The Agronomist

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Jean Dominique as Himself
Aboudja as Himself
Ronald Reagan as Himself (archive footage)

Special Features:
None

Other Info:
Full Frame (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital Stereo Sound
English, French, and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 91 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is the official description of the DVD:

“From Academy Award winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme, “The Agronomist” tells the story of Haitian national hero, journalist, and freedom fighter Jean Dominique, whom Demme first met and filmed in 1986. As owner and operator of his nation’s oldest and only free radio station, Dominique was frequently at odds with his country’s various repressive governments and spent much of the 80′s and the early 90′s in exile in New York, where Demme continued to interview him over the years. Dominique fought tirelessly against his country’s overwhelming injustice, oppression and poverty but it was Dominique’s shocking and still-unsolved assassination in April of 2000 that gave the director the impetus to assemble more than a decades worth of material into a celebration of this dynamic man and his legacy.”

The Agronomist is rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity.

The Movie:
Though I had heard a lot about Haiti in the news over the years, I honestly never really knew the whole story of the situation there. I didn’t know why people were trying to come to the US on boats. I didn’t know the history of Aristide. I didn’t know entirely why the US was there. But after seeing The Agronomist, I have a much better idea of what happened and why it happened. I also am much more familiar with Jean Dominique, a journalist and prominent figure amid the Haitian crises.

This documentary is unique because director Jonathan Demme had been following Dominique around for years before his assassination in 2000. It’s very rare to have a documentary follow someone around for so many years and ultimately document their death. That old footage gives you an intimate look at Dominique, his philosophy, his work, and his dreams. The movie is even more personal because his story is not only told in his own words, but by his family and friends who cooperated in making the movie.

Jean Dominique comes across as a very passionate man. He’s so expressive and animated that he almost seems like a cartoon character. He also comes across as being very brave by continuing to broadcast on his radio station in the face of threats and intimidation by the corrupt government and its followers. My only gripe with the film is that it doesn’t get across why he was so popular with the Haitian people. There are scenes here and there showing him being mobbed by the public, but I never got a clear picture of what he did for people. The movie mostly focuses on his radio station and his fight for freedom of press. That freedom is great, but it doesn’t explain why peasants in the field cared so much for him.

The Agronomist is very roughly made. It features footage from camcorders over a number of years. It features archival footage, old TV footage, etc all spliced together. It also features dialogue that is a mixture of English and whatever languages the Haitians are speaking. While at initial glance this seems like a mish-mash of stuff, it also seems entirely in the spirit of Haiti itself. There is quite a blending of cultures and thought which quickly become apparent while watching the film.

The Extras:
There are no bonus features on this DVD.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re into history or political documentaries, then The Agronomist is a film you’re going to want to check out. It shines a light in a little corner of the world that is often overlooked in favor of other global crises.

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