Monday, September 26, 2011

Haiti: First Taste

Arrived. Spiraling over the islands on the flight, struck by long gouges of sandy yellow surrounding rivers, sickly veins of erosion and runoff. We may have passed over Cuba, and then through the DR side of the island, because twice I thought 'well, that looks rather idyllic and nice from up here!' Not so. As we approach Port Au Prince the verdant agricultural developments give way to the panicky, metallic sprawl of tin houses and teeming congregations of people. The busy debris of poverty.

The streets don't exist. They're like jeeping trails, filled with people, women with coolers balanced on their heads. Later we get a Moto ride and I think my driver's new, he keeps just ramming people's arms and legs out of the way, which irritates but doesn't unduly enrage them. My first film plan is borne off of this ride. The idea is to get some kids to act as hosts by moto ride. They'll formally, grandly welcome the audience to the open air cinema experience, going through town as if they were royalty, as if they were the mayor. Thanks for having us, Mr. mayor...

It's a rough place, so crowded and broken. People have a good energy about them, smiling and saying 'ca va?' goes a long way, but they're hungry and hot and poor and the whole aspect of being a white guy here, even with good intentions, seems tired, colonialist, and wrong. I represent money, and a continued power structure, my camera is shorthand for exploitation, and I don't have a whole lot to offer in the way of a different narrative. I'm going to continue to do the best work I can here, and I've already done some great stuff, but man, it doesn't feel right.

We essentially employ the 2 little kids in the video as child servants. They're orphans, or estranged from their family for some reason, a trio living in a smoky hut together. I didn't know this when I decided they'd be good video hosts for our screening, so I approached them to see if they had the afternoon free to make a little welcoming video consisting of the group of us roaring around on motos and yelling at each other. They had a great time, and so did I, afterward they asked for some money, as everyone does here. "Souple Davi, m' hungry, merci." 'Little shits, I thought we were buds!' I remarked to myself, and gave them each a princely sum of a dollar. Later that evening I found out they bought soup with my money, that they literally survive off of the patches of money we throw them for errands, washing, etc. That straightened me out pretty quick.

The NGO workers frequent this neighborhood, they've got their own institutions and grocery stores and roar around self-importantly in big SUV's over the 4x4 courses that pretend to be roads. I'm extremely weird, because I dress well, but make eye contact and greet people and stop to shake hands, etc. Most all the other white folks scurry around like scared little mice, or stay detached from the squalor with glasses and cell phones. I think the thing that troubles me most about the NGO presence is it maintains a normal race-and-class dynamic, here, of all places, in the land of slave revolutions. Resourceless, edged out of self-sufficiency by the mechanics of agribusiness and overpopulation, and in the hurricane/earthquake test course, these guys can't catch a break. I have many acquaintances here that came from the US, hustlers and dealers in the states, destined to always be second-class citizens there because of their race and environment. At least here everyone's on the same destroyed playing field, though people still use money to draw lines in the sand like crazy.

My bones are tired from a lack of understanding.
Read More......

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hittin' the press: Biking In the West Bank

Urban Velo let me tell the stories of a few of my friends and provide a broader context for the Palestinian/Israeli situation. Checkit! Urban Velo's free where you can find it, to boot!

update: early response shows that while the article's good, the online reader leaves something to be desired, to whit: If the article appears to only be one page long, look for a little green arrow to the bottom right of the first page. It's actually four. I'm not letting you off that easy! Read More......