Monday, May 03, 2010

Tribeca Film Festival - Moloch Tropical

So, I didn't really redeem myself as a blogger with this year's festival by keeping a daily blog of what I saw. It all started - or didn't start - because I was undecided about what to say with the very first movie on my list, Raoul Peck's film Moloch Tropical. I went to see it because I liked Peck's films Lumumba and Sometimes in April. He has also made the documentary, Profit and Nothing But! and is currently making a film titled Karl Marx. In other words, he is a left film-maker and he makes beautiful films.
Moloch Tropical was without a doubt, beautifully made - full of pathos, horror, and even humor. However, it justifies the overthrow of Aristide in 2004, and to use his story to portray the nature of the "universal dictator." At the Q&A, Peck discussed it as not specifically about one person, but about the nature of power and the meaning of democracy. However, this is a cop-out. It is obviously about Aristide - references to him as a former priest loved by the poor are made throughout the film, and the necklacing of a former friend and ally, of which Aristide was accused in 2004, is central to the narrative. What I find particulary problematic in this merging of the "universal" and the historically specific examination of a dictatorship is the portrayal of this Aristide-like dictator as a repulsive sexual predator.
I hadn't realized before I'd seen this, but during the U.S. coup, Peck wrote an anti-Aristide editorial in Newsday, and has been one of the Haitian intellectuals who are most disenchanted with his presidency.
In contrast, the film Aristide and the Endless Revolution shows multiple views on the 2004 coup, but is sympathetic to Aristide. The left in the U.S. is divided on the issue.
Having received most of my information about the events of 2004 as they were occurring through the coverage of it on the very pro-Aristide Democracy Now, I was shocked by this film and thought, if this is an accurate representation of Aristide in Haiti, it's devastating. To figure out what the deal is, I now plan to read Alex Dupuy's The Prophet and Power.
Ultimately, my critique of the film is that in merging "Moloch" story with a perhaps justifiable critique of Aristide, Peck has created an excuse for doing what one blogger describes as turning priest into a cannibal.