Alyssa Sepinwall:My question concerns the conditions of production during the making of the film. Obviously it was during COVID (Arnold is masked in interviews) but also during the current insecurity, where other filmmakers have been kidnapped. What was it like to complete the film in these conditions and what challenges did you have? Can you envision filming another film soon or are you writing and planning instead?
Phil Julien:What was eye-opening for me in watching the film was the explanation of the use of languages in unifying the people. I hadn’t realized that there was a separation between the French people because of the different dialects of French that existed. Contrasting that with the unification of the enslaved Haitians who were united by the Kreyol language was truly new information.
Marie Nadine Pierre:@Julien. That’s a good point about Kreyol DAyiti. This is why I question the fact that Antonin’s film claims that most of the soldiers and soldierettes newly arrived Africans! They had to have been in Ayiti for some time to understand Kreyol! Blessed love.#1804 #Ayiti #ToutMounSeMoun #HousingFortheHomelessNow!
Phil Julien:@Marie Nadine Pierre, I am hoping that that was a slight oversight. But isn’t it amazing that the French even in their own language were not even united? It is surreal to fathom!
Marie Nadine Pierre:Lanmou Jah ak Jahes. Mwen remake ke fim nan pat montre oken fanm “expe” nan listwa Dayiti. Eske li ka ajoute de twa fanm-memsi yo abite nan dyaspora a? E pi tou, mwen ta renmen we diskisyon sou fanm ki te nan lame Indijenn nan tou! Mesi anpil. Lanmou Beni.
Phil Julien:I have always been curious to know in what languages the generals lead their armies with: was it in Kreyol or was it in French?
Bernard Louis:Can we compare Dessalines’s ideology with Marxism?
Phil Julien:@Bernard Louis, remarkable! But in what aspect?
Bernard Louis:In the film he said Dessalines’s government wants the state to have control over all resources instead of the private sector
Regine O. Jackson:Bernard: I think we can also ask how much Marx and Engels were influenced by Dessalines and events in Haiti.
Marie Nadine Pierre:@BernardLouis and @PhilJulien. In my humble opinion, Emperor Dessalines’ ideology pre-dates Karl Marx’s decades. And Antonin’s film showed that the Russian Federation appropriated some of the same combat tactics that GG Toussaint Louverture and General Dessalines used to beat the French! They burned their towns to prevent Napoleon’s army from invading and occupying Russia! Blessed love.#1804 #Ayiti #ToutMounSeMoun #HousingForTheHomelessNow!
Phil Julien:Question for Dr. Antonin: why didn’t Dessalines make the leap of forming a presidency rather than an empire? Was it simply because a democratic/republican form of government was foreign to him?
douglasdaniels: Is it possible to discuss Haitian history without bringing in Marxism?
Carole M. Berotte Joseph:Nou pa konsève patrimwann peyi a. Nouvo Gouvènman nou yo ta bezwen devlope yon politik pou n apresye bagay sa yo.
Phil Julien:@Marie Nadine Pierre, I totally agree that Dessalines’s ideology predates that of Marx and Engels
Marie Nadine Pierre:@CaroleMBerotteJoseph. Ki sa ki patrimwann nou an? Eske se ou pwatrimwann ki bon pou tout moun? Pou mwen, te gen ou ti “elitism” nan pwatimwann ke General Dessalines ak patizan li yo te devlope a! Yo pa mete fanm ladan ni e pa gen moun ki pa gen te ladan li tou! Mesi anpil. #1804 #Ayiti #ToutMounSeMoun #HousingForTheHomelessNow!
La Troupe Makandal:The New York City Council renamed a Brooklyn street Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard. It was highly controversial because of the “white massacre” fallacy. News outlets like Fox (Tucker Carlson) and the New York Post were vicious. Still, the proponents of the renaming prevailed. Much education still needed. Mèsi pou travay ou, Arnold!
Phil Julien:Mwen ta swete ke timoun ki lan lekòl lan peyi a ka gade fim sa a
Evelyne Laurent-Perrault:I personally think that Dessalines ideology is Dessalinean. Calling it under the name of another philosopher, in my opinion, represents a dis-service to Dessalines. We would never say that Marx’s Philosophy is Dessalinean, even though Dessalines lived before Marx.
Cécile Accilien:As part of decolonizing history we need to reinsert and recenter the voices of women. As the African proverb says “Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter,”
James Goetz:If I understood correctly, near the end of the film one of the experts commented that Haitians successfully used marronage to survive slavery and continue to use marronage, but now it is against ourselves, making it a major challenge to creating a healthy, productive Haitian society. (I hope my recall is reasonably accurate). I’d love to hear comments on how to understand this historian’s observation.
Carole M. Berotte Joseph:@Marie Nadine Pierre. Your point is well taken. Much work is needed for us to document and correct the record and to be more inclusive about the role of women in Haiti’s history. That doesn’t mean we should neglect working on such documentaries. We have more work to do! Ayibobo Regine O. Jackson!
Mx. Marshall Smith:Thank you for this insightful film, the illuminating conversation, and the excellent translation/contextualization. How can we acknowledge the relational and international participation (both bodies and ideas) that led to the full realization of the Haitian Revolution, while simultaneously celebrating and preserving our Négritude (or Haiti as a Black Revolution)? That was the initial question, but the idea of Dessalines’s nég as a universal humanism answers this question and alleviates this tension. I will certainly add this film to my Haitian Literature and Culture syllabus this upcoming year.
Claudine Michel:Hoping that Arnold, Evelyne and Nathalie will submit a version of this important conversation to the Journal of Haitian Studies. Maybe Alyssa will also add her voice as an additional commentator. This will be another important contribution for our field of Haitian Studies and beyond.
LeGrace Benson:Many would benefit from having such a summary widely available not only to scholars but to schools and general public.
James Goetz:Beyond a summary of this session, a transcript of the film would be of great value with so many experts observations. A transcript would make the information far more accessible for study.
James Goetz:If this film is to be edited for TV, could it be expanded, to two parts instead of trimmed? That might make more sense.
The Haitian Studies Association is honored to announce a 2-part event featuring Arnold Antonin’ new film, Jean-Jacques Dessalines: The Man Who Defeated Napoleon Bonaparte. Part 1 will be a film screening on Saturday, July 16 at 1 pm PT/ 4pm ET. The film is 94 mins long in French and Kreyol (with English subtitles).
Then join us on Sunday, July 17 at 11 am PT/ 2 pm ET for an interactive conversation between Arnold Antonin and Dr. Evelyne Laurent-Perrault, from the University of California – Santa Barbara about the film.
The 2-part event will be hosted on Zoom.
We hope you can join us!
About the film:
During the Haiti International Film Festival last August, Arnold Antonin was honored as the “Father of Haitian Cinema.” His film is about Haiti’s main founder — Jean-Jacques Dessalines — who was assassinated two years after the proclamation of independence. Today he is both a mythical and an unknown figure, used for better and for worse. This film reintroduces Dessalines in all his complexity and opens a debate on the Haitian crises and the colonial heritage. The film includes analysis by Pierre Buteau, Jean Casimir, Michèle Pierre-Louis, Jean Alix René, Bayyinah Bello, Vertus Saint-Louis, Jhon Picard Byron, Lesly Péan, Daniel Elie and others.
Haitian filmmaker Arnold Antonin has made some of the best films about Haitian art, Haitian Culture and Haitian History. He is known at home and abroad for his social, political, and cultural commitment. He was honored for his work with the Djibril Diop Mambety award at the International Film Festival in Cannes in 2002. He has received many awards including the Paul Robeson best film award three consecutive times at the African Diaspora FESPACO in Ouagadougou in 2007, 2009, and 2011.
Historian of the African Diaspora in Colonial Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Evelyne Laurent-Perrault’s research looks into the subjectivity, intellectual creativity, and the political imagination of enslaved and free women of African descent (mostly), who lived in Caracas-Venezuela, during the eighteenth century. She explores how these historical actors envisioned, aspired, and negotiated their rights, autonomy, freedom(s) papers, social and political membership, and dignity. The work seeks to unmask the reasons why most of Latin American historiography did previously dismiss the intellectual contributions these social actresses gave to the region, the Atlantic world, and beyond. While Dr. Evelyne Laurent-Perrault’s work is anchored in the eighteenth century, it is in conversation with the present, as she traces how the sequelae of implicit, insidious, and discursive forms of violence from that past, still linger and perpetuate devaluation and racialization in our present days.