Despite beautifully lensed local color and a pleasing soupcon of sensuality, John L’Ecuyer’s “On the Verge of a Fever” comes off as more of a modestly diverting anecdote than a satisfyingly substantial drama. Scripted by author Danny Laferriere from his semi-autobiographical novel, Canadian-produced pic set in 1971 Haiti could spark sufficient interest on the fest circuit to gain limited theatrical and homevid exposure. But even sympathetic arthouse auds and vid renters likely will respond to overly familiar coming-of-age storyline with a “been there, seen that” shrug.
Laferriere — a Haitian emigre based in Quebec for past 25 years — sets the plot over a long weekend following the death of dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Despite escalating clashes between anti-government “terrorists” and Papa Doc’s brutally repressive Tonton Macoutes, 15-year-old Fanfan (Lansana Kourouma) remains more interested in his alluring across-the-street neighbors, four beautiful prostitutes. But when a loose-cannon buddy claims Fanfan inadvertently caused death of a Tonton Macoute, the fearful young protagonist seeks refuge with gorgeous Miki (Koumba Ball) and her three roommates. Literal and figurative climax arrives with a sexual awakening both mildly discomforting (for aud if not Fanfan) and thoroughly predictable.