Before the January 12th earthquake shook the ground from beneath Haiti's foundations, pulling the roofs down onto the people of Jacmel, Ciné Institute used the power of cinema to educate and empower Haitian youth in the coastal city south of Port-au-Prince. Just like other educational institutions, Ciné Institute was devastated with its building—where it housed its equipment, trained aspiring filmmakers and held its weekly screenings—came crashing down two weeks ago.
Students from the institute, whose own houses were destroyed, dug cameras and other equipment out from under the rubble and began capturing images of destruction and testimonies of solidarity in their city of Jacmel. The students chose to use the skills learned at the Institute to highlight the situation in their home town long before humanitarian aid even reached Jacmel and before any other media extended themselves beyond the Haiti's capital. They are probably the only ones offering a local perspective of the circumstances they themselves are living through that is available to the outside world without the filters of international news gatherers. According to an article on Naomi Klein's blog, sometimes the media is the disaster.
What began as the Festival Film Jakmèl, Ciné Institute has become a voice of the Haitian people broadcast around the world via the web and throughout the American network GRITtv. If their current work, as portrayed in the videos below, taken from their website, they are rising to the challenge and have become a beacon to other Haitians who want their own message to reach the world. It is now more important than ever to include many Haitian perspectives with today's opening of an international conference for the reconstruction of Haiti in Montréal. Formally called the Ministerial Preparatory Conference of the Group of Friends of Haiti, it may also be called 'those who want reconstruction contracts in the new Haiti' as the 'international community' jockeys for the positiion in the rebuilding of Haiti. An excerpt of Klein's The Shock Doctrine offers a model for Haiti that we should all be familiar with as Haiti's residents are relocated from their former homes to temporary displacement camps and their country is rebuild in the image of international donors and 'expertise'. With the land still trembling beneath them, let's hope Haiti's citizens's do not get the rug pulled from under their feet nor the wool pulled over their eyes.
Ciné Institute footage from Jacmel