The premier Caribbean screening of the award-winning Haitian documentary “Madan Sara” will open at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts in downtown Frederiksted on Wednesday from 6 pm. to 8 p.m. The Strand Street entrance will be open to accommodate patron tickets for $15 and CMCArts members for $10. Seating is in the courtyard and a cash bar will be available. “Madan Sara” co-executive producer Lu Childs will lead the audience in a Q&A discussion after the 45-minute film presentation.
“Madan Sara” tells the story of the women in Haiti who work tirelessly to buy, distribute, and sell food and other essentials in markets throughout the country. The obstacles faced by these women are the lack of investment, infrastructure and state assistance, yet they continue to be one of the most critical parts of the Haitian economy.
The Madan Sara women work at the margins to make Haiti’s economy run. They face intense hardship and social stigma, but they continue on their drive to put their children through school, house their families, and help to ensure a better life for generations to come, the film reveals.
The film intensifies the calls of the Madan Sara in their quest to speak to society in their dreams for a more just Haiti. It emphasizes how the lack of security has damaging effects that are increased by the intersections of gender and class. “Madan Sara” exposes the government’s lack of support as a form of structural violence that has resulted in widespread harm.
Creator, director, and producer Etant Dupain met Clotide Achille, a Madan Sara in Haiti, in a public market in the capital city of Marche, Tet Dlo. Dupain said, “As a journalist, it normally takes me a substantial amount of time to convince someone to partake in just a short interview.” Upon hearing Clotide’s story of raising five children of her own in the face of unlikely odds, he knew hers was an essential story to share, he said.
Dupain witnessed the power of Madan Sara through his own mother, who worked tirelessly to provide for her children. It was time, he said, for him to do his part as a journalist and filmmaker — thus the making of “Madan Sara.”
According to his biography, Dupain is a journalist, filmmaker, and community organizer. For over a decade, he has worked as a producer on documentaries and for international news media outlets, including Al Jazeera, Telesur, BBC, CNN, Netflix, PBS, and Vice. Dupain founded an alternative media project in Haiti to enable citizen journalists to provide access to information in Haitian Creole for and about internally-displaced people, aid accountability, and politics. Now, moved by the strength of his mother and the women known as the Madan Sara who make Haiti’s economy run, he is making his first personal film.
Lu Childs served as co-executive producer of the “Madan Sara” documentary. He is the co-owner of Street Team Productions. As a New York City native, he and his friends created a company that would make a context that appealed to their demographic. Street Team is a New York City-based company that creates entertainment content for different platforms. Currently, the company produces the Behind the Boards podcast, the Weed Smokers Anonymous podcast, and the THC x NYC Web Series. They are currently working on a documentary, “Haiti 1974,” about the 1974 Haiti World Cup team.
Childs shared some history about the beginnings and the successive generations of the Madan Sara women. Childs said it goes back to slavery — during the slave trade when the plantations were active. The marketplace started with the men — the men would run away into the jungles away from the plantations. The slaveholders began to use the women because they spent more time with the family — there was less of a risk of them [the women] running away. The women stayed on the plantations, running the marketplace, and continued for generations after slavery, Childs explained.
Mandy Thody joined in the conversation and spoke about what the women actually do. Some are farmers, some are traders and some are both, she said. It depends. They can be traders of other products like dry goods, clothing — all sorts of commodities — depending on the needs that they have in the area.
Thody is originally from the U.K. and grew up in South Africa. After her cruising sailor life and raising her children, she moved to St. Croix in 2006. She has been working in and for Haiti for 13 years, and for the last 11 years, she is the executive administrator of the Good Samaritan Foundation.
“We build and run two K-grade 9 schools, a large microcredit, an agriculture and nutrition program and many community activities,” she said. “The Good Samaritan Foundation staff, wives, sisters, and women who work in other capacities, are all Madan Sara women; the women all hold it together,” Thody added.
Thody is known by many in the U.S. Virgin Islands as an artist in both painting and sculpture. She is now living and working mainly in Galicia, NW, Spain.
The “Madan Sara” documentary was completed in 2019, Childs said. “It has been screened in several different places in Haiti, entered in many film festivals, and has won numerous awards. We slowed down because we wanted to get more press, share more screenings, and submit to more festivals.”
The main goal was to show the film around Haiti first. The pandemic and the assassination of the president Jovenel Moise in 2021 derailed a lot of plans — and obviously, the increase of violence was a deterrent. “Showing the film virtually was helpful since people were isolated at home and could watch the screenings,” he added.
Proceeds from the “Madan Sara” screenings will benefit the Good Samaritan Foundation and the work they are doing in Haiti. Additional donations directly to the website are also greatly appreciated.
Dupain is working on a new film, “The Fight for Haiti,” with plans for a screening in the USVI upon completion, Childs said.
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