By Malcolm Woodard | Shadow and Act March 19, 2014 at 12:13PM
It's been 2 years since Shadow & Act first mentioned Philippe Niang's Toussaint L'Ouverture film - a 2-part movie made for French television - and, since then, the film has played at a number of international film festivals, but, unfortunately, still not widely enough. I live in a city in which none of the festivals has screened the film over the last 2 years, and it doesn't appear that the film will ever make it to my neck of the woods, and I'm sure I'm not the only one with interest in seeing it who hasn't been able to.
What is even more unfortunate for me is that the film isn't even available on DVD here in the USA, so I can't buy it if I wanted to. As of right now, it's only available on DVD in France (Region-2), in its original language, and (seemingly) without English subtitles. The two-disc set can be purchased HERE for those who understand French.
No American distributor has picked it up yet, and there's no obvious sign that there's any interest in it, despite the fact that, each time it's been written about on this blog over the last 2 years, reader responses have been tremendous, suggesting that there are a lot of folks who want to see it who haven't been able to.
So will someone please make this film available to us here in the USA (and the rest of the world)? It's really the first film of this magnitude (decent budget and scale, etc) on L'Ouverture that's been made, and it's unfortunate that much of the world can't see it!
And it's even more telling that, if Hollywood is motivated strictly by profit (or the potential of profit), which is what we are often told, I'd think that somewhere, over the last 2 years, there'd be a studio executive taking note of the excitement and anticipation this French-made film inspired in North American audiences (forget the international marketplace), and would maybe consider greenlighting, or even co-financing/co-producing with a foreign company, a film on the life of and rebellion led by L'Ouverture, leading to the Haitian Revolution that solidifed the establishment of the country as an independent black state.
Danny Glover has been trying for years, but, so far, he hasn't been successful, with stops and starts along the way. And it doesn't look like his project will ever get the backing it needs.
As I've already pointed out, clearly there's a significant enough audience around the world who are hungry for a film (a good film) made on this particular subject; so much that if a film were made, true to historical events, I'd like to believe it would indeed be a commercial success.
Why? Other than the reasons I already stated, it's a story that really hasn't been told on film in the USA, at the epic scale that it deserves; It's a story that features blacks in revolt and in control of their own destinies, absent of any white interference, inspiration or *savior*, as is often the case in films of this nature. Countless black people are anxious to see narratives like that on screen. I'd say it's the kind of excitement fanboys display over trailers for the next superhero blockbuster movie.
So, won't it behoove some studio executive, like maybe the fellows at Relativity Media, with their elaborate spreadsheets, to investigate the possibilities here? Or, is it in fact a lie that Hollywood is motivated strictly by profit, and there are other unspoken rules that influence decision makers, and thus a story that highlights a monumental accomplishment by black people, absent of a white hero on horseback, just isn't of interest to, or will be suppressed by the predominantly white-run industry? And further, does that then mean that blacks in Hollywood with the resources, take note of all I've said here (some of them read this site I'm sure), and instead finance and produce the film themselves (or pick up Niang's film and make it available to USA audiences, even if it's only on DVD), rather than wait for the studios to do so?
I can't help but believe that a wonderful opportunity is being completely overlooked here, and the person or people who finally decide to take the risk will be well-rewarded for doing so.
Here's the French trailer for Niang's 180-minute biopic of the famed Haitian revolutionist, which stars Jimmy Jean-Louis who spoke with S&A about the project. He's joined by French actresses Aïssa Maïga as Toussaint's wife, Suzanne, and Sonia Rolland as Marie-Eugénie Sonthonax, wife of abolitionist L.F. Sonthonax.