A quietly confident visual poem to Haiti and its turbulent history, “Eat, for This Is My Body” is a solid achievement in avant-garde ethnographic formalism that’s far too experimental for multiplex crowds but will find tolerant, appreciative aesthetes via word-of-mouth at fests, specialty programs and on disc.
Beginning with nearly seven minutes of aerial shots traveling from the shore to a plantation in the country’s rugged interior, the narrative framework moves from an elderly, bedridden white matriarch (Catherine Samie), conflicted about her allegiances, to her daughter Madame (arthouse mainstay Sylvie Testud) and a younger woman’s cat-and-mouse relationship with a group of feisty native boys. Later, domestic Patrick (Hans Dacosta Saint-Val) mysteriously transforms into an albino (Jean-Noel Pierre). Startling imagery, often captured in long, wordless takes, includes a frenzied religious ceremony; women manning DJ mixing consoles; black bodies in and around a vat of milk; and a single-take food fight. Born in Haiti, debuting helmer Michelange Quay has degrees in film production and anthropology, and a masters in film from NYU. At once deliberately conceived and determinedly symbolic, this handsome production explores what the helmer calls “the generations inside of me.”