Moloch Tropical (FRANCE/HAITI)
Haitian director Raoul Peck was at one time his country’s Minister for Culture, which makes watching his latest film, a scathing political satire, all the more intriguing.
Covering a 24-hour period, which also marks Haiti’s Independence Day, President Jean de Dieu (French actor, Zinedine Soualem) is having a major meltdown. His people no longer want him in power, he is dangerously close to losing the vital support of America, he has a media personality to torture and he is severely sexually frustrated. Set in the stunning mountainous fortress of Citadelle Laferrière of Henri Christophe (a key figure in the 1804 revolution, who became King Henri I) this film critically looks at the perversion of power within the politics of modern democracies.
Although there are obvious similarities between Haiti’s first democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the central character, Jean de Dieu, this film’s criticism is not confined to the Haitian experience and also takes direct aim at American and European leaders.
The corrupting influence of power and the extent that political language can be manipulated are explored through Peck and Jean-René Lemoine’s biting script. The lengths that politicians go to to maintain the status quo is laid bare (at time literally) on screen. Although exaggerated beyond the point that the film could be read as a true account, its cast of players certainly have a disturbing basis in reality. Peck, who has accompanied his film to Sydney, asked Soualem to channel certain well-known politicians for different key scenes in the film; Clinton, Sarkozy, Berlusconi – these analogies come through loud and clear.
Moloch Tropical’s visual beauty is in sharp contrast to the grotesque nature of its characters. This film shows that when the gap between the theory of democracy and its practice is scrutinised, none of the players can escape untainted.
Raoul Peck will be talking with Jason di Rosso (ABC National Radio, Movietime ) about his career as a filmmaker at 12:15pm on Monday 7th June at the Statement Lounge. This free talk is an excellent opportunity to hear from the engaging director. [BW]