Synopsis

Brunel Martin came of age during Haiti’s brutal occupation at the hands of United States Marines. Yet, he went on to become a fierce advocate of the country that destroyed his. A decade after his death, his grandson writes him a letter trying to reconcile the contradictions.

The documentary opens with Filmmaker Alain Martin reading a letter to his deceased grandfather. In that letter’s opening, the filmmaker recalls a morose conversation between his grandfather and another familiar member in which they bemoan the chronic troubles of their country, Haiti. They find themselves desperately hoping for an American intervention, seeing it as the only solution for their ravaged nation. Alain reminds his grandfather that the United States had already occupied Haiti and only left it more impoverished. As the letter continues, the brutal decades of the Occupation come to light, betraying the complicated history of a people who, a century ago, looked to the United States for guidance only to find themselves enmeshed in violent clashes of of race, culture and class, resulting in the wholesale theft of their homeland.

Trailer

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The Crew

Alain Martin

Director & Producer

I feel that where one is from is where one feels most at home, not necessarily where one was born and grew up.

So I’m from Jacmel and I’m from the five boroughs of New York City and I’m from Bergenfield, New Jersey, although I was born in some hospital in the hills of Port-au-Prince.
Jacmel is where I spent my formative years, where I discovered literature and mindless, shoot em up action films that my siblings and I would recreate in our backyard with paper guns.

New York is where I came of age, where I stumbled upon Malcolm X, DuBois and got introduced to the cinema of Spike Lee, of John Singleton and Quentin Tarantino and realized that filmmaking wasn’t just shit blowing up and people being shot. At last, New Jersey is where I spent my early twenties, where I flirted with cinema and literature, where I attended William Paterson University and majored in film, took an elective on Haitian History and learned of the brutal and forgotten US Occupation of Haiti. The teacher who learned I was studying film hinted that I should seriously consider giving this subject of the occupation a documentary treatment.

So here we are all these years later.

Hans Gustave

Producer

I was born in France and grew up in the United States. But the country that acknowledged me as its son and citizen was Haiti, although I would not visit it until decades later. So to Haiti I am forever thankful for not allowing me to be an orphan of the planet.

To Haiti I am also grateful for my culture. I grew up in a Haitian household with Haitian food, Haitian music and stories, and Haitian Creole being spoken by Haitian Uncles having loud debates about Haitian politics. And like every Haitian household, there were Haitian expectations: I was to become a doctor. But the Arts called, and I would eventually, much to the dismay of my Haitian Mother, answer. I would answer with poetry. I would answer on the stage as an actor. I would answer on the screen through writing and directing.

I would answer by enrolling in a 1-year Production program at NYFA. I then found myself working on numerous film sets as a Production Assistant, and eventually joined the Director's Guild of America as an Assistant Director.I would also answer by helping friends create work along the way. One such Haitian friend soon became a Haitian brother: Alain Martin. And it was his trivial request, over a decade ago, to narrate a documentary he had been working on, which actually pushed me further in the direction my life has taken; both in answering the call from the Arts, and answering the call from my motherland, Haiti.

James Timothy Doran

Consultant

In my first act, I was a poor kid, from the hood, single parent and on paper, heading for a hard-knock life. But I took a U-turn and movies and my hometown of Queens, NY were the catalysts to becoming the person I wasn’t meant to be.

As a child, the movies grabbed me with a clutch one feels once in a lifetime. Here, I escaped reality and yet understood more and more of it with each film. In between films, Queens made me deeply curious - the cultures, the experiences, the possibilities, the pains, the grit people need to persevere through this thing called life.

Adele Free Pham

Director/Editor/DP

Adele Free Pham is an activist and filmmaker, with experience in all aspects of documentary production. Her feature documentary NAILED IT, about the genesis and culture of the Vietnamese nail industry, premiered on PBS in May 2019 and is the highest streamed film of the America Reframed series.

Her next feature STATE OF OREGON documents the 2016 murder of Larnell Bruce Jr. by a white supremacist in Gresham, Oregon as a touchstone to the state's founding as a separatist white homeland a century and a half earlier. A short film by the same name was released by Field Of Vision in 2017 and has been viewed over 187k times.

Christelle Powell

Film Editor

Christelle Powell grew up on two Caribbean islands. Her experience working at a small production company started her interest in editing. After moving to New York she worked her way up to becoming an editor. She has worked for AMC Networks, VOX Media and Firelight Films, among others. Her credits include working on branded content, promo and documentary films that have appeared on Amazon, PBS and Netflix.

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The Forgotten Occupation