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Lillian Casillas
La Casa

Kat Forgacs
Bloomington for Haiti

Last modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Film Festival to highlight social, economic needs of Haiti one year after devastating earthquake

Jan. 5, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new film festival that focuses on the ongoing social and economic needs of people in Haiti is scheduled for 1-7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. The Haiti Film Festival is presented by Indiana University's Latino Cultural Center (La Casa) and the community group Bloomington for Haiti.

Poto Mitan

The Haiti Film Festival will open with "Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy," written and narrated by Edwidge Danticat (1:30 p.m., 50 minutes, 2009). Renée Bergan, the film's director-producer, will lead discussion after the screening.

The festival will commemorate the anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and other communities in Haiti, leaving 1.5 million people homeless.

Bloomington's first Haiti Film Festival is a joint project between Kat Forgacs, an IU graduate student in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and founder of Bloomington for Haiti, and Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa.

"This film festival is a great way to continue to educate and bring awareness on what is happening in Haiti," Casillas said. "People quickly forget or move on to other topics, but we need to keep Haiti in the forefront of their consciousness."

"I wanted to offer a good balance between social justice and post-earthquake films," Forgacs said about the festival selections. "There are so many important issues going on at once. We don't want to overlook the earthquake or neglect the advocacy needs that existed before the earthquake magnified those problems."

Forgacs said she and Casillas also wish to present a version of Haiti that isn't all dire. "There are so many beautiful things that can coexist with tragedy," Forgacs said. "It's good to show a balanced portrait of people's daily lives, and I think several of our films provide that human understanding."

Strange Things

An image from "Strange Things," one of the films featured at Bloomington's first Haiti Film Festival

The Haiti Film Festival will feature three independent documentaries, including one by an IU alumnus, and a selection of short films from students of the Ciné Institute, Haiti's only scholarship-based professional film school. Directors from the films will be present for Q-and-A sessions. During the festival, Indiana-based organizations will staff booths providing information about their service work in Haiti before and since the earthquake.

Haiti Film Festival Schedule

  • The festival opens with Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy , written and narrated by Edwidge Danticat (1:30 p.m., 50 minutes, 2009). Director-Producer Renée Bergan will lead a discussion after the film. Shot in 2006-2008, Poto Mitan focuses on the lives of several working women and the trials they face in an attempt to support themselves and their families under oppressive conditions. The Haitian Creole term "poto mitan" is used to emphasize the importance of women in the Haitian economy, indicating that women are the "center pillars" of Haitian society. The film won the Indie Spec Best Documentary Award at the 2009 Boston International Film Festival.
  • Following the Poto Mitan Q-and-A session will be several short films conceptualized, shot and edited by students of the Ciné Institute, Haiti's only fully funded film school that allows Haitian youth to learn documentary and narrative film-making techniques from professional filmmakers (3:30 p.m., 35 minutes, 2010). Following the Jan. 12 earthquake, Ciné students immediately picked up their cameras and returned to the field to document the effects of the earthquake on their neighbors and community. Their work offers unprecedented insight into the impact of natural disasters on everyday life. The personal narratives told through these films demonstrate the scale of this event and the determination of its survivors to carry on.
  • The next film in the festival lineup is When the Ground Stopped Shaking , a documentary about the effects of the earthquake, directed and edited by IU alumnus Jace Freeman (4:25 p.m., 42 minutes, 2010). Freeman graduated from IU Bloomington with a degree in telecommunications in 2006. A native of Carmel, Ind., Freeman now resides in Nashville, Tenn., where he co-founded a human rights-centered film production company, The Moving Picture Boys. When the Ground Stopped Shaking premiered in October 2010 as an official selection at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. The film depicts a community in Grand Goâve, Haiti, attempting to rebuild their lives just weeks after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. The intimate footage of this cinema-verité documentary presents a humanizing portrayal of the lives of families displaced by the earthquake and the aid workers sent to help with the relief operations. The film demonstrates how medical personnel and their patients meet challenges with humor and love amid the chaos of this life-altering event.
  • The festival culminates with Strange Things: Children of Haiti (5:25 p.m., 72 minutes, 2010). Director-Producer-Editor Alexandra Hammond will lead the discussion after the film. Strange Things tells the story of three orphaned teenage boys in Haiti's northern city Cap-Haïtien. The film follows their lives from 2006-2009, revealing the orphans' difficulties and highlighting the vast divide in opportunities available to Haiti's underprivileged children and the privileged few, particularly in the realm of formal education. After the Jan. 12 earthquake, Regine Zamor, co-producer and translator of Strange Things, created the "Bagay Dwol Haiti Relief Fund" to identify sustainable street children and youth programs and to advocate for public, free, and quality education in Haiti. Strange Things was an official selection of the 2010 MoMA Documentary Fortnight Film Festival and the 2010 DocMiami International Film Festival. "Children of Haiti," a 52-minute TV version of the film that includes new, post-earthquake footage from 2010, will air on the PBS series "Independent Lens."

Starting at 2:30 p.m., patrons can interact with several Indiana-based organizations at information booths in the lobby of the theater. These organizations, which include the Creole Institute, Provocate-Haiti, Fountains of Hope International and ImagineHaitian, will share information about their ongoing service projects in Haiti before and since the earthquake. Patrons will be able to learn about these projects and how they can get involved. The booths will be available until 6:30 p.m.

Additional sponsors of the Haiti Film Festival include La Casa, Provocate-Haiti, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Black Film Center/Archive, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Maurer School of Law, IU Cinema, Nadine Pinede and Erick Janssen, the Department of History, the School of Education, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, the Creole Institute, Episcopal Campus Ministry, the Office of Multicultural Initiatives and Micheline Fleurant.

Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $7.50 general admission. All admissions revenue will be donated to organizations working in Haiti to alleviate the humanitarian issues depicted in the films.

For more information on the festival, visit or e-mail