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Cousines

Haitian multi-hyphenate Richard Senecal's third outing, about a young woman who must choose between love and money, is a simple moral fable wrapped in beauty. Through Senecal's DV lens, the entire island, interiors and exteriors alike, are bathed in soft light, looking like the work of a superior art director with an extremely felicitous eye for color. His actors are even more aesthetically pleasing, garbed in pure lines and fabrics.

Haitian multi-hyphenate Richard Senecal’s third outing, about a young woman who must choose between love and money, is a simple moral fable wrapped in beauty. Through Senecal’s DV lens, the entire island, interiors and exteriors alike, are bathed in soft light, looking like the work of a superior art director with an extremely felicitous eye for color. His actors are even more aesthetically pleasing, garbed in pure lines and fabrics. Even the gray school uniforms subtly blend with the surrounding hues. Striking storytelling with an almost folkloric resonance should find a niche on cable.

Seen from the perspective of a woman’s limited choices in a male-dominated society, Senecal’s film transforms Haiti’s deterministic cultural mores into fairy-tale fatalism. The characters struggle to reconcile a richness of experience and a wealth of emotion with a poverty of options.

When her father suddenly dies of a heart attack in the States, Jessica (Jessica Geneus), who is still in school, finds herself with no means of support. She takes refuge with less-than-respectable girlfriend Johanne (Soledad Elizabeth Jean), who takes care of her to spare her from a life of prostitution.

Serenely gorgeous, Jessica receives her share of lucrative offers, but when Johanne requires an expensive operation, Jessica accepts a $10,000 offer from a vile old man (Roland Dorfeuille) to spend a night in his bed.

Meanwhile her schoolmate and best friend Bobby (Jerry Lentz Rocher) waits in the wings. Into this mix comes a rich expatriate Ralph Baptiste (Jimmy Jean-Louis) on a mysterious mission; he begins openly courting Jessica.

Jessica must choose between a life of ease with Ralph in America or a subsistence existence with Bobby in Haiti. Visually, Jessica and Ralph are a couple, two inescapably beautiful people who seem to belong together for pure aesthetic reasons. The actors’ thesping skills also make scenes between them spark with electricity, while Lentz’s Bobby moves with a stiffness that matches his unbending morality.

Tech credits, almost all the work of Senecal, are excellent and the choice of music by Tripping Live and 718 Boyz is particularly inventive.

Cousines

Haiti

  • Production: A Will Brothers Entertainment, Imagine Haiti production in association with Ryan's Production. Produced by Wilkenson Bruna. Executive producer, Claudy Joseph. Directed, written, edited by Richard Senecal.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV), Senecal; music, Tripping Live and 718 Boyz; sound, John Mogene; assistant director Haendel Dorfeuille. Reviewed on DVD at Brooklyn Film Festival, June 6, 2006. Running time: 106 MIN. With Jessica Geneus, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Soledad Elizabeth Jean, Jerry Lentz Rocher, Rudolph Moise, Roland Dorfeuille. (Creole, French dialogue.)
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