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Written by: Owsley Brown
Directed by: Owsley Brown
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: In Haitian Creole and French, with English Subtitles
Running Time: 71
Date: 10/27/2017

Serenade for Haiti (2017)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Haitian Agent

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

All the way back in 2000, I fell in love with a movie called Night Waltz: The Music of Paul Bowles and went to meet with its maker, a young director by the name of Owsley Brown, who struck me with his extraordinary intelligence and empathy. It has been a long time since I saw another of Brown's movies, and here it is: Serenade for Haiti, which is every bit as sad and beautiful as its predecessor.

Over the course of seven years, Brown journeyed many times to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to visit the Sainte Trinité Music School. According to the film, the school is less focused on careers and fame and more devoted to preserving and teaching every new generation of musician, like a great circle. In 2010, however, a massive earthquake left the school in ruins, and the film returns to explore the ramifications of this. It finds teachers and students doing whatever they can to continue, playing outdoors, or in whatever space is available.

As confessed fan of filmmakers like Bresson and Ozu, Brown is dedicated to preserving entire musical pieces, rather than clips or snippets; it has the patience to listen. Additionally, it's an exploratory film, and Brown's camera loves to roam, picking up lovely little pictures of life or patterns, rather than simply interviewing and documenting. It's such a quiet film that it uses simple printed titles rather than narration by its director or -- as many documentaries do -- a famous guest movie star. Serenade for Haiti is a wonderful achievement, as delicate as a dandelion, and in danger of blowing away in the wind. See it while you can.

It opens October 27, 2017 at the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco.

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