History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.1
Patricia Benoit’s feature film debut, Stones in the Sun, is a beautifully sad story that sheds an intimate light on Haitian emigration to the United States. The film shows 3 relationships, split by political turmoil in Haiti as they are reunited in New York. Though all of the characters have experienced trauma rooted in the same source, they struggle with understanding each other’s pain.
Tambay’s prediction that we’d see something like Edwidge Danticat’s collection of short stories, entitled The Dew Breaker was spot on. The first pair we are introduced to are a young, married couple whose story resembles, but does not replicate that of the couple we meet in Danticat’s Seven. The young man, a livery cab driver in Brooklyn, had just become a member of an electoral board in Haiti when the military came looking for him. He was able to escape their violence but unknowingly left his wife unprotected from it.
When Yannick, played by Edwidge Danticat, shows up at her older sister’s home one night, she does so with no luggage. Without going to deep into her political activism, she explains to her curious niece that travelling light was a consequence of rushing to escape the “bad people” who were after her. Yannick’s sister doesn’t appreciate this honesty, as she’s invested a lot in actively denying her traumatic experiences in Haiti — experiences she tried to shield her younger sister from and now would like to shield her daughter from.
A Father and Son
Wòch nan dlo pa konnen doule woch nan soley2. These first words of the film, are uttered by Gerald, a radio show host in Brooklyn. With his progressive politics, Gerald uses his show to inform Brooklyn’s Haitian community about the day-to-day political situation in Haiti. However when his father arrives from Haiti, he’s forced to confront some of his hidden personal history and the realities of a family with members on opposing political sides.
A cinematic history lesson, Stones in the Sun shows how political forces can affect us in the most intimate ways. It’s a moving story that touched me on so many levels. I walked away from the film with inspiration and more questions for my writing, inspiration for intimacy, and more knowledge of Haitian history and Haitian-U.S. relations. (I plan on sharing more about this on my personal blog).
There are plans for more festival screenings of the film with the goal of distribution, so hopefully this film will be viewed by a wider audience. I’ll be watching the film’s Facebook page for updates.
1from James Joyce’s Ulysses; quoted by Yannick in Stones in the Sun
2Stones in the water don’t know the suffering of stones in the sun