Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From Toussaint L'Ouverture to Hugo Chavez

With a little help from Danny Glover...

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At 4:57 am, Anonymous Vinod Moonesinghe said...

Laurent on Glover's proposed Haiti film:

Venezuela giving Danny Glover $18m to direct film on Haitian revolution
Wednesday, 23 May 2007


A film about the amazing Haitian revolution is planned by Danny Glover and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Actor, humanitarian and San Francisco native Danny Glover and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who have worked closely together politically, plan to expand their partnership to moviemaking with a film about the slave rebellion that made Haiti the first Black independent country in the world. While celebrating this remarkable initiative, however, prominent attorney and performance artist Marguerite Laurent, founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, hopes the film will focus on Jean-Jacque Dessalines, the revolutionary leader most Haitians credit with Haiti’s independence, rather than solely on Toussaint Louverture, the leader better known to Americans.

Glover, chair of TransAfrica Forum and a vocal critic of the Bush administration, is, along with Harry Belafonte, the best known celebrity supporter of Chávez and a regular visitor to Venezuela. It was from the press that he learned that the film deal had progressed from the talking to the funding stage, that Venezuela’s Congress had allocated $17.8 million for “scripts, production costs, wardrobe, lighting, transport, makeup and the creation of the whole creative and administrative platform.”

The project could mark a breakthrough for Villa del Cine, a new government-funded studio outside the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. “I can do everything I need to do with this film from here,” Glover said. He will direct the film, which he said will be titled “Toussaint.”

A freed African slave in Haiti, Toussaint Louverture led thousands of slaves in successful campaigns against British, Spanish and French troops before being betrayed, captured and exiled. He died in 1803, just before his followers succeeded in establishing the island’s independence. Glover told the British newspaper The Guardian that he wants to educate the U.S. about the Haitian revolution. “It’s been essentially wiped out of our historic memory; it’s been wiped clean,” he said.

“I truly hope someone gets to Danny Glover on this Louverture issue,” Marguerite Laurent wrote to the Bay View when she heard the news. “Toussaint Louverture was certainly ahead of his time and a great visionary and warrior, and, in fact, he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered for his ideals.

“But, it turns out today all over the developing world the independence that the former colonies enjoy is that which was espoused by Toussaint ­ who saw that the most he could do for Haiti was free the captives and get Haiti to be a Black-ruled French colony, with himself as governor for France.

“Dessalines is the one who did what was necessary and then renamed the island, set forth its laws of existence and abolished colonialism. All over the developing world today, it is Toussaint’s then avant-guard idea that is in place and why Europeans prefer to exult Toussaint and teach that to Black and Brown people rather than to present Dessalines, whose idea of a Black-ruled independent nation is what all of Africa and the Caribbean and Latin American countries wish to bring to pass,” said Laurent.

Pointing out that, like Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela would never glorify their former colonists over their own independence, she cautioned against preferring Louverture over Dessalines. “Dessalines is despised by the powers who continue to subjugate and colonize. Toussaint’s structure is now their accepted norm for imperial governance, the exploitation of Black and Brown labor, lands and resources.”

“I hope,” Laurent said, that “we don’t find ourselves with a Danny Glover film that claims Toussaint is the founding father of Haiti and its ideal of a Black ruled independent nation.”

At 9:25 am, Blogger Snowball said...

Interesting - but Laurent is surely wrong. Dessalines certainly was the actual founder of Haiti as an independent state - and has been unfairly demonised ever since by imperialism - but without Toussaint's inspired leadership, military genius and diplomatic skills - which were head and shoulders above not only the strategic vision of Dessalines (who never really seemed to see much beyond race) but also head and shoulders above any European general sent to St Domingue there would have never been any hope of victory in the war for national liberation.

It is perhaps true that ultimately imperialism has learnt to work with Toussaint's postcolonial vision and to continue exploitation even when formal independence has been achieved - at the time though - and we are talking 200 years ago here - no imperialist was so far sighted - they regarded all black people as inherently inferior and only good as slaves - Toussaint blew all of that racism up with his genius as a revolutionary leader and military skill which was on a par with Napoleon Bonaparte himself.

That is why Glover is absolutely right to honour Toussaint in this way - though ultimately the film will ultimately commemorate all the Haitian revolutionaries and in particular the masses of slaves who were at the heart of the Haitian Revolution.

At 11:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can see a clip of Toussaint's last moments in prison from the new short film "The Last Days of Toussaint L'Ouverture" at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2468184/ This short film is the basis for a new feature (not with Danny Glover) that is in development.

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