Up Close and Personal

The Ciné Institute of Jacmel

Do you wonder what it feels like to live in a country where an estimated 1.5 million remain homeless since the January 12, 2010 earthquake?  Do you wonder how the Haitian people cope with everyday needs in a tent camp? Do you want to hear and see Hatians tell you where they find hope? 

You can start your search for answers with Haiti’s Ciné Institute. Go directly to their website and view their work. Watch, for example, their short piece about Kobel Dubique, a Haitian doctor working with Partners in Health to deliver much-needed medical care in a tent city: http://www.cineinstitute.com/news/recovery-and-reportage. If you live in Haiti, you can neither ignore current challenges nor give up hope of addressing them. Ciné’s short film about Dubique shows daily realities without giving quarter to despair.

Just outside of coastal Jacmel, housed in an old scuba camp perched at the edge of a gorgeous, rocky sea cove, the Ciné Institute teaches young Haitians to be filmmakers.  The comprehensive curriculum offers classes in technical training and microenterprise development, as well as traditional topics like dramaturgy, directing, acting, editing, production, and more. The course most in demand? How to make a film with no money.

“When the earthquake hit,” tells instructor Paula Hippolyte, “some students were working in Jacmel. They showed that they have the instincts of film makers…because they kept filming.  Actual footage of the event was pretty rare, so their film was picked up by CNN, BBC, and others. After the quake we got requests from around the world to document what was happening here.”  See the students’ frightening and deeply moving account: www.cineinstitute.com/news/2010/01/29/le-jour-du-seisme-the-day-of-the-e...

 Nine months after the quake, HAND/EYE met with Hippolyte and fellow instructor and filmmaker Andrew Bigosinski to learn about their program. After a short tour with student Ebby Angel Louis, they described life at the Ciné Institute today, which has begun to settle back into the recognizable rhythm of a school, with students clustered around monitors, or working together in a classroom setting. “Since our students are young people, some of their films tell love stories involving disapproving parents,” Hippolyte says. “We also have work about the sometimes hypocritical relationship between church-religion and vodou, and lots of interesting coming of age narratives. Their work is about life as they see it. Haitians are natural storytellers, and the students find their way into storytelling with film so beautifully.”

Bigosinski adds, “With little or no access to universities, young Haitians need opportunities to build powerful careers and communities. Film can be a powerful anchor for a community like Jacmel.  There is a music school here, and a strong visual arts scene. The kind of economy that can be built upon these cultural resources is incredibly meaningful.”

Both Hippolyte and Bigosinski emphasize that as Haiti addresses earthquake recovery and its economic challenges, “The need to create and to tell your own stories, to define your own reality, can’t be overlooked.” Especially when it offers the chance to master 21st Century methods and reach the world with the results.

Go to www.cineinstitute.com, where you will find a “donate now” button at the top of their home page. The HAND/EYE Fund is supporting the Ciné Institute with a grant in 2011. We hope you will, too.

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