Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Man by the Shore

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Man by the Shore

Article excerpt

We've reached the silly season again, the time of action roller coasters, so it's worth the trouble to seek out alternatives.

The best I've found-unfortunately, it won't be widely available--is the Man by the Shore," a beautifully composed memory film on Haiti in the early 1960s, seen through the eyes of an 8year-old girl, Sarah (Jennifer Zubar). Her parents have been forced into exile even though her father, an army officer (Francois Latour), had first tried to collaborate with the Duddlier regime. Through most of the movie Sarah and her sisters are living in hiding, protected by her grandmother, Mme. Desrouilliere (Toto Bisanthe), who wants to get them safely out of the country.

The situation seems to promise simple-minded political sermonizing, but "The Man by the Shore" is rewardingly complex, subtly evocative and surprisingly restrained. Although there is a growing sense of danger as we observe the lawlessness of the local Macoute boss, Janvier (Jean-Michel Martial), director Raoul Peck downplays physical horror.

The film is all the more emotionally powerful because it is personal, narrated by an older Sarah trying to piece together fragments of the past: the rich details of her grandmother's attic, the brutal beating she observes from a window, the birthday party at which both her father and godfather, Gracieux (Patrick Rameau), sing to her. The connection between all the flashbacks only becomes clear at the end, but it's a movie I wouldn't mind seeing again; there,d be things I missed the first time.

Peck made the movie in the Dominican Republic because he began work on it before Aristide returned to Haiti as president; today he is minister of culture under Aristide's successor.

The deserted street, the shuttered houses, the objects in the grandmother's store and the way characters shift back and forth from French to Creole show Peek's concern to record Haitian reality, but there . …

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