Karen Kramer's "Haitian Song"

A Review by Brent Dean Robbins and Bob Corbett

"This film is a portrait of daily life in a small Haitian village," begins Karen Kramer's Haitian Song, "A way of life which is based upon a dependence on the land."

Kramer's Haitian Song, a slow-moving yet graceful film, focuses on the all-encompassing agricultural lifestyle of a typical rural Haitian village; a place where land is passed down generation after generation, the soil itself a vital element in the family legacy.

From the beginning, the film creates a somber mood, the camera following a woman delicately balancing a pot of water on her head. From scenes where farmers, the sun glistening off of their wet, muscular backs, sow the land with crude gardening tools, to the joyous outbursts where song and dance provide relief from the pain of labor, one can't help feeling a strange kinship with these people, so unlike our American selves, born and bred in the technological age. In Haiti, it seems, time has stood still. "The way we work is with our hands," explains one man, "We don't have money to buy machines to do it."

There's no mistaking a sense of angry pride in his voice, and yet Haiti's soil grows less fertile with each passing year. It is becoming more and more difficult for the people to live off of the land, and, for this reason, many Haitians are forced to leave their homes in order to survive.

Each segment of the film focuses on a different aspect of a typical day in Haitian life, but, in all its modesty, the film makes a much deeper and resonant impact. Kramer captures the fall from grace of the beautiful lands of Haiti, its once rich soil now depleted, and a people struggling to keep alive a way of life from which they know none other.

Haitian Song, below the surface of its dark, earthy tones, depicts an ancient struggle between man and nature, culture and change, and, most importantly, the triumphant faith of a people in their own heroic will power to continue in the face of an unknown future.


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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu