Diaspora

Representation matters: UCF filmmaker discusses Haitian culture in … – NSM.today

Henry Severe, emerging media sophomore, poses in a shirt with Haiti’s national colors and a chain with a pendant of Haiti.
“I think the representation as a whole is really important because, especially in American media, Haiti has never really been shown in a positive light, especially since the earthquake,” Severe said.

[This article contains spoilers of the post-credit scene in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”]
Henry Severe, emerging media sophomore, poses in a shirt with Haiti’s national colors and a chain with a pendant of Haiti.
“I think the representation as a whole is really important because, especially in American media, Haiti has never really been shown in a positive light, especially since the earthquake,” Severe said.
Representation in the media matters to many people in minority communities across the globe. UCF emerging media major Henry Severe was able to experience the reaction and importance of the Haitian representation in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” 
Severe is a filmmaker and videographer that aims to represent Black and brown people, the LGBTQ+ community and Haitian culture in his work. In his short film “DormBnB,” Severe has a mostly-Black cast and crew and was able to showcase his culture by hanging up a Haitian flag in one of the character’s bedrooms. 
Severe said he was astounded by the surprising inclusion of Haiti in the film. The scene transition of the drone shot by Haitian native Mozart Louis while the Wakandan text on the screen translated to “Cap-Haïtien Haiti” caused high enthusiasm amongst audience members.
“I was never begging for Haitian representation in the MCU because it’s a small island but whatever crumbs in pop culture that I can get I’ll take,” Severe said. “It was very unexpected which is why I’m very excited about it.” 
The film’s incorporation of Haitian culture did not go unnoticed, from the Wakandan princess Shuri riding a tap-tap, a form of public transportation, to the characters’ proper pronunciation of Haiti, “Ayiti.”
Claude Joseph, former Haiti prime minister, stated on Twitter, “Very emotional to watch Wakanda Forever… Interesting to see how [Haiti] is at the center of that movie. Wakanda is that [Haiti] we dream of, the one built at the dimension of its glorious history.”
Some fans voiced their opinion about the Haitian Creole spoken in the film. One Twitter user, @alllboutjae, said “the creole on black panther wakanda forever was terrible i was highly disappointed in that.” 
The criticism comes from the belief that the script only included staple French words such as “bonjour.” However, a video on TikTok parodying the minimal Creole in the film garnered over 30 thousand likes on the platform with comments joking that “a win is a win.”
“I think it made sense that the school children were speaking French because I know that’s pretty common but at the end when Shuri was on the tap-tap, the guys [that were on it with her] were speaking Creole Creole,” Severe said.
Rather than just the representation aspect, Severe also points out the deeper importance of Haiti being in the film. For instance, a major plot point in the film is that after Wakanda announced it would share its resources with the world, countries such as France and the U.S. attempted to interfere with Wakanda’s affairs and raid the country of its most valuable asset, Vibranium. Severe said these are parallel to the French’s colonization of Haiti and gold being stolen from Haiti by the U.S. Marines in 1915.
Wakanda held up the facade of a “poor helpless African nation” while it was really a thriving country with a strong economy, army, and bountiful resources. In comparison, Haiti became the first nation to abolish slavery, resulting in it being the first free black republic.
There was also an easter egg in a scene set in Haiti of an apartment number “1804” referencing the year the country gained independence.
“They obviously knew what they were doing, they did the research and were smart about it,” Severe said. “If you don’t know the history it won’t really affect that much because Haiti is only in the movie for a few scenes. It’s not a big plot significance until the very end with the son but if you do know the historical context, you’ll see it as mirroring, and it does add to the movie.” 
The “son” Severe refers to is the surprise reveal in the post-credit scene of the late King T’Challa’s son, Prince T’Challa II. The young boy has been raised in Haiti by his mother Nakia under the Haitian name Toussaint. His name is a reference to the Haitian revolution leader General Toussaint L’Ouverture. 
“It continues those subtle comparisons to Haiti and Wakanda,” Severe said. “There was an article that said Haiti is the closest we get in real life to the fictional world of Wakanda… I thought it was very cool to do that, especially on a big budget movie like that to represent Haiti in such a positive light.”
 
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