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Filmmaker Jorgen Leth Survives Haiti Earthquake, Barely

Filmmaker Jorgen Leth Survives Haiti Earthquake, Barely

According to Danish news reports this morning, veteran Danish filmmaker Jorgen Leth (“The Five Obstructions”) was in Haiti at the time of the devastating earthquakes. Leth, who has lived in Haiti part-time for many years, was asleep in his house when the ground began to shake, according to one news report that I translated with the help of Google. “I was convinced I would die,” he told an outlet called Expressen. “I felt sick and wanted to vomit. Then the house began to sway and the house collapsed on us. Now I understand the word disaster.”

Leth was also with another Danish producer, Marianne Christensen. The Danes told the paper that they cried during the beginning of the earthquake and did not sleep the first two nights. “We’re living on water and biscuits,” said Leth. “But we are so grateful to be alive.”

Leth has chronicled the plight of Haitians in a number of projects, as in his 1996 film “Haiti: Untitled.” Leth’s son Asger Leth co-directed the 2006 documentary “Ghosts of Cite Soleil.”

In 2004, I had the pleasure of speaking with Leth pere about the making of “The Five Obstructions,” which a handful of critics included among their top ten films of the decade. In that interview, “Breaking Von Trier: Jorgen Leth Survives The Five Obstructions” — the choice of title appears fitting today — the Danish maverick told me, “I’m accustomed to miserable places, it’s true. And I could have shot this scene [of the most miserable place on earth] in Haiti, but I thought that would have been a smaller challenge. So that’s why I chose India. But really, when I think about it after, Haiti would have been more miserable in certain areas. But by living in Haiti, I’m learning a lot about life.”

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