8pm Friday 21st January – £4 entry
The Cube Cinema will be showing the amazing 2002 documentary Des Hommes et Dieux which looks at the role of gay men in the Vodou religion. There’ll also be an introductory talk by vodou expert Dr Bettina Schmidt, plus clips from Hollywood “voodoo” movies, a secret surprise extra screening, and DJ The Janitor from QuJunctions spinning Haitian sounds in the bar.
Vodou flags , Petionville March 2010
Haitian Vodou must be one of the most misrepresented religions in the world.
Since 1932’s White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi, Hollywood movies have portrayed “voodoo” as being about black magic and zombies.
In fact Vodou is a complex mix of Western African religions brought over by the original slave population, which incorporated the iconography of the slave masters’ Roman Catholicism and Free Masonry.
It is also a deeply egalitarian, communal, and artistically creative religion which has stubbornly survived two centuries of negative propaganda from the ex-colonial powers and evangelical Christianity.
Tonight’s event is an opportunity to see some films that are very rarely screened in the UK and find out about a religion and culture that is often deeply misunderstood.
“I am always in support of events that educate people about Vodou. The negative connotation of Vodou can be traced back to the time of the slave rebellion in the 18th century and has never stopped to harm the image of Haiti and the religion. It’s appalling that so many people in the US, UK, and elsewhere still believe the Hollywood Zombie movie idea of Vodou” Dr. Bettina Schmidt, editor of “Spirit Possession and Trance”
This event is particularly relevant given news stories about the murder of vodou priests in “retaliation” for the current cholera outbreak in Haiti.
About Des Hommes et Dieux
Prevalent, yet still taboo in Haitian society, homosexuality and gay culture are allowed to flourish within the context of the Vodou religion. As “children of the gods,” the men find an explanation for homosexuality as well as divine protection. They also find an outlet for theatrical expression through exhilarating performances in which they embody the gods. Meanwhile, the AIDS epidemic looms as a continual threat and adds a disquieting degree of nihilism to their relatively optimistic attitudes toward life and happiness in Port-au-Prince.
On Wednesday, after Dave got the generator running again, we decided to give it a test run with a little screening for the kids from the street where Kid’s Kino team members Sergo (our driver) and Jhon Adam (our translator) are living.
The earthquake completely destroyed Sergo’s house and his only surviving possessions were the clothes he was wearing. He was round John’s uncle and aunt’s house at the time and dug them both out of the rubble (they’re both in their eighties) – he’s now a bit of a neighbourhood hero – John says people call him “The President”
Now Sergo, his wife, their 18 month old little girl Sabrina, John and one other are living in a tent in the street, just along from the abandoned church/school we projected the night’s films on…
Our fourth screening was at a camp on Route Delmar 33… 3000 people living in incredibly tightly packed tents on a football pitch.
The third short film of the screening was “Hedgehog in the Fog” made in 1974 by Yuri Norstein (the Tarkovsky of children’s animation!). Have a look – you won’t be disappointed. As the end credits rolled the rain came down, hard, the crowd of about 150 ran for cover, and we had to abandon the screening, and save the equipment.
Projector taking shelter
Screen in the rain
Football pitch turning into a lake
This camp is one of the most organised we’ve seen but after half an hour many of the tents were flooded. Everybody we meet here is talking about the coming Rainy Season and what it will mean. No one seems to be building proper drainage ditches or latrines. When the real rains come sewage will overflow, disease will follow and life in the tent cities and camps which is already hard will become unbearable. I asked Joseph Hillel a Haitian/ French Canadian volunteer (see previous entry) why no one is preparing for the rainy season? Because people want to believe the camps are temporary. The owner of an athletic club, for example, doesn’t want drainage ditches and latrines dug into his football pitch. How can people think the camps are temporary? Because huge new re-settlement camps with facilities are being built on the outskirts of the city. We drove past one near the airport which is supposed to re-house people from the central Champs Des Mars area. But why aren’t people moving out there? Because people who have lived all their lives in a certain neighbourhood don’t want to be moved to a piece of wasteland outside the city.
Tomorrow we’re going to go shopping for some kind of shelter for the projector and soundsystem.
Last night we took the Kino with Laurence and her crew to the funeral of Denis in the country town of Cabaret. Denis was one of the incredible interviewees in Laurence Magloire and Anne Lescont’s 2006 documentary Hommes Et Des Dieux which looks at the place gay men in the voudou religion. Being gay is not easy in Haitian society, but because vodou is a non- hierarchical religion there is a place for gay people to practice and celebrate within it. We projected the documentary to about 80 of Denis’s friends, family and neighbours in a tiny packed yard, and a lot of the participants in the documentary were in the audience. It’s rare for Kreol speaking Haitians to see themselves represented on screen, let alone to see the gay community represented on screen – so being in involved in this screening was an amazing and moving evening…