At this year’s Pan African Film Festival currently underway in Los Angeles, one of the most anticipated and talked-about films is the debut of the two-part biopic of Haitian revolutionary and African Diaspora hero, Toussaint L’Ouverture. Not to be confused with the L’Ouverture film that Danny Glover has championed for years, the film is directed by Philippe Niang for French network France 2. The good guys over at Shadow & Act recently sat down with leading man Jimmy Jean-Louis (Toussaint), to discuss the signifcance of the role and it’s meaning for himself as a Haitian man, Haitian people and the rest of the diaspora. Below are some choice cuts from their talk. Can you tell that Jimmy got his start as a model, I can since I stared at this image for about 45 seconds too long…but yes, read some of the interview below!
On the pressure of the role of Toussaint:
“I think I was sort of ready for that you know? I’ve been dealing with pressure all life long. Coming from a very poor family in Haiti, moving to Paris, a new place, a new culture, a new language. I used that pressure to adapt, to do better than everyone else, and I moved around quite a bit as well.”
On his personal learnings when he researched the part:
“It was challenging. When you are a man of power, your decisions affect so many people and sometimes it can appear to be extremely evil, when really you just have a specific goal to reach. I had to understand that state of mind because what was most important was the bigger goal not the smaller decisions. That part of it was complicated because he did things that maybe I don’t think I would agree with or like, but then when I put in the context of his life experience, I understood it a lot better. A black man in power, a black man in full costume on a horse. It’s such a remote image to us nowadays. When I analyzed him as a person, I think he was extremely fair; his fight was all for freedom. He didn’t want the blacks to be superior to the whites; that wasn’t his approach at all. He was just demanding the same kind of respect from all races, which is a fair fight; a fight everyone should go for.”
On screening the film in Haiti:
“We are organizing a very special screening to the Haitian people, first to the officials of course and then to the people. Hopefully, it will become a tele-movie at the beginning of next year, which will mark the anniversary of Haiti’s independence.”
For more, read the rest over at Shadow & Act and check out the trailer below. It’s in French with no subtitles—sorry lovelies!
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