by Derrick O'Keefe

VANCOUVER, BC (09-27-05)Recently, I had a telling exchange with a young man enraged at
hearing local anti-war activists condemning the role of the Canadian
armed forces in places like Afghanistan and Haiti. In his view, the problems
in Haiti were due to 'all those Hutus and Tutus [sic].'

This widespread ignorance about Haiti ' as captured so perfectly in
this bungling conflation of the western hemisphere's poorest nation
with Rwanda ' could indeed be funny, were its consequences not so
tragic. Under the cover of a collective lack of awareness, the
government of Canada, together with France and the United States, has
trampled upon democracy and human rights in Haiti.

Despite its name, Aristide is not a hagiography. It does follow,
chronologically, the life and times of the predominant figure in the
short life of Haitian democracy. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was a young,
charismatic Catholic priest who emerged as the leader of the poor
masses at the time of the long-overdue disintegration of the Duvalier
dictatorship in the 1980s. In 1990, he won a landslide victory in
unprecedented free elections. The spectre of popular democracy
instituting social reforms, however, was too threatening to the
country's tiny, decadent and arrogant elite. Within seven months, in
collaboration with the Bush Sr. regime in the United States, Aristide
was ousted in a coup d''tat. Re-installed in 1994, and re-elected in
2000 after sitting out a term (Haiti's constitution does not allow
consecutive presidential terms), Aristide was again ousted by force
in 2004.

Rossier's film assembles an impressive cast of both Haitian and
international commentators, with the aim of explaining the real
motivations behind the 2004 coup, and revealing to the world the
horrific conditions of day-to-day life under occupation today.
Familiar faces of the U.S. Left, such as Noam Chomsky and Danny
Glover, speak eloquently to the long continuity of efforts to crush
the Haitian people, who made the first successful slave revolution in
1804. Aristide's U.S. lawyer, Ira Kurzban, is featured, explaining a
number of the causes of the Washington-Paris-Ottawa coup of 2004;
among other displays of pique and independence, the Haitian president
had begun a high profile campaign seeking $21 billion in reparations
from France for unfair colonial debts ' a dangerous precedent to say
the least in a world still divided between imperial centres and
indebted neo-colonies.

Aristide does give face time to some of the latest coup's staunch
defenders, and to former friends of Haiti's president-in-exile. The
despicable Roger Noriega is given his turn ' and just enough rope '
to try and blame Aristide for the disastrous human rights situation
that followed his own overthrow. An extended segment of the film,
too, deals with the controversy around the 2000 elections that has
been used to discredit Aristide's democratic mandate.

Perhaps the most powerful moments in the film are in its
heart-wrenching footage of contemporary Haiti, and of life in the
poor neighbourhoods. The Haitian National Police (HNP) have been,
according to numerous independent reports, been committing massacres
and abuses with impunity, often targeting militants and supporters of
Aristide's Lavalas Party. Canada's RCMP, we should all take note, has
played a leading role in training the HNP.

A memorable, haunting scene near the end of the documentary features
an interview with an emaciated, destitute man in one of
Port-au-Prince's slums crawling with UN forces. Explaining that the
poor were better off with Aristide in power, he vows to resist, and
not to hide his political sympathies, no matter the cost, 'I'd rather
sleep in the morgue than here in the streets.'


"The Endless Revolution" will soon be availble on DVD