Review of  "Black Dawn" -- Cartoon Version of the Haitian Revolution

Review by Bob Corbett

"We got independence so long ago and we are still not free."  This quote taken from the uplifting, animated documentary Black Dawn is one of the many important statements this film explores for all those fortunate enough to see it.

The delightful story begins with the two classic Haitian folk characters, Bouki and Ti Malice, who are travelling to the market along with their very stubborn mule. When the mule, on its own accord, refuses to move another inch, the two men, each at opposite ends, try to push or pull the animal in opposite directions, hoping it would move. After several unsuccessful attempts, they sit in the shade of a nearby mango tree and begin to talk of the history of the Haitian people, beginning with the merciless removal from their African homeland where "the animals and the people lived happily."

Ti Malice continues, next describing the role of the lwa (spirits) in the lives of the Haitian people. While in the middle passage from Africa to Haiti, Erzuli, an Earth mother figure, hovered over the ship singing while the passengers wept. And it was Erzuli who wept at the sight of the young Haitian boys being whipped by their white masters. Also, Ougan, the warrior spirit, came to give the slaves determination to fight with Toussaint Louverture. As one Toussaint said when he was being carried away to France,   "In capturing me, you are only cutting the trunk of the tree of liberty, but it will flourish again for its roots are strong and deep."

Through their own story Bouki and Ti Malice see the importance of uniting against the forces which have oppressed the Haitian people for so long: slavery, poverty, injustice. The strong desire and hope for a united and growing country is also seen through the conversation of these two comical characters. Despite the cruelty and hatred of the Haitian people throughout the centuries, a seed for a better way of life still exists, and it is the combined strength of every Haitian which will allow it to grow and to flourish. The Haitians hold on to this belief and it is this belief that keeps many of them alive in the hardest of times.

Black Dawn is a truly wonderful film which is clear enough for a child to understand, narrated well enough for an adult to be involved in the story, and animated beautifully so that everyone of all ages is entertained. This is definitely a film anyone who wants to be educated about Haiti in an entertaining way should watch.


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Bob Corbett