Kevin Pina can be excused for looking a bit rough. The documentary filmmaker's been fired upon and had friends shot to death. The American documentary filmmaker, unshaven, his hands as weathered as his brown leather jacket, presented his documentary Haiti: The Untold Story to about 150 people Friday, October 7, at the U of T's Bahen Centre.
He'd been questioned by airport authorities upon arriving in Montreal the week before, and just a month ago he spent three days in a notorious Haitian jail. The group that arrested him ignored Pina's protests that he was an accredited journalist filming a documentary on the real story on Haiti.
The story, a textbook case of Chomsky's Propaganda Model, is the lack of media coverage of the strategic involvement of France's Jacques Chirac, George Dubya, Prime Minister Paul Martin and the United Nations in the forced exile of democratically elected Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and how they continue to destabilize the presidential elections set for November 20.
The documentary covers the repercussions of the coup, and was filmed using the relatively inexpensive Canon Optura and Canon Elura mini-DV format. Pina says he couldn't afford any better. Twice he has had incriminating footage confiscated along with his equipment. Because of this we don't see weapons striking human heads as we do in Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands With The Devil.
Nonetheless, Pina had to deal with a just as disturbing an aftermath: a baby with a dollar-sized bullet hole in the neck, a leg bleeding from a blown-out shin, a man on his hands and knees with blood pouring from a jaw ripped open like an exploded pop can, victims of the Haitian police or UN bullets.
A calming female voice narrates, mixed with reporting from Pina. At one point in the video he describes being sworn at by a UN official for trying to record masked Haitian police, followed by visuals of the blue helmet advancing on him, screaming, "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you."
The final image is that of a woman who came home to find her family dead, swaying in a disturbingly possessed dance, arms outstretched, screaming, "Look what you've done."
Pina was diplomatic when answering an audience question about newly appointed Governor General Michaélle Jean. "I don't know her, but all I can say is I can't respect anyone who doesn't speak out against human rights abuses."
The crowd was less charitable to Paul Martin, who along with Chirac and Bush was blamed in the film by human rights activist Father Gerard Jean-Juste for having bloody hands during the funeral of 18-year-old Sanel Joseph, killed by a Haitian police bullet while returning home from a demonstration.
Cries of "Shame, shame" rang out from the crowd when discussion moved to the Canadian military's involvement in Haiti and former Elections Canada chief Jean-Pierre Kingsley's involvement in the upcoming elections.
It was justice of sorts for Pina, who, exhausted at the end of the night, postponed a chat with scribes to grab a pint with organizers. He will make stops in Vancouver and Halifax before screening the documentary in the States, after which he'll return to the hell that Haiti has become.