It made its world premiere at the 39th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last fall, and is now headed to San Francisco for the San Francisco International Film Festival, which kicks off in 3 days (April 23). Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s latest work, titled “Murder in Pacot,” is a feature film loosely inspired by Italian director, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1968 drama/mystery “Teorema,” which starred Terence Stamp as a mysterious stranger who injects himself into the home of a wealthy Italian family, and seduces everyone in it, including the maid, which leads to each of them reaching some unique epiphany, leaving viewers (and the characters in the film) wondering who this enigmatic, nameless visitor is: Christ, or the Devil?
Here’s an official synopsis: “Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010. Streets, houses and bridges have collapsed and men in white protective gear are retrieving thousands of dead bodies. A middle-class couple’s large home in Port-au-Prince has also been badly damaged. A building authority orders the owners to renovate immediately otherwise their house will be pulled down. To raise the money needed for this, the couple moves into the former servants’ quarters and rents out the only habitable room in the house to the head of an international aid organisation named Alex. But the young man is not alone. He is accompanied by a 17-year-old Haitian woman named Andrémise, who wants to change her name to Jennifer in the hope that this will help her to meet foreigners. Andrémise’s provocative and positive approach to life and love soon throws the cat among the pigeons. After his documentary Fatal Assistance Raoul Peck now takes a look at the effect of the earthquake on the country’s middle-class. Inspired by Pasolini’s classic 1968 work Teorema, Peck’s film is an intense and intimate drama about social contrasts that also poses fundamental questions about responsibility and justice in the face of catastrophe.”
The film is co-produced by ARTE, the World cinema Fund (France) and the European ACP.
It was shot in what was described as an exceptional location in Haiti: a three level Villa in a neighborhood already totally rebuilt; “A neighborhood I drove through everyday while shooting my documentary “Fatal Assistance,” is today hardly recognizable, and is the location of one of the most styled and selective Haitian hotels,” said Peck. That hotel being The Inn at Villa Bambou.
Ahead of its SFIFF premiere, a new trailer has been released, showing even more footage from the film, and with English subtitles. It’s embedded below.
While you wait for the film to come to a theater or film festival near you, you should know that, up next for Peck is directing “The Young Karl Marx,” a period drama on the shaky friendship between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – the German intellectual titans and fathers of Marxism – charting their completion of the Communist Manifesto.
In what is described as quite an ambitious project, the film will star German actors, August Diehl as Marx, and Alexander Fehling as Engels.
Produced by Agat Films and Peck’s own Velvet Film, as well as Rohfilm in Germany and Artemis Prods. in Belgium, Peck will direct the international co-production from a script he co-wrote with Pascal Bonitzer.
“Avoiding the habitual caricature of the old bearded revolutionary icon, this film is the coming of age of two young and daring intellectuals who will have an extraordinary impact on the world of the 20th century and beyond,” said Peck, whose latest film, “Murder in Pacot” (highlighted a number of times on this blog) will be screening at the Berlin International Film Festival this week.
Also upcoming for Peck, the filmmaker is currently working on a documentary on James Baldwin. Although details on that aren’t yet available in full. What I do know is that it’s actually a project he’s been working on for at least 6 years, and it is being made with the full cooperation of the Baldwin estate, which is always a plus.
He describes it as “a very creative documentary.” What might he mean by that? In short, the film will toy with the idea that Baldwin actually wrote what was to be an ambitious book – “a masterpiece” as Peck puts it – on Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., whose lives all ended in assassinations. Baldwin knew it would be a challenge, and didn’t believe it would sell, but he felt that he needed to write it. Baldwin never did write the book (Peck learned about it via letters Baldwin sent to his agent); but Peck’s “creative documentary” will imagine that he did. As the filmmaker states: “So the starting point of the film is to say – yes, he wrote it. He just didn’t bind it together, but if you go through his work, the film is there.”
All Peck has to build on are 30 pages of Baldwin’s notes for the project, and the rights to all of Baldwin’s writings, of course, since it’s a project being made with Baldwin’s estate’s blessings.
Why a film on Baldwin? Why not? But here’s Peck’s response: “Because Baldwin is my life… I started reading Baldwin when I was 14 or 15, and I realized as an adult a lot of the things I was saying came from him.”
Has a definitive film/documentary on the life of James Baldwin ever been produced? I don’t believe so, which is unbelievable, and which makes Peck’s project all the more significant!
When I know more, I’ll share here.
A fearless filmmaker and activist who, I would argue, deserves even more recognition than he’s received over the years, within the international filmmaking community, as one of Haiti’s few filmmakers, and a primary exporter of Haitian films to the rest of the world, Peck’s complex body of work has been covered plentiful here on S&A, since the blog was launched in 2009 – much of it still sadly underseen – “Lumumba,” “Moloch Tropical,” “Fatal Assistance,” most recently “Murder in Pacot” and more.
You can find most of his films on home video platforms currently, and you’re strongly encouraged to do so.
In the meantime, here’s the new trailer for “Murder in Pacot,” which I have yet to see, but I’m hoping to in the near future, when it comes to NYC.