By Nelie Diverlus
Haitian film Madan Sara premieres in Canada at the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival and centres around the economy in Haiti, informally upheld by Haitian women and their determination to provide for their families and communities. In this story, viewers can see various levels of frustration, disaster, and mistreatment that encompasses carrying the economy. This is a tale of outreach and revolution, ultimately teaching us what “all power to the people” truly defines.
The film is mostly situated outside, taking the viewer on a trek through the streets of Haiti – guided by the sounds of its natural environment. Sounds of motor vehicles, people walking, and various conversations help bring the culture and nature of the film to life. The restless lifestyle is effectively portrayed through this immersive soundscape.
While the soundtrack and soundscapes are captivating, it is rather important to mention the suboptimal sound mixing and recording. Various sounds of microphone shuffling can be heard, and the background music occasionally overpowers the voices of the subjects. At numerous points, cuts between music and voices within the interview is dissonant – the faulty blending of sounds takes away from the harmony of the story. Additionally, the music practically did not feel infused into the film – it is almost as if it was used as a placeholder, considering there were extended periods of time where there was no soundtrack accompanying the story, leaving it appearing slightly empty.
As mentioned, the majority of the film is situated outdoors, allowing for the mise-en-scene to be filled with an abundance of greenery, flowy traditional dresses, and a large deal of natural lighting. As a result, at a few select points, we lose some subjects of the film to their surroundings. It was rather unfortunate to see at the rise of tension in the film, the subjects’ faces (those that are speaking, of course) are lost within the commotion of the streets.
In addition to this, at times, the interviews conducted indoors have slight misplacement. While necessary to hear from these subjects, the tonal shift between the high energy of the streets of Haiti, to an office, feels slightly jarring. Allowing for smoother transitions between both settings would definitely maintain flow and consistency, as pattern is a distinct editing style within this story.
“While necessary to hear from these subjects, the tonal shift between the high energy of the streets of Haiti, to an office, feels slightly jarring.”
Madan Sara also plays on all four elements of matter – water, earth, air, and fire. The extinguishing of the fire ensued on the markets, in juxtaposition of the rubble left for the people to gather, illustrates the crushing of both dreams and realities. It is almost, quite literally, adding to the crushed spirits of those left behind to deal with the disastrous aftermath. The fire also symbolizes the blazing spirit of the Madan Sara; the demand for liberation and justice is a flame that does not die within this story.
“The extinguishing of the fire ensued on the markets, in juxtaposition of the rubble left for the people to gather, illustrates the crushing of both dreams and realities.”
An aspect that stood out greatly was an error in subtitling – most specifically when the subjects were speaking on the amount of money they lost. This simple error removes the honesty and raw truth that this story encapsulates. Perhaps this is a simple oversight to some, but an inaccuracy such as this has great potential to distort the narrative.
With a story as disheartening as this, director Etant Dupain effectively constructs the building of prosperous futures, most specifically with the constant reiteration of these women working tirelessly to provide for their families, and for their children to create a fulfilling life for themselves. Concepts of dreams and aspirations is beautifully depicted within this feature, with a burning passion that will never die – similarly to the fiery spirits of the Madan Sara.
Editor’s Note: Madan Sara screened at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival ’21, as part of the Bienvenue – Haitian Night programme.