Aristide and the Endless Revolution (2005)

 “This is not about anything but the ideology of the Far Right wing that now controls the U.S. government.”

In 2004, Jean Bertrand Aristide, only the second democratically elected president of Haiti, was ousted from power by either a coup d’etat or a rebellion (depending on who you talk to). Extremely popular with the Haitian people–especially the poor–Aristide, in exile in South Africa, maintains that he was kidnapped by U.S forces and coerced to sign a letter of resignation. The documentary Aristide and the Endless Revolution from director Nicolas Rossier examines the many questions behind Aristide’s removal from office.

The film covers Aristide’s beginnings as a Catholic priest. He served as President of Haiti 3 times–in 1991, in 1994 to 1996, and from 2001 to 2004. Haiti–a country racked with poverty with an average worker earning just 38 cents a day, and with 1.5 doctors per 11,000 people–has a tumultuous history of coups, dictatorships, and presidential oustings. Aristide sailed into office in 2000 with 91% of the vote, and the film includes footage of the vast crowds of Haitians who clearly loved Aristide. Aristide and his supporters maintain that he threatened the status quo by confronting American interests in Haiti, and that his forced removal shows that “popular democracy” is only allowed under certain circumstances. The film includes footage filmed just three weeks before the coup that sent Aristide from office. One remarkable thing–the film shows footage of various speeches Aristide made to the people. The cameras pan the cheering crowd, and then the camera contrasts the frozen faces of those seated in the podium behind Aristide. These people are not happy campers.

Both sides of the argument regarding Aristide’s removal from office give their point of view in this remarkably well-balanced film. There’s Bush stating that Aristide resigned, and the former Secretary of State arguing that Aristide “willfully misruled.” On the other side of the argument, there’s representative Maxine Waters arguing in Aristide’s defense. Numerous lawyers and human rights officials, and Noam Chomsky add to the comments. Perhaps one the most interesting points the film makes is that Haiti was approved for a bank loan but this was blocked by the U.S. who in effect “imposed a freeze” on the loan. But in spite of the fact Haiti didn’t get the money, they were still liable for the interest. A lack of funds in the coffers led to a destabilization. The coup–according to Aristide supporters–was led by about 200 criminals who were armed with weapons provided by America.

This interesting documentary while ostensibly focusing on Aristide’s removal from office also examines the larger question about the people of Haiti. Some of the footage is graphic–bloodied bodies abandoned in the streets, street fighting, and police brutally beating various Haitians. Aristide and the Endless Revolution allows the viewer a glimpse of a much-ignored country and its troubled society while forging one’s own opinion of what really happened in Haiti. DVD extras include: an update on Haiti’s 2006 elections, political documentary trailers, an interview with Aristide, an historical timeline, and text interviews with the director and economist Alex Dupuy.

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Filed under Documentary, Political/social films

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