This piece originally appeared in Filmmaker Magazine.
Cine Institute in Haiti
by Melissa Silvestri
India has Bollywood, and Nigeria has Nollywood, two examples of international film industries that have thrived outside of Hollywood, and soon, perhaps, Haiti can be added to that list. In the port city of Jacmel, considered the cultural capital of Haiti and home to many writers, painters and poets, is the Ciné Institute, which is steadily instilling film schools in the country’s young film students.
The school had its origins as a film festival in 2004. The Festival Film Jacmel, founded by filmmaker David Belle and artist Patrick Boucard, showed international films annually for free to thousands of Haitians. After three years, the festival’s popularity spurred interest in further developing Haiti’s own film industry, and a school called the Ciné Institute was started, where young students could learn technical and creative skills involved in filmmaking, and then use these skills to earn a living, support their families, and drive local economic growth.
With a donation by Francis Ford Coppola and Paul Haggis on the advisory board, the school has imported many teachers, including screenwriter, director, journalist and editor Annie Nocenti, who teaches short filmmaking, to work with the students. After visiting Belle in Haiti, Nocenti was invited to the Cine Institute a year and a half ago. “He brought all these movies to Haiti, as many people would have only seen a few movies in their lifetime, and his dream was to put cameras in the hands of Haitians so they could tell the stories they want to tell,” she says. “People have this portrait of Haiti that it is all slums, and it's not true. I was one of the first teachers, in screenwriting, but I'm just one of many. David has been the driving force of the whole thing.”
In the past year, Nocenti’s students have completed six short films, premiered four this past June, and this September she will return to teach the current students feature screenwriting as well as short filmmaking to the 25 new fall arrivals. Of her experiences with her students, she says she tries to build trust with young people who may be naturally shy towards newcomers but enthusiastic about developing their filmmaking skills. If the Cine Institute’s project is a success, the future of Haitian film could be promising. Nocenti agrees: “Well my hope for it as a filmmaker and journalist is what looks to be a new birth of cinema, a new language.”