Customarily presented and thought of as the poorest land in the Western hemisphere and probably beyond too, ostracized, vilified and slandered, the least that one can say is that #1, Haiti always takes the blame and #2, Haiti leaves no mind indifferent. It makes you think. Many of us feel indeed compelled to articulate our little learned word about Haiti.
But are our outlook and words about Haiti fair, accurate, reliable?
Here is In the Eye of the Spiral, a pearl that authoritatively impels our reconsideration of all pre-established thoughts and words about Haiti. In the Eye of the Spiral testifies that the Pearl of the Antilles never stopped being so and producing glistening and priceless pearls.
At the image of Haiti, In the Eye of the Spiral is strong, vivid, poignant, captivating, bright, thought-provoking and enlightening.
It is a forceful and magnificent documentary on Haitian arts and the Haitian people’s highly developed productivity and creativity. For the Caribbean, in their capacity to render an irreducible and authentic vision of the inner and human Self, the arts have always been a means of predilection to transcend tragedies, be the latter historical or climatic. A country enduring numerous plights, Haiti is the true embodiment of this Caribbean philosophical disposition.
In the Eye of the Spiral pays tribute to the imposing Haitian ingenuity beautifully and perspicaciously introducing the world to Spiralism, one of the contemporary intellectual, literary and artistic currents in Haiti. Led by Frankétienne, a monumental Haitian writer and painter, UNESCO Artist for Peace and short listed for the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, Spiralism appeared in the sixties. It was also conceptualized by Jean Fignolé and René Philoctète two other inescapable and vital contributors to Haitian literature. Spiralism is partly inspired by the theory of Chaos and Engel’s concept of the Spiral. It expresses a powerful sense of aesthetics and ethics that, through a complex and infinitely moving process, produces unpredictable, confounding, and staggering non-linear, multidimensional, multilayered, regenerative and dense arts.
In the Eye of the Spiral shows that for Haiti, chaos is never a sign for stagnation nor is it an end. It is rather the fertile beginning for life, production and creation.
At the very least, the two co-producers, Raynald Leconte and Eve Blouin, achieved a very refined and shrewd alliance between what in Haiti one would probably call, the fond et la forme – content and style – in the way they innovatively, engagingly and masterfully introduced a complex but instructive context, wrote an accessible and discerning text and combined contrasted yet powerful, beautiful and complementary images to bring the viewer to ponder, question their own perceptions, open up to new and different perspectives and alternatives and be enraptured with a cadenced audio background and the sight of arresting visuals.
A genuine voice and a platform for empowering visibility are granted to those seldom heard or seen, the men and women of Haiti who undeviatingly create, build and erect and especially, the artists and writers whose respective line of thought and production enmesh often to result in unpredictable and stupendous wonders.
The penetrating and poised voice of British singer Annie Lennox, narrating the movie, graciously pausing to leave room to the flowing music of British composer Brian Eno, among others, undoubtedly accentuates the powerful rendition of the significance of the Haitian literary, intellectual, artistic and creative force.
No wonder why, relying on so many strong and meaningful material and immaterial legs, In the Eye of the Spiral won Best Feature Documentary Film at BAFF in 2014.
Taking the opposite view to what is generally accorded Haiti, Raynald Leconte and Eve Blouin introduce an additional factor and paradigm to heed in any attempt to know, see and understand Haiti. The aesthetic thread of this documentary is such that the viewer’s sight and hearing are aroused to the fullest and called to a different ethic of thought when it comes to perceptions and precepts about Haiti. Like Haiti, In the Eye of the Spiral will not leave the imagination and the mind indifferent. It will make the viewer think. The imagination will imagine differently. The mind will think differently about Haiti. Even our little words about Haiti may well become truly learned after watching In the Eye of the Spiral rendering due praise to the attested pearls of the Pearl of the Antilles.
Vete-Congolo is Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Bowdoin College
by Hanétha Vété-Congolo