Mexico/Germany, 2010, 84 min
Jean Remy is worse off than his composed, mild-mannered looks suggest. An educated Haitian man who used to teach French, Jean struggles to find decent employment in the Dominican Republic. A devout Christian, Jean’s biggest virtue is his remarkably genteel and dignified attitude in the face of rejection and discrimination. But everyone has their breaking point, and before the harsh unforgiving urban bustle of Santo Domingo devours his faith, Jean leaves for the beautifully lush climate of the country, only to be continually tested and fall into a deeper solitude. Imbued with a naturalistic grace, this quietly desperate and deeply sympathetic portrait speaks volumes about the trials of humanity. Strikingly honest and poignant scenes transform the thin and frail Jean into a saint of sorts, an apostle whose despair lingers on the brink of consuming him. Shot on location in Santo Domingo and the surrounding countryside, the filmmakers apply their naturalistic style and intuitive eye to the island in its devastated state following the January 2010 earthquake. The duo who made their 2007 debut with Cochochi (SFIFF 2008) once again display confident skill in directing a nonprofessional cast. Despite the dire predicament of the struggling immigrant narrative, the film eschews a condemnatory or melodramatic approach, instead respectfully and wisely focusing on the innate qualities of its subject. You’ll find yourself frustrated and saddened by Jean’s plight, but his steadfast dignity ultimately inspires.
In Spanish and Haitian Creole with subtitles. Presented in association with Global Exchange.