's able to take a break from the music to
tell how the island was discovered by Columbus, how
the Spaniards ruthlessly treated the native Indian
population, how it later became colonized by the
French and slaves were used to work the sugar crops.
After the slaves rebelled in 1804 it became an
independent country, but since none of the world
powers supported it the country went from the richest
island on the Caribbean to the poorest country in the
West. Talking head Yvenel 'Saure' Etienne tells of the American
occupation of Haiti for 15 years in the early
twentieth century and how the Americans helped support
the brutal dictatorship of François “Papa Doc”
Duvalier. When the populist leftist Jean Bertrand
Aristide was elected in the 1990s the Americans never
supported him and shamefully supported the coup that
drove him from power during his second term in office.
The film also covers the devastating earthquake of
2010, where the death toll was high and damage to
buildings and Haiti was great. It's pointed out that
Haiti is a tough country to survive in, where jobs are
scarce and poverty is wide-spread. We're left with
only the hope that the Haitians are a resilient people
and that maybe they will be able to some day overcome
their tragic history. We're told that at least they
have a fine culture to be proud of.
REVIEWED ON 7/1/2012 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ