Film on Haitian Art: In the Eye of the Spiral

The Haitian Cultural Foundation (HCF) has just released its nine-minute trailer for its upcoming film Dans l'oeil de la Spirale -- In the Eye of the Spiral. If the film is only half as brilliant as the trailer, Haitian art will finally find its seat at the international table of culture where it belongs. Knowing both many of the artists interviewed as well as the good people of the HCF, including its director Raynald Leconte, I am particularly excited waiting for the film's release.

Graphic from the film "In the Eye of the Spiral" courtesy of Haitian Cultural Foundation.

I first arrived in Haiti post-Christmas 1999, staying at the Oloffson in Port-au-Prince. The legendary Vodou rock band RAM played New Year's Eve and I immediately realized the artistic scene in Haiti was unlike any I had ever seen. Having experienced culture from London to Paris to Tokyo, I was familiar with artistic traditions East and West. But nothing had prepared me for the Spiral that is contemporary Haitian art, and even Haitian society itself -- what my Haitian friends call "the reality of Haiti."

This important documentary will feature seven of Haiti's most prominent living artists. Taking as its point of departure the notion of dynamic chaos incarnated by the incomparable writer-painter-philosopher Frankétienne, whom I have written about often, this film proposes a new narrative for the embattled Haitian Republic -- a narrative steeped in the vitality, the mysticism and, ultimately, the hopefulness of artistic creation.

Artist and intellectual Frankétienne from the film. Courtesy: Haitian Cultural Foundation.

Each one of the artists who lends his voice to this production seeks to make plain his persistent faith in Haiti's capacity to build an extraordinary future. Each understands clearly the essential contribution that the individual -- the painter, the writer, the musician, the artisan -- can make to establish a positive global presence for this island nation.

I had the opportunity to sit next to renowned Haitian artist Mario Benjamin en route to Port-au-Prince several years ago as he returned from the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea. Mario was deeply critical of the international development community's presence in his country, even before the earthquake, and I agreed with him. When I got home I wrote one of my favorite pieces, Can We Change Perceptions? "The Obscenity of NGOs."

Image from the film In the Eye of the Spiral courtesy of Haitian Cultural Foundation.

Having been raised by a parent who was an interpreter of l'intellectualité francophone, I spoke to Raynald about his film with great interest:

It is our aim with In the Eye of the Spiral to sustain and nourish this vision by providing a platform -- by circulating Haiti's contemporary artistic perspectives into the wider world. To realize this objective, we must now build on the momentum we have already generated by garnering additional funding for the editing of the more than thirty hours of footage filmed during our most recent trip to Port-au-Prince.

Art work from Frantz Zephirin the film In the Eye of the Spiral courtesy of HCF.

English music legend Annie Lennox has viewed the film's trailer and written its producer Raynald Leconte:

It is wonderful to connect with these artists, who have so much to offer the world. With dignity, profundity and clear sighted visionary power and wisdom, they uphold the cultural/ spiritual identity of an incredible country that has been ravaged by exploitation, poverty, corruption, violence and catastrophe... consistently and in every sense. Nature just dealt the most brutal stroke after mankind did their worst... in my limited view. I'd be very happy to lend my voice in terms of support for what you're doing...

Image from the film In the Eye of the Spiral courtesy of Haitian Cultural Foundation.

Award-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis has also viewed the trailer and written, "It is beautiful!" Rolling Stone writer Mark Binelli replied, "Looks fantastic! All of those artists seem fascinating..."

Art critic and friend Rachel Nadjarian said:

Beautifully done documentary! I realize it is only a snippet of the full picture but am curious how it will emerge into an hour-long piece. Will there be others interviewed beside the artists or historical timelines included? The artist's words are so poetic and thought-provoking. What a spiritual and deeply intelligent people, and one I suspect more misunderstood and misinterpreted than not. While the path you are paving is a long one that takes time and reiteration, each of these steps helps drive thinking and consciousness in the right direction.

HCF is the type of organization supported by our foundation: It is an all-volunteer organization that pays no salaries. The Haitian Cultural Foundation offers high return on investment! Its core team includes an international team of professional multicultural art lovers refer to HCF Raynald Leconte, Eve Blouin, Kaiama Glover, Robert Beevers, Isabel Hegner and Board Member emeritus Blu Putnam.

Image from the film In the Eye of the Spiral courtesy of Haitian Cultural Foundation.

The principles of reflexivity argue that patterns can be broken. We believe that the art of this nation can be the catalyst to begin a positive and expanding spiral for the people of Haiti. I believe in Haiti. I deeply admire its people and have great respect for its artists and intellectuals. Filmed with passion, clarity and perception, Dans l'oeil de la Spirale -- In the Eye of the Spiral will allow people from around the world to understand why.

The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( is the umbrella organization under which The International University Center Haiti (Uni Haiti) and Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) are organized. If supporting young global leadership is important to you, subscribe to J. Luce Foundation updates here.

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