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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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?
They don’t want me to help them.
They’re doing it all on there own.
Excuse me sir, can I help you with your luggage?
Hotel Guests: No, Thank you.
They don’t want me to help them
Things are serious difficult.
People don’t want to give anything.
You saw that, right?
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
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.
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.
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
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
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."
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
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.
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!"
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!"
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
[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 went on the soil.
Some people didn't go to Haiti for 15 years 20 years
or whatever. They came back, on the floor
Carl Juste: When we were coming down into the airport
We're about to land. You could see the airport
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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
Marc Baptiste: Haiti Lives. That's where we are at baby."
Guy with Headphones: I am just excited to be with my people
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]