Toussaint Louverture Revisited

I was recently invited by the cultural group Africavenir to attend a Berlin screening of Toussaint Louverture  starring Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis. Several films have been on the drawing board in the last many years and this french funded production was able to get something off the ground in 2012 when it aired on french television. For the leading actor it was a tremendous opportunity to embody the expression of such a seminal figure in the history of the "new world" and its ultimate rippling effect on old-europe as well as the newly formed USA (The American scholar Susan Buck-Morss points these intersections extremely well in her essays and book surround the Haitian revolution and european philosophical discourse, Hegel in particular). The film(s) totalled 3hours and many german teenagers were in attendance that morning/afternoon in Early April as part of their international-school curriculum. I attended with a fellow berliner (haitian-american) Ti'vicky (Lil'vicky) Germain who spoke to the teenagers afterwards in a Q&A session that offered good moments of intro-spection for me as well as the kids.

The film: (I have chosen not to embed the film but a link may be found in the footnote/links below) 
Within the first 25 minutes  i was appalled (perhaps the "calypso" music set me off) and by the first french rendition of the vaudou inspired uprisings i was horrified and bemused by the interjection of words (or sayings) in Kreyol. Note the poster's pop image reminiscent of a Swash-buckling pirate film rather than a dignified image presented as the cover piece to the dramatic work starring Paul Robeson. How a narrative unfolds and is visually depicted is critically important as they affect a history of visualization.

I found one review (in english) entitled "Happy as a Slave: Toussaint Louverture the mini-series" (by Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, California State University, San Marcos), it serves as a splendid summation and critique of this unfortunate project. 

Please find it at this link: <a href=""></a>

"...despite the film’s virtues, its depictions of the Haitian Revolution – and of the slave system which preceded it – are deeply flawed.  It is perhaps inevitable that a historical drama has factual errors; indeed, as critics were quick to point out, the film departs from the truth so often that one loses count. Inaccuracies range from depicting Suzanne as skinny though sources say she was not, to inventing characters who never existed (such as the Napoleonic officer Pasquier, who drives the film’s narration), to killing off characters who survived until years later (such as Biassou, Mars Plaisir, and Toussaint’s father). Such criticism led to a last-minute change in the film’s description to an oeuvre de fiction (“work of fiction”)...."

"...the factual errors (and a soapy style) are hardly the worst aspects of the film. While Niang likely did not realize he was doing so, the film papers over the brutality of slavery. Violence against slaves is almost non-existent. Even in isolated instances (such as an invented scene where Toussaint’s chained father drowns; another where his invented sister reports being raped; and another in which mob of angry colons chases Toussaint), the film is quick to contrast bad whites with kindly slave-owners. Whippings are completely absent; work on the plantation looks peaceful and bucolic...."

  1. Toussaint Louverture the 2part TV mini-series on Youtube (*in french) PART 1 & 2
  2. The haitian revolution on wikipedia (as of April2014)
  3. Susan Buck-Morss
  4. a blog post regarding an "image" of Toussaint Louverture