VICTORIA CAMPBELL'S FILM 'MONSIEUR LE PRESIDENT'
|Victoria Campbell And Gaston Jean Edy|
Filmed over the three years following the 2010 Haitian earthquake, "Monsieur le Président," a documentary film by Victoria Campbell, traces the ascent and confusing downfall of Gaston Jean Edy, a charming and much-loved voodoo priest in the Christ-Roi section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Nicknamed Monsieur le Président by his community, armed with nothing but hustle and hope, he responded to the earthquake by resurrecting a defunct neighborhood health clinic, setting an admirable example of ingenuity and self-reliance in the face of government aimlessness and corruption. But in 2013, he "summoned an evil spirit" and absconded with the clinic's funds. The Doc NYC '14 Film Festival will premiere the film November 14 and 20 in its Viewfinders Competition, in which films are selected for their distinct directorial vision.
Victoria Campbell is a soft-voiced, blonde actress-turned-film maker who grew up in Martha's Vineyard. Because she was a French linguist, she traveled to Haiti immediately after the 2010 earthquake "to try to be a useful translator for the doctors and nurses." Arriving in the Dominican Republic, she and a woman friend smuggled themselves into Haiti with a camera and a small valise of medical supplies. They crossed the border disguised as nuns, with "religiosa" marked on their passports, and found a hospital in need of their help. There she met Gaston Jean Edy, who had come on his motorcycle to solicit medical help for his neighborhood, which had been sealed off by falling rubble for ten days. Campbell began to document the relief efforts as Gaston rebuilt an abandoned clinic with the support of foreign donors, renaming it Haitian Solidarity and making it a fulcrum for recovery in a district of about 14,000 people. She returned to Haiti twelve times in three years, filming the progress of this bootstrap enterprise under Gaston's astonishing leadership, documenting excavations of the rubble, medical missions to outlying communities, and a voodoo ceremony to "let the dead of the earthquake go."
In early 2013, the story took a sinister turn. Leaving his mother set up in a comfortably renovated apartment three doors from the clinic, Gaston absconded to Montreal with the clinic's cash. The timing of this abandonment, ironically, was shortly after the return to Haiti of "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Some in the community explain that Gaston was "summoned by an evil spirit." Others say that when he realized that outside support would end, he "took what he felt was due to him." The audience is left to question whether he is good, bad, or simply a "product of his environment" -- a phrase that Gaston himself wrote on his Facebook page while living in Montreal. The film ends with Campbell's final reunion with Gaston later that year, when he had returned to Port-au-Prince and re-established himself as operator of an improvised motorcycle taxi service, being warily accepted back by people you would expect to be throwing rocks at him. "Forgetting is easier," they say.
The film is entirely written, edited and narrated by Victoria Campbell. It contains HD footage threaded with old 8 mm, some black and white and some standard definition footage, which gives a richly textured look and feel to the film. Sound is designed and mixed by Dave Rivera, using street sounds and drums.
Victoria Campbell grew up in Martha's Vineyard, MA and attended Bard College, where she majored in Italian and French Literature. She trained in NYC as an actress after college and has appeared in theater, TV and films there and in Los Angeles. Diversifying her career into film making, she returned East to film her own family on the occasion of the sale of their ancestral home in Martha's Vineyard and her mother's ensuing breakdown. The resulting documentary memoir, titled "House of Bones," won awards in the Irish International Film Festival, Woods Hole Film Festival and Chagrin Falls Documentary Film Festival. Albert Maysles ("Grey Gardens," "Salesman") called it a "beautiful and personal film." Campbell's short narrative films have also appeared in Iceland Experimental film festival, downtown shorts film festivals of NYC and the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival. She made a feature length road trip fairytale with the performance artist Abigail Pope titled "The Hunt for Good Americans," which appeared in art galleries in New York and Massachusetts. She also formed a performance duo with Pope, called Abby and Tori, which garnered a small cult following and made a series of art videos that were exhibited at the Underline Gallery in New York City. Campbell is an active member of the Drilling Company Theatre and appeared this summer as Olivia in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's "Twelfth Night." She attended The School of Visual Arts documentary graduate program in 2011 and graduated with an MFA in 2013.
Doc NYC '14 will present screenings of "Monsieur le Président" on Friday, November 14 at 9:30 PM at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas, 260 West 23rd Street, and Thursday, November 20 at 10:45 AM at IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas. Tickets are $17 adult, $15 senior/child, $14 members and can be purchased at www.docnyc.net.