in the Sun” (Wòch nan soley) is a film about three pairs of
Haitian refugees, set in New York City and Haiti. A young woman
struggles to forget the atrocities she's experienced in
Haiti when she reunites with her husband in Brooklyn, where he
barely scrapes by as a livery cab driver. A single mother,
trying to assimilate in a fancy Long Island suburb, takes in her
sister, a teacher and political activist who is unable to
reconcile their violent youth with her sister's seemingly banal
lifestyle. And a newly married man, the host of a popular
anti-government radio show, finds his estranged father (a
recently ousted military leader) on his doorstep, desperate for
shelter. They must confront the disturbing truth of their pasts,
as their stories all intersect.
in the Sun” will have its world premiere on Apr. 22 at the
prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Kim Ives
interviewed the film’s writer and director Patricia
Why did you
need three different “stories of damaged love,” as reviewer Liz
Domnitz calls them, to tell the story you wanted to tell?
I wanted to show
the diversity and complexity of Haiti. I thought it would be
dramatically interesting to have these different worlds
juxtaposed because it is a complicated reality, and that’s what
I was trying to capture with the film.
Your focus in
the film seems to be to explore the intersection of love,
survival and politics. Is there a real-life story that inspired
Not one story. I
drew from different people and a little bit from my own life to
see how people’s past experience with violence and repression
affects their present and their future. I think we all deal with
this to one degree or another: the difficulty of shedding the
past, how you carry the past within you, particularly when that
past has been traumatic. From talking to people, from hearing
stories, and from my own life, with my parents, I wanted to show
how the past can sort of radiate pain. So in the film, I try to
deal with the different levels of the radiating, to show how it
affects people in small ways and large.
You are best
known as a documentary filmmaker for your 1992 film “Tonbe Leve.”
What made you move to fiction?
A long time ago,
I had done some work in theatre, and to tell the intimate story
that I wanted to tell, fiction was a better vehicle. I wanted to
talk about people’s personal lives and intimate life. I think a
documentary is great if you’re looking at social movements, as
in a political documentary. But I personally have a problem with
following people intimately, filming them intimately. People
often don’t know what they’re getting into and I think it can
get into a sort of voyeurism. Beyond that, I had certain things
that I wanted to say, and I felt that I could only say them in a
narrative. In a documentary, you go out into the world and find
stories, while here, I wanted to tell a specific story. For that
reason, I needed to make it fiction.
What were the
biggest challenges you faced in making this film?
challenge was the budget, which was really small. My script was
very ambitious. We filmed in Haiti. We filmed in New York. We
had multiple stories, therefore multiple locations. And it’s
really hard to get money for fiction, it’s harder to get money
for fiction with black people, and it’s even harder to get money
for fiction with people speaking in Kreyòl. There is some
English, and a tiny bit of French, but most of the film is in
Kreyòl. We had to rely on people’s kindness and the generosity
of friends and the Haitian community in New York and in Haiti.
second biggest challenge was finding actors. I found some really
great ones, but that meant going through friends and looking in
the community for people. There are, of course, actors in New
York and in Haiti, and I wanted the film to be very
naturalistic. So to find actors who don’t come out of that
larger theatrical tradition was difficult. But the most
important thing for me was that, when Haitians see the film,
they find it good and realistic. They are my primary target, and
hopefully other people will like it too. I wanted it to feel
authentic for people who really know about the situation. I want
them to believe it.
How did you
marry non-actors to their roles and coach them?
I had actors of
varying degrees of experience. My non-actors, I didn’t give them
the script ahead of time. I told them the story but didn’t give
them the script because I wanted them to be in the moment. I
didn’t want them practicing their lines in front of mirrors.
a complicated question which is hard to answer. We all worked
really hard. People have different styles of working. Even
non-actors require different things. I tried to create an
atmosphere in which people felt very comfortable, where they
forgot about the camera and didn’t feel like they were being
judged. I encouraged them to speak to each other and not perform
for the camera.
have to say, they were incredible. Acting in a film, people
don’t realize how difficult it is and how schedules are
constantly changing and days are really long. You sometimes have
to do things over and over. We could do very few takes due to
our low budget, but sometimes you have to do a take over for
technical reasons. Finding the emotion again was a challenge.
The film that
will show at Tribeca will have to be the English version. Will
you have a Kreyòl version?
Well, it is the
Kreyòl version, just subtitled in English.
living in the U.S. are speaking in Kreyòl as well?
Yes, that was
really important to me. For the version that shows in Haiti, I
want to show it to all sorts of different groups, not just to
the handful of people in Port-au-Prince who go to films like
this. I’d love to show it in different communities. So I think
we’ll do some dubbing of the small amount of English dialogue
into Kreyòl so that people who are pre-literate can enjoy the
what is your strategy for the film’s distribution? Are you
shooting for a theatrical run?
Yes, right now we’re putting the final technical touches on the
film. We’re coming down to the wire. We’d like to have a
theatrical run and take it to other festivals.