The Haitian Revolution is one of the most significant events in world history that nobody ever talks about. When I took history in high school, and later in college, I did study the Revolutionary era where I learned about the American and French Revolutions, but never about Haiti. This silence transcended the classroom, as Haiti was rarely (if ever) discussed on campus, in the news, or in popular culture. By the time I turned 21, the only thing I knew about Haiti was that the people there practiced Voodoo. Most people are unaware, for example, that the Haitian Revolution was responsible for the United States’ acquisition of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota North/South Dakota and portions of New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, doubling the size of the American territory. Most people don’t know the names of the great leaders, formerly enslaved Africans, who defeated the French, British and Spanish to gain their independence. Well.. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is about to change all that.
Chavez has taken on the controversial challenge of telling the story of the Haitian Revolution by funding a film based one of the rebellion’s most successful black commanders: Toussaint L’Ouverture. The film, entitled Toussaint, will be directed by Danny Glover. The financial risk of funding a film that, in all likelihood, will never be endorsed by Hollywood or mainstream America is consistent with Chavez as he has always been one to go against the grain. In September of 2006, in front of the United Nations, he called President George Bush the devil, joining Kanye West on the “you may not survive to 2010” list. He has always been a champion for justice in communities of color, advocating for the rights of Blacks in Latin America, selling cheap gas in poor African American communities and providing aid in disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Embracing the narrative of the Haitian Revolution will be his newest attempt at acknowledging, endorsing and affirming Black humanity. The film will depict the Haitian Revolution – a historical movement that we, both as the descendants of Africans and as champions of freedom and justice, should all celebrate. Toussaint joins Braveheart, Alexander and a host of other historical fiction movies, which celebrate the resilience and courage of history’s heroes. The role of Toussaint L’Ouverture will be played by none other than Don Cheadle, who will join Angela Basset, Mos Def, and a slew of other actors in what is shaping up to be an all-star cast. Filmed in Venezuela, this movie has a budget of 18 millions dollars, paid by Chavez, for the purposes of telling one of the most significant untold stories of our time.
Read more here:
More info on the film.
Time magazine article critiquing the film, challenging Glover and Chavez.