'Stones in the Sun': Film Review

Will Serber
The film vividly illustrates the horrific legacy of the dictatorial Haitian regime

Patricia Benoit's debut narrative feature depicts the lives of Haitian emigres living in Brooklyn

The travails of several Haitian émigrés living in1980s-era Brooklyn are depicted in interwoven fashion in Patricia Benoit's heartfelt indie feature receiving its U.S. theatrical premiere at NYC's Quad Cinema. Depicting the difficulties of escaping the demons in one's past and bringing a spotlight to the oppressive conditions suffered by Haitians under its dictatorial regime, Stones in the Sun occasionally suffers from didactic excess but nonetheless offers an intriguing look at this underexposed community.

The three storylines involve Vita (Patricia Rhinvil), newly reunited with her taxi driving husband (Atibon); Micheline (Michele Marcelin), coping with the recent arrival of her sister Yannick (Edwidge Danticat); and Gerald (Thierry Saintine), married to a white American woman (Diana Masi) and startled by the unexpected visit of his father Max (Carlo Mitton).

The reunions are not without tension. Vita, who marvels at the running water in her new home, is aghast to see her husband eating a sandwich. "White person's food," he shrugs, to which she replies, "You'll die!" More importantly, she's clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of atrocities suffered by her in her homeland.

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Gerald, whose raging commentary on his politically orientated radio show is a running motif, is clearly not happy to see his alcoholic father for whom he has a longstanding resentment, greeting him by testily asking, "When are you leaving?" And Micheline, attempting to assimilate in one of the borough's more ritzy neighborhoods, is aghast to discover that her political activist sister has draped her laundry on an outside clothesline.

Flashbacks set in Haiti detail the backstories of several of the characters, and we eventually learn of a terrible secret involving Max that figures prominently in the film's dramatic climax.

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The Haitian-born Benoit, making her feature debut, is not always successful in blending her myriad storylines, and the film suffers from a lack of subtlety that detracts from its hard-hitting themes.  The cast of largely non-professionals similarly deliver often over-emphatic performances revealing their inexperience. But the issues and passions on display are undeniably powerful and Stones in the Sun, its poetic title derived from a Haitian proverb, ultimately makes a strong impact despite its rough-hewn elements.

Production: A Space Between, Syncopated Films
Cast: Edwidge Danticat, Michele Marcelin, Diana Masi, Thierry Saintine, Carlo Mitton, Antibon, Patricia Rinval
Director/screenwriter: Patricia Benoit
Producers: Karin Chiene, Ben Howe, Mynette Louie
Executive producers: Patricia Benoit, Lewis Kornhauser
Director of photography: Eric Lin
Production designer: Nadya Gurevich
Editor: Dominique Petrot
Costume designer: Naomi Wolff
Composer: Enis Rotthoff

No rating, 95 min.

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