La Belle Vie: The Good Life (2015) - full transcript

La Belle Vie: The Good Life is a story of self-discovery as Haitian-American filmmaker; Rachelle Salnave ventures to confront the grace, and simultaneously the unseemliness, of her native ideologies. Born in New York City, but raised by an upper class patriotic Haitian family, forced to flee their island nation in adulthood, Rachelle comes of age in the midst of crossfire between two distinct cultures. The beliefs of her nurturing parents, the products of noble family histories, juxtaposed with the truth of her humble working class reality in Harlem USA, set the stage for an inner conflict that ultimately compels her to search for her own truth. With the proliferation of political turmoil, poverty, and the 5th year anniversary of the Earthquake that shattered the nation; this film in the end documents the filmmaker's burning desire to find a collective of people who manage to share similar identity issues but who turn love for their country as motivation to create change.


[Background sound of Airline Stewardess giving instructions]

Rachelle: Although I wasn't born and raised in Haiti

there's been a spiritual umbilical cord

that has always connected me to my homeland

and despite my identity issues as a kid

and even as an adult,

Haiti and its culture is so much a part of me

but in order to really understand who I am
and what Haiti is all about

I needed a search within

and the pieces of my puzzle laid beneath the root.

The family roots.

I was born in Harlem in 1975

raised with my brother David in a small two-bedroom apartment

adjacent to a community that at the time was plaqued

with drugs and disinvestment.

On the left side was black Harlem and on the right

side of us was Columbia University.

It was instilled to me that we were from

the Haitian elite family

but yet we never lived that lifestyle.

I've often wondered where was my "bougie rights?"

I drank kool-aid.

Watched "The Jeffersons"

and I was in love with hip hop music.

While my mom always talked about my grandparents living a "La Belle Vie" (the beautiful life)

She spoke of having maids and chauffeurs.

Going to the beach all the time

and spent a large portion of her formative years in

French boarding schools.

We were told almost daily of our rich legacy of the

Haitian bourgeois society

and we all lived vicariously through the tales of

the beautiful family stories of" La Belle Vie of Haiti."

At the age of nine, my mother use to make cookies on the street

and sell it to people so she can buy some notebook

and borrow books to study

and three Nuns became very very interested about

this little girl. How smart she was and everything

so they took her and decided to give her an education.

Born in Les Cayes

located in the southwestern part of Haiti

Grandma grew up in a town mostly known as a major

port for the country.

Isolated from the exciting world of Port-Au-Prince

Haiti's capital, Grandma's parents grew up modestly.

Resia Cresap: She wasn't poor but she wasn't wealthy.

She had to make it she become self-sufficient

and that was one

of the reasons she again she left home

because she felt that she could do better

she wanted better.

Rachelle: In Haiti there was a rigid class system that was unspoken

The rich were few the poor was massive and the middle class was invisable.

But my Grandma went against the social norm.

My maternal Grandfather, Raoul Berne

was a charming wealthy business owner.

The Berne family were very

popular in Haiti in the 1950s and mainly
intermarried with other big-name

families in Haiti or with other Frenchmen

but love intercepted the rules

in Grandpa's social club when he met Grandma.

Patricia Berne: She was in a restaurant with her friends

and when she met my father

who automatically like "boom"

that was like a deja vu. They fell in
love and I was born like the baby love.

Rachelle: Mom would always romanticize about Grandma's Cinderella life

and I loved it!

Grandma made it!

and growing up in the cruddy streets of Harlem

I adored hearing about the good life of Haiti.

At a time when the civil rights era was just getting

underway in America,

my Grandparents were living in life.

They traveled all over Europe without a care in the world

they had parties and rubbed elbows with

top dignitaries that were visiting Haiti.


Lily Charlot: We had a life that you can really call “La Belle Vie”

with Raoul Berne, Milone Berne. Simone Jermaine was always with us,

The De Vendegis, Marie Thérèse and her husband.

We created a group that was truly

living the beautiful life [La Belle Vie].

Each week, actually twice a week,

we would have receptions at alternate homes. So one

day it would be at The Berne’s and

another day it would be at the Roy’s.

[End of Foreign]

Raymond Cajuste: People at the time felt very, very close to one another.

Practically no crime

you know we're talking about a place where you could actually

leave your doors wide open

people would never come into your doors

you can leave your cars open

people never break into your cars

This is the way Haiti was at the time.


Edouard Salnave: So if you had 50 cents in your pocket

and you had a date with your girlfriend

you would go by foot to Bi’Centnaire.

Cars were not an option to go on dates

to go on dates with your girlfriend to Bi’Centnaire,

but they had what was called “ The Bourgeois”.

The Bourgeois were the ones who really had the movement of money.

It was not much.


Dr. Jean-Robert Cherry: In Haiti, when they call you ”bourgeois”

it’s either because you have money

or you are a Mulatto.

And that is why they say in the Haitian community

a black man with money is a mulatto

and a light skin man without money is black.

[End Foreign]

Rachelle: I certainly didn’t understand how

a country could pride itself as being
the symbol of freedom by being the first

black Republic to free itself from colonialism

but yet there have been such

self-hatred among people based on skin tone in class.


Dr. Jean- Robert Cherry: Haiti is a country

that was founded on racism.

It was founded on the basis of excluding

a group of people

that have come from Africa.

[end foreign]

Raymond Cajuste: When Haiti became independent after the war . . . the slave revolt

the light-skinned people

what you call the “affranchi,

the light skin . . . they were educated.

They were actually the son and daughters

of the slave masters.

These people will be educated

They went to France to be educated.

They had money!

They took over. They took over

the control of the country

and actually supplanted the master who was there so

therefore you almost had a continuation of slavery in Haiti

but different slave masters.

You had light skinned Haitians

who actually became the new masters.

Rachelle : President Sylvain Salnave was a
13 President of Haiti from 1867 to 1869

he was my third great-grandfather and was rather unique.

Although he was of mixed race

he showed the masses his
loyalty by spending his an entire

presidency fighting against the system
that wanted to continue to enslave the people

Salnave didn't use his European features to instill oppression

rather he practiced voodoo

denounced the Catholic Church

and walked among the people.

at that time it appeared as if two nations

existed as one

the blacks who were the mass

they were the laborers that

connected to their African traditions

and the bourgeoisie who were of mixed origin

who ran the economy and the education in the country.

their ties were to France.

The Elite families in Haiti normally sent their children to

France to be educated.

This French influence not only affected the way my

mother viewed herself

but also dictated much of the class structure in Haiti

Patricia Berne: When I was a young girl I really wanted to go back to France.

because that's where I was comfortable.

That's where I grew up.

That's the environment that my mom put me in.

Rachelle: Leaving Haiti at the age of nine,

Mom was disconnected from our homeland

and hadn't realized until she was an

adult how much of her identity issues even affected me.

For the most part,

Mom, thought she was French rich

and lived her "La Belle Vie"

blindly to the social divide of Haiti.

Patricia Berne: Being being in Haiti was always a conflict for me

other children used to make fun of me a lot

and I was not understood by other

peers, so that's why I say I don't belong.

I am not white and I'm not black

but they called me "Grimelle"

so I'm not either or

but I was treated like I was a white person.

Rachelle: Grandma tried her best to give her kids what she didn't have

and protect them from Haiti's political turmoil.


Edouard Salnave: It was an era that was dangerous

Even for the most loyal “Duvalierist! ”

It was dangerous even for the ones closest to Duvalier.

A person never knew where they stood.

It was an era, where it may have been easy for you

or it could have been an era where you could have been put underground!

[end foreign]

Rachelle: Francois Duvalier, "Papa Doc" declared himself president for life

from 1957 to 1971.

If he weren't for Duvalier, I probably would have been born in Haiti.

He unequivocally had been responsible for changing the social dynamic of the country .

He despised the elite and anyone who spoke against him.

My entire paternal side of the family and

more than half the population of professionals began to leave Haiti.

They either feared for their lives or began
to seek a better future for themselves.

Mariesimone: When I came to America, I came with my
nose like this

but right away I saw that lady was right.

I came with the wrong color.

Rachelle, be realistic! We are the wrong color.

aren't we?

Rachelle: My family members and many others who left Haiti to come to America

encountered a rude awakening.

They were black and immigrants.

Mariesimone: When we came here,

we saw what we have lost in Haiti.

I almost went back to Haiti.

It was so tough.

When I came here, I wasn't prepared.

I use to cry almost every night!

Rachelle: And here we were . . .

the first generation born outside
of Haiti born into the American way of life.


[background :"where is the money?"]

[background: "I don't know"

Rachelle: and this was the world wide image of Haiti.

They called us "boat people"

the media constantly portrayed Haiti's poverty and

the CDC even listed Haiti as the origin of the hiv/aids epidemic

So as a kid I

didn't want anyone knowing I was Haitian

and I found I wasn't alone in my identity struggle.

Bernard Montperious: I'm a Haitian American

born here in Queens

my mother always told me

I was a "Bourgeois."


which Bourgeois do you know wears a hat,

and carries luggage every day that works for small tips like this?

[end foreign]

Even all the housekeepers working here call me “Bourgeois, Bourgeois.”

and I tell them


What kind of bourgeois is going to carry luggage everyday?

What kind of Bourgeois is going to carry luggage like this every day?

Watch them.

They don’t want me to help them.

They’re doing it all on there own.

[end foreign]

Excuse me sir, can I help you with your luggage?

Hotel Guests: No, Thank you.


You see.

They don’t want me to help them

Things are serious difficult.

People don’t want to give anything.

You saw that, right?

[end foreign]

Melky Jean: It wasn't necessarily cool to be Haitian.

and we were the most Haitian family you could ever find.

Normal for me was wearing long skirts and going to

church Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

Thursday, Friday, Saturday morning and Sunday

Eventually my parents moved to a better life

in East Orange New Jersey

so this pastor basically came from Haiti
and he wanted to impress the

congregation on Sunday so he wanted a
few choice words

and he comes to us , the kids

and asked us you know how do you
say "vagabond"

and we were like you "motherfucker"

so he ends up doing the sermon and replacing the

word "vagabond" with "motherfucker" in
front of the whole church congregation.

he was like


"Brothers and Sisters

if you do not accept Jesus Christ

y'all a bunch of motherfuckers.

[end foreign]

Rachelle: I remember reading Langston Hughes and a

number of other Harlemites that

reflected on Haiti as a blueprint for
black people's liberation

but growing up

in the 80s, I didn't understand where the
shift came from

why was there a conflict between

black Americans and Haitians

Why didn't black Americans accept us?


Edouard Salnave: (African-Americans) were not our friends.

We were living here

and it was like they were wondering when we will leave.

and also, they (African- Americans) don't like you too

They don't like you too because of your accent , you speak French and

Then they’re asking you “how does a nigger speak French?”

Rachelle off screen: But Dad, but growing up

I never understood why Mom and even
yourself when you had parties nothing

but white people.

Did you think you were a white man?


Edouard Salnave: That’s a good one!

During that time,


It’s only when I went to the bathroom to look in the mirror

is when I notice there were only two black men at my party.

You’re exactly right with what you said.

There were times where I thought,

like you said, I thought I was a white man.

[End foreign]

Rachelle: I remember this moment like it was yesterday.

my last trip to Haiti was in 1993

when a bunch of us went down for my
cousin's wedding.

We danced , joked

and truly enjoyed "La Belle Vie"

the beautiful side of Haiti.

Jean Bertrand Aristide

was the first-ever democratically elected

president in the country.

There'd been a US embargo on Haiti as a result of the

political unrest

but I was 17

and oblivious to the effects of embargo had

on my beautiful paradise.

In my limited knowledge, at the time, the embargo meant

that there was a shortage of fuel for us
to cruise the country

so we chilled at the beach.

Our parents, who were concerned
for our safety and the family members,

such as mine who didn't even attend the

staying behind back in the States said


ah "forget about Haiti.

Haiti is broken."

[end foreign]

Forget about Haiti. It's finished.

Despite the warnings

and our parents fears, it was
at that moment

I was so proud to be Haitian.

Rachelle: After my 1993 trip to Haiti, I began a

journey to learn as much as I could
about my Haitian heritage and hence a

movement within me was born.

I began to meet all these Haitian Americans just

like myself doing everything in their
power to promote positive images of the

Haitian culture.

I found people in my generation that would determine to see

Haiti and its image change in their

Wyclef Jean: The hardest thing for you to do

is to try to stop a movement.

It is totally impossible

for you to stop

the wave of the new generation.

[horn blowing]

Mecca aka Grimo: If you’re something and you’re deny your culture,

something is wrong there. Alright?

Whatever it is that you are? Where ever it is that you’re from,

You need to be proud of where you’re from.

If you feel the connection. . . even if you don't speak perfectly

I don't speak perfectly

I'm gonna tell you straight up

I don't speak perfectly.

You might think I'm the greatest ambassador

But I make an effort

I wasn't born in Haiti

but Haiti was born in me.


Little Girl: "Finally!"

[crowd screams]

Mecca aka Grimo: So when I say "first independent black nation"

I want you to twirl your fingers in the air like this and say

"In the world"

[crowd of kids]

"in the world"

"first independent black nation"

[crowd of kids ] "in the world"

"first independent black nation"

[crowd of kids ] "in the world"


"Sak Passe" [How are you doing?]

[crowd of kids] "nap boule" [We are okay!]

"nap leve" [We are rising!]

"Sak Passe" [How are you doing?]

[crowd of kids] "nap leve" [We are rising!]

Rachelle: Even though I celebrated being Haitian

and I enjoyed my culture,

it wasn't enough, the pride wasn't enough.

Years went by since my 1993 trip to Haiti.

"Haiti is getting worse!"

"It's dangerous!"

"The Drugs!"


The fear still kept me away.

But the reality is that many of my family members

that tried to hang on in Haiti eventually, moved out.

With its political and economic instability,

year after year you

heard families departing Haiti

leaving folks like us with no one to visit.

Many of us have also been comfortable in our own lives

to even think about visiting Haiti

was like a distant dream

[footsteps, rumbling]


[footsteps, rumbling]


[footsteps, rumbling]

[News Reporter]: "The horrible earthquake, which has struck in Haiti within 24 hours ago

our correspondents are fanned out throughout the city of Port Au Prince

throughout this day bringing you the latest information…"

Rachelle: When the earthquake struck Haiti,
instantaneously all my identity issues

crumbled in the rubble.

Nothing else mattered to me.

Haitians around the world became one.

We all became one voice

and all I could focus on

was how I was gonna contribute

in helping Haiti in my own way.

Rachelle off screen: When was the last time you've been back to Haiti?

Roosevelt Ducelus: 2007

Rachelle off screen: What are your thoughts about going back?

Roosevelt Ducelus: Not too long ago I was right there in the Cathedral

now you see these things collapse

you see them actually look . . .

you know, those are historical
landmarks and and you are unable to do anything.

So that is the hardest part. So
that's why as soon as I can get on the

plane to go to Haiti, I'll be there.

Les Nubians: People went back to Haiti.

People traveled.

People went on the soil.

Some people didn't go to Haiti for 15 years 20 years

or whatever. They came back, on the floor
to work.


Carl Juste: When we were coming down into the airport


We're about to land. You could see the airport

shit shambles.

It's not like I never seen it before

so I'm there any frames

"boo boo boo boo boom"

I just landed there.

we're not way to our hotel

and there are bodies in front of the hotel

of the injured

some dead, some alive, some hanging by

some grace of God

and I fell asleep to the lullaby of screams

lullabies of mothers saying goodbye to their children.

That's how as I fell asleep.

It was hard.

It was hard.

Rachelle: It took 34 seconds for this horrific disaster to strike

I couldn't help but to think was this the end

The end of decades of fear division and the

beginning of us redefining our "LaBelle Vie"

[the beautiful life]

At that point all I heard from the

collective of friends family and folks
on the social media say

"I'm going back home."

The solidarity was infectious

so one year later after the earthquake and

18 years since my last trip

I went back home.

My team and I went home.


Rachelle: I was so excited to meet and connect with family members

that I've never met before

and eagerly waiting for them to

tell me more about Haiti.

I must admit. I really didn't know what to expect.

I mean, come on! This was a country that

just experienced one of the worst natural disasters in history

and immediately went right into the national elections

selecting the new president of the country

but through it all

I was on a quest to capture the changing face of Haiti.


Shala: "I love you Martelly!"

Man off screen: Yes, Shala

Shala: That's very good. Very good!


[singing] Black Alex: I like Sweet Mickey (president Martelly).

He’s the one I want here.

It's him, I will walk with.

They call me Black Alex!

Black Alex is here.

I’m always singing for the people.

Rachelle: If there’s any moment to be proud to be a Haitian

It's today! May 14th, 2011

you know again, the spirit of Salnave is here!

You know just the legacy…

It’s just an amazing moment.


Shala: Right now we need young people to rebuild Haiti.

I also pray, you see I’m a guy from the streets.

They say we’re hood rats but that’s not true.

We pray that Martelly brings in a good government

to bring a real good change for Haiti

so he does not make the people that fought for him on the streets,

like Cite Soeil,

like the people who fought in Grand Ville

that this was all in vain.

[end foreign]

Rachelle: My aunt introduced me to Shala and his friend Joelle.

Shala and Joelle kids who grew up on the streets

at the tender age of six, in Champs Mars

which is located in Port-Au-Prince the capital of Haiti.

Shala could easily turn to

criminal activity- but he didn't.

He escaped death by his massive efforts to

galvanize his community to vote for what
he believed in his heart would bring him

and his country real change.

Rachelle: You know, everyone is in a good spirit

because they're having a new President

and its just a beautiful feeling.

Rachelle: President Martelly had never been a politician before.

In fact, he was one of my favorite

Kompa singer's name "Sweet Micky" and he

had a terrible bad-boy reputation with
the elders

but many of us in the Diaspora felt like his patriotism

youthfulness and his great ideas could

possibly make a difference.

We all knew it would be a group effort so this is

where it begins.

Our crossroad.

A kid from Harlem and a kid from port-au-prince

both here at the National Palace doors
on a road to finding a new Haiti


Rachelle: I guess there was a bit of guilty

on one hand I was enjoying a

historical performance and also filled
with joy to see people at all levels

celebrate this new turning point for our

but this ceremony was a clear

snapshot of how divided Haiti continues
to remain based off of race and class


Tomorrow Shala, Joelle and thousands of
others will wake up in their tents trying

and figure out their next meal

and this small group will awaken to their

comfortable lives

so yes I did ponder, could this fascinating singer actually

give Haiti a fighting chance.


Patrice Salnave: Haiti is always the 1st country to do something extraordinary.


We are the first country that liberated slavery

fought for slavery

and now, we have

a singer President.

Only in Haiti.

Man in background: Only in Haiti. Isn't that La Belle Vie.


You can put it as "La Belle Vie."


Shala: This is Joel's house.

This is where Joel sleeps.

Joel: This is where he lives.

This is where I sleep.

I live here with a friend of mine.

Who does not have anywhere to sleep.

so he stays with me.

This is where I cook my food.

This is the piece of wood that my friend

was going to use to make his own house

but he does not have the means to do it.

This is where live.

[end foreign]

Rachelle: There was a lot to learn about my country

even though I had my fantasy about this beautiful life

and tried to only capture this other side of Haiti

there was a grim reality

staring right at my soul



[end foreign]

Rachelle off screen: Wow!

Rachelle off screen: What is that about?

Jean Baptiste Remaris: Misery and Slavery.

Rachelle off screen: and what's the message?

Jean Baptiste Remaris: the message is

that some people

who are thinking that they are great people

but only by pretension.

and this song calls them up to be,

umm. . .

how can I say that?

to live in humility

I don't know- humble. To be humble. Alright

Rachelle: With more than half the population illiterate

education is at the top of my

cousin's Jean's agenda.

For a number of years, Jean has been part of the young

political leadership fighting the change
the educational system in Haiti his

vision is to have one national
educational program that all public

schools will follow but the fight is a
tough one.


Jean Baptiste Remaris: There is a problem with language in the education system.

If Haitians can’t communication among themselves, one can’t understand the other.

It’s because you have creole, a language that 100% of the population speaks.

Then you have the French language, being used to instruct in the classrooms,

which is a problem because the students have no idea what the teachers are talking about.

The teachers do not have the training that will give the students

a new education that really models what the country needs.

[end foreign]

Rachelle: Much of the education in Haiti is privatized

with only 10 percent of the schools run by the

government, 75 percent of that is
unregulated by the Educational Ministry

the 10 percent of these public schools
are run in extremely poor conditions

with only a few teachers having any
formal teacher training now top that

with an already poor health and
infrastructure system


Jean Baptiste Remaris: If we’re really talking about a country open for business,

it’s time for the government to assist in helping Haitians within the country first

(or primarily) before foreigners start coming in because it’s true,

foreigners will bring in money but they will also divide us more.

So the vision I have for education reform is very big which is first to create a formal education.

Send all the kids to school to learn from the

same book with the same language.

[end foreign]

Rachelle: As I continue my quest to learn more about Haiti who made a difference,

I didn't have to look far

family members I was meeting

for the first time gave me the inside

Johanne Landrin: that's why today I'm very upset

because I only have like three schools
that I can put my children in Haiti

three schools for the whole Port-Au-Prince

who want a good education for their children.

Is that right no that's wrong that's wrong I should be able to

have a wide choice you know and this is
what we're going towards you know you're

to me it's like going nowhere and if
we love our country the way we say not

because of Carnival not because of when
they have you can go to the beach and

you have a boat and you're riding your
jet ski. It's all fun but does it stop there?

No! You need to think about future.
Do you want your children to grow in a

society where they are alone or do they
want to feel that Haitian like anybody else.

Rachelle: As much as I love the energy in the streets of Port-Au-Prince nothing

prepared me for this level of poverty.

Although poverty was nothing new to me

being exposed to it in New York

but Port-Au-Prince was on another level.

For the past 20 years, people all over the
country have been migrating to the city

creating a terrible population problem.

The street named after my grandfather

was no longer the same

Even going out on the coast of this once amazingly

beautiful city just felt uneasy to me.

I couldn't help the thought of the many

knowledgeable Haitians that live abroad
that are capable of handling the laundry

list of problems that exist here and
this Forgotten land.

Carl Juste: The Diaspora in this bouillon were making right now.

The Diaspora is the meat of this bouillon


it may not be it may not be the soup but
it's a main ingredient.

Rachelle: According to the Haitian diaspora Federation,

there are more than 2.5 million Haitians living

outside of Haiti

with its largest population living in the United States

the Diaspora has been a significant
economic support to friends and families

in Haiti.

It is estimated that the Haitian diaspora contributes

well over 1.8 billion annually

but as the older generation of diaspora contributors will

soon end, where does that leave the
younger generation in Haiti?

Steve Azor: It's why have you been in America and why haven't you been back to Haiti so long you know

you want to change you want to just send
money and it's like someone's trying to

help you but they don't want to touch
they're gonna stay away from and then

you know just like throw the food towards you.

Rachelle Off Screen: What would you like to

tell the people back in the States
people like our generation about Haiti

sort of the misconceptions
you know how our parents think Haiti is

and even the outside world?

Steve Azor: first of all they're our parents and hate this

but how many of us really listen to our
parents anyway? I mean we don't dress the

way they want us to dress. We don't
really do anything that they want us to

do. So I think I mean I'm such a rebel if
my parents didn't want me to go to Haiti

then I would have probably been down here a lot sooner

Steve Azor and his brother Hurby have
been living in Haiti for the past five years.

Rachelle: Hurby who is known to many as "Hurby Love Bug,"

was one of the pioneers of hip hop music.

What inspired me the most

about this story is that while many
people of their stature could've easily

stayed in the States and continue their
legacy they decided to bring their skill

sets back to Haiti and make a real impact.

Hurby Azor: If I had to say something to

everybody for my generation down

because there's older people then me

I would tell them to let their kids live
let their kids come to Haiti most of the

people in the state don't want their
kids coming they talk bad but most I

mean we know that the news kills Haiti.

Haitians kill Haiti!

You don't have a Haitian saying "oh yeah you should go to Haiti. It's fly! Yeah, it's great! No, they don't.

In America they don't tell you to go to Haiti. They say

"oh my God. Why would you want to go there for? They're kidnapping people"

that's what they tell you. If I Haitian is telling you that

why would you want to go there.

We gotta stop that. To change Haiti - only Haitians can change Haiti.

Dr. Charlene Desir: My generation people that are my age they know they

are in Massachusetts.

Our parents were told not to speak to us in French or

Creole so I have a group of my friends
that cannot say a word of Creole or a

word of French and most of them
understand so that's one issue so that

identity begins to break down in terms
of stripping us from the connection to

Haiti but the language sustains us and
connects us to Haiti ground the ground

of Haiti so there was a stripping so one
of the the problems is not only

separation from Haiti they separated
themselves from the Haitian community

except for food you know and like you

food leaves your body you know so

I'm seeing that separation happens
slowly and some of them you know are

creating this different type of eliteness

reproducing this class structure and
forgetting that there's a majority that

still needs assistance



Jean Robert Cherry: The Palestinian diaspora

is something that is valued

but for you, if you were born abroad, they don’t recognize you.

[Rachelle off screen]

Jean Robert Cherry: They don’t recognize your nationality.

They don’t recognize you in this land

even though your mother and father were born here.

They don’t recognize you.

Even in their constitution.

It is not a small race, no.

This is the first time this is happening in our story.

Rachelle off screen: What are your thoughts about it?

Dr. Jean-Robert Cherry: What do I think about that?

I believe it’s something that hurts us.

When you get older your mother and your father send you abroad to a different life.


But we are not responsible for that.

Then they tell you, you’re not Haitian if you don’t live here.

You have absolutely no rights.

[end foreign]

Rachelle: Eighteen years since my last visit and after years of coming to terms with my

Haitian identity, I arrived in Haiti only
to be labeled as a "Dyaspora" or a "blan"

I despised the term "Jaspowa" because I
felt like it was another classification

another added layer that the society was
creating to identify me and 2.5 million

others as outsiders.


Rachelle: What do you think people in Diaspora can do for Haiti?

Do you think Haitians living abroad are important for the changes of Haiti?

Haitian man: Yes, very important. We need those people in Haiti.

Haitian man 2: The president is not doing anything for us.

Yes, we want the Dyaspora (Haitian Diaspora) to come back to Haiti.

We need change, you understand? Hunger is killing us. We can’t find work, we can’t do anything.

Kids can’t go to school. It’s true. Even though

the president says he can help, he can’t do it all. He can’t help us all.

[Rachelle off screen:] Excuse me, why is it when I come here…

I’m Haitian, my parents are Haitians…

but you look at me and say I am “blan” (white)?

Haitian man 2: Because of your language, because of your heart.

If I have, I will share and you will help me because where you were raised everyone

works hand and hand and like to share.

Haitian woman: when you go back home you don’t have a problem.

Haitian man 2: when you go back home you don’t have a problem.

Rachelle: wow, if you talk to me like that were I’m from…

I have a huge problem with this.

You’re calling me blan (white)?

Haitian man: No you are Haitian.

Rachelle : No. When I come here, I guess because I don’t speak Creole that good,

my style of clothes may be different…

Do you understand?

everyone says “oh look at the blan (white)”

Me? I’m white? Me?

Haitian woman 2: It’s not your color.

Haitian man 3: It’s not your color, it’s your country.

Haitian man 2: Your and your mom could’ve of been born here

but some point your parents took you to the states.

As soon as you come from another country, you’re “blan” to us.

Man in background: The same as a Dyaspora (Haitian Diaspora)?

Haitian man: Yes, it’s the same for the Dyaspora (Haitian Diaspora)

Rachelle: I don’t like that.

Haitian Man: You may not like it but we like it

Haitian man 2: Excuse me, Excuse me, now we know that your origin . . . we now know your origin is Haitian.

[end foreign]

Carl Juste: Last time you were in Haiti you were called "blan"

but you understand where
they're coming from they're the ones getting chopped

its their blood is going down
down the street they're the ones that

are protesting and being shot at. They're
the ones going hungry

I might be strange to you

but I come in peace I'm your
friend you know I want that

"La Belle Vie" (the beautiful life)

just like you do. I get you. So, let's get past

Rachelle: The reality of it all was I had to

get past categorizations

no matter what they labeled me they couldn't take away

what was in my heart

and regardless of the stigmas

Haiti needs the Diaspora

and I need Haiti!

Laurent Lamothe: Without the Djaspowa (Diaspora), Haiti will not be developed.

Without the contribution of the Diaspora.

so we need the Diaspora to understand the value that not they have first of all and

to understand that this is the only
piece of land that belongs to the

Haitian. We fought for this land we got
the land now we need to we have okay we

have 200 years of misgovernment we leave
that behind and then we look forward and

positively and I remember John F Kennedy
said that "don't ask what your country

can do for you but ask what you can do
for your country"

that's what I'm telling the Diaspora right

Don't ask what the country

is gonna do for you Haitians in the Diaspora.

Ask what can you do nurse, doctor, cab driver

barber shop owner, student, filmmaker
what are you going to do for the country?

[busy Port Au Prince Streets, car horns blowing, people moving quickly, car engines]

Rachelle: It was still on a major quest to find

this movement of change I so dreamed about.

Staying in the capital day after day slowly became discouraging

It was time for me to get the hell out
of Port-Au-Prince

I had to remind myself that port-au-prince is not Haiti

so I invited Shala along with us and we headed out of the city.


Rachelle: It feels good to get out of the city.

Rachelle (off screen): When we arrived to Saut D’eau, all the tension I felt in Port Au Prince quickly disappeared.

Saut D’eau is a beautiful, spiritual waterfall know to

keeping traditional ceremonies indigenous to Haiti’s culture.

As kids we were told to stay away from voodoo.

Voodoo was taboo in our house.

so going to Saut D’eau I had no idea what to expect.

but what I did encounter was this unexplainable force

It was an unknown

but a very familiar connecting of the past

that reintroduced me to the innocence

and the potential that this country has.

It felt good being there next to Shala. To
see him smile

and to think that maybe in

that moment the he too may have felt the
same spiritual force

only God knows what

awaits Shala back in the street life of

A life that could only

survive with hope and faith

and only God knows what awaits me as I continue my

search for finding my "La Belle Vie" (beautiful life).


Rachelle: And this is the side of Haiti that is never shown

Haiti has the ability to attract great tourism

but tourism alone will not solve its problems

it's the people who I met along my journey

these beautiful stories of people all over Haiti

making a real impact in their community


Paula Hyppolite: My life in Haiti, is a walking film

because every day I wake up

Each scene, each conversation is a story

All my life, I struggled with identity mainly and

in part of the images that were portrayed
on TV now these students have an

opportunity to make a real difference.

Paula Hyppolite: The words that are used in Kreyol come

from the heart as we love to say in


it comes from my essence.

[end foreign]

it comes from my essence.

so if every word comes from
within who better to put these words in

images than us.

It was like one after another

stories of other people moving

back to Haiti are people already living
here who were contributing to make a

real difference.

Rachelle: It was so inspiring to me

to see this amazingly beautiful side

of the story that not many people believe it was really happening

and it was.

Ten years ago Dr. Charlene Desire and
her husband Blondell opened up a

cultural arts community center in the
province of San Rafael.

Every summer volunteers from all walks of life

come to the center conducting artistic

workshops for the students.

Although the center's open to all genders,

young Haitian girls really gravitate towards the program.

Dr. Charlene Desir: There’s been a lot of rapes.

Virginity is really something that is so important to certain families.

So I think they try to keep the girls inside

and a lot of the girls have a lot of home responsibilities that boys don’t have.

in this community we have an equal
number boys in high school but there's

also challenges.

Some times of the girls have
to go and help the Mom in the market

all that other stuff so they miss days of school

and some of them can't even afford

the minimum cost to go to a public school.

Rachelle: I couldn't wait to go back home to tell people about my experience

but was I naive in thinking

that Haiti was really
changing for the better

or was I onto something?

because I could not deny the reality that was in front me.

These amazing projects that I
witness could actually make an impact in

my beautiful country

[singing | foreign]

Jean Remaris Baptiste: I love you Rachelle but you must understand

that love is not always pleasurable.

You see, I love you Rachelle but you must understand

that love is not always pleasurable.

Love, my sweetheart,

is like a sickness.

It can make you suffer

or it can kill you.

But when you’re in love Rachelle

you have to sacrifice

because some days it’s ugly . . .

and some days it is beautiful

and when it’s beautiful,

it’s like paradise.

You are always happy! All your problems go away.

You forget all the terrible moments

as though there was nothing

but that’s how you discover

all the handsome men in love

but that’s how you discover

all the handsome men in love.

[End singing | End foreign]

Patrice Salnave: That's where the cross use to be.

The cross that dominated Port Au Prince

Patrice Salnave: okay., now listen even

the catholic church didn't do anything about that

Patrice Salnave: Why?

Patrice Salnave: You see that little game here?

Why can't they build a little stadium

Rachelle Salnave (off screen) : but they are

Patrice Salnave: This is not a stadium

Patrice Salnave: This is not a little Stadium.

Patrice Salnave: Why do the people have to live like that?

Patrice Salnave: this one talking about you know ?

Patrice Salnave : No one is thinking about the country.


Patrice Salnave: I don't know if you understand me Rachelle?

[end foreign]

Patrice Salnave : Everything is so individual

Patrice Salnave: It's not going to have an impact

Rachelle Salnave (off screen): So what do you think about the Diaspora

People like us

There are so many of us

That want to come back in

Rachelle Salnave (off screen): but we have this negative perception

that Haiti is

a fucked-up country

you know our parents put that in my head

you know my father

what I don't understand about my father

is that he loves his Haitian culture

but he won't come back to back to Haiti

Patrice Salnave : What is he going to come to do in Haiti?

Patrice Salnave: If this guy has a heart-attack, he will probably die

Patrice Salnave: you know, with no hospital to take care of him

Patrice Salnave: and those guys are in an out of Hospitals?

Patrice Salnave : right ?

Patrice Salnave : No?

Paula Hypolitte: La Belle Vie (the beautiful life)

to me is an illusion.

La Belle Vie (the beautiful life),

if it exists in Haiti,

it's only for a few

Johanne Landrin: The structure of the society hasn’t changed. . . yet

and will not change

if it's not done the right way.

through the roots of the problem.

Rachelle Salnave (off screen): What is the root of the problem?

because for me

the root of the problem is classification




people who are Bourgeois

the people who are poor

the people who are "Blan" (foreigners)

the people of the Diaspora

the people who are this or that?

[end foreign]

Rachelle Salnave (con't): When is that going to end.

do you know what I mean?

Johanne Landrin : What can you do as individuals to change the way it is now

because obviously it's not right

you have to have involvement of the people

at every level

of the political life or

the entertainment life and make them

feel that the all part of one society

the Haitian society.


[end music]


Rachelle Salnave: Is this a home where you can stay permanently

Joel: No, it is only for one year.

Joel: After the year they don’t want anything to do with you.

But it is really better here

because Champ Mars is not good at all

There is more security here.

Here, when the waterfalls,

we don’t get wet

and my baby can sleep tranquil

but Champs Mars is not good at all.

Martelly partnered with some organizations

with the help of the Canadian government,

which is how we are here.

For me - this is good.

Rachelle: Okay. . .after a year,

if you find a job would you prefer to stay here?

Joel: Yes . . .yes, this a nice place.

We like the house very much.

Shala: But if there are no jobs,

Joel will be obligated to leave this house.

Joel: I will be forced to leave and put on the streets

if I don’t have a job to pay rent.

Now I have a baby,

we can not live on the streets anymore.

Rachelle: Shala and Joel were relocated out of those tents

and it warmed my heart to know that

Joel and his family were safe

but with no job in sight and no education,

Shala, Joel and the rest of his community have one year how to figure out how they will pay rent

because if not, they're going to be put back on the streets.


Shala: In 3 days, millions of dollars has been wasted.

In Champs Mars

People can’t eat in the Ghetto.

When Martelly’s wife and family ask for something it’s given.

But for the people?

Joel: Martelly has brought changes in building roads and construction

but investment in human beings;

to this day there is no real change.

And that’s the most important, investment in people.

[end foreign]



Rachelle: damn foolishness is all I could say to myself

I really could not understand how

I really could not understand how President Martelly

could have a carnival twice in a matter of five months

while people were still living in tents.

I wonder if the money on this second

carnival could have been used more

Shala and Joel needed jobs.

Although many years ago Haiti
always celebrated this special three-day

celebration called "fete de Fleur,"

an event that's celebrated the beautiful flowers of Haiti

I didn't see white flower in sight.

[music and live horns ]

all I saw was a sea of young black men
who needed education and jobs.

[music and live horns ]

My cousin Dimitri who actually makes most
of the artwork for the trucks in the carnival

explained to me the Haiti does need these kinds of events because

it really will help galvanize the Diaspora

to come home and hopefully bring more

tourism which in turn will bring more jobs to the people.



Guy in the background: Hello Madame

Patricia: Can I have some coffee please?


[end foreign]

Rachelle : After 25 years I convinced my Mom to come back to Haiti with me hoping that

she would see what I see

that she can experience to the changing face of Haiti

that we all dreamed about.

Stricken with terminal cancer

she sat quietly reflecting on her own
life and her next journey

Mom said that

she would never come back to Haiti

that is just truly not the same to her that

this is not the Haiti she knew

but she said that my truth is my truth and

I should continue to tell the story of my
"La belle Vie" (beautiful life)

It's at that point that I

realized that "La Belle Vie" truly exists in
each of us.

It's our own interpretation!

It's the world that we choose to live in
the reality that we choose to accept.

For me "La Belle Vie" personifies our motto

[foreign] With Unity Makes Strength

[end foreign] With Unity Makes Strength


Mr. Baptiste, Mr. Baptiste

"Haiti Lives."

Marc Baptiste: Haiti Lives. That's where we are at baby."

Guy with Headphones: I am just excited to be with my people

Haiti Lives!

DJ Sound Street - Haiti Lives!

Tony Touch: It's Tony Touch. Haiti Lives [foreign]

This is Voodoo Ray. I'd like to let y'all know, Haiti always lives!

Haiti always lives man!


Oh la la. We have to come back.

[Credits rolling over music]