Long-time Haitian human rights advocate, Haitian art collector and filmmaker Jonathan Demme spoke to CNN-TV’s Alina Cho this week about his love for the country so eviscerated by the recent earthquake. He made two documentaries in Haiti, including “Haiti: Dreams of Democracy” about the fall of Baby Doc Duvalier’s regime in the mid-1980s. With Jonathan’s permission, I was proud to host a showing of the film at Books and Books, an independent bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida many years ago, along with a discussion afterward. In the audience that night was Dr. Paul Farmer, another passionate advocate for Haiti. We gave all the proceeds to Dr. Farmer, who was going to Haiti the next day to set up a hospital.
Demme says he plans to go to Haiti within six months to a year to make another film about Haiti and its recovery from the event that decimated Jacmel, Leogane and too much of Port-au-Prince. His own personal collection of Haitian art was shown in Miami Beach at the Bass Museum several years ago in a show I co-curated with Axelle Liautaud called “Allegories of Haitian Life from the Jonathan Demme Collection.” He has some marvelous, irreplaceable paintings and sculptures, including all the masters like Georges Liautaud and Hector Hyppolite among many others. I hope that Jonathan explores the artistic side of Haiti in this new era of recovery.
Another hopeful story comes from a charity based in Boca Raton, Florida, which revived a tiny school in Cite Soleil, a Port-au-Prince slum in the fall of 2009. It had closed due to lack of funds. Annette Scalzo, a middle school teacher, and Reverend Gary Guerrier, a Baptist minister, are the co-founders of the Children’s Project for Haiti. They found the means to re-open the school serving the poorest of the poor in Haiti. While the school survived the earthquake, the children need help. To contribute, visit the web site www.childrensprojectforhaiti.org or send a check through the mail to: The Children’s Project for Haiti, P.O. Box 810962, Boca Raton, Florida 33481-0962.