Timely portrait of a Haitian human rights activist

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The Agronomist


With chaos again engulfing Haiti, The Agronomist takes on genuine topicality. On a break from his high-profile Hollywood work, director Jonathan Demme paints a moving and defiantly partisan portrait of Haitian activist Jean Dominique, an outspoken critic of his nation’s rulers past and present. Director and star were friends for years, and this documentary was underway well before Dominique was assassinated four years ago.

The dry title belies the charisma of the subject. Dominique campaigned passionately for Haiti’s rural poor, using his radio station to attack the corruption of successive leaders, including the recently ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Forces close to Aristide, Demme implies, were implicated in the murder. Dominique’s widow now defies death threats to continue her late husband’s work. Although mired in Haiti’s murderously complex political history, at heart this is a human drama, the tale of a courageous rebel who loved his wife and country enough to die for both.