Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti in Six Chapters, dirs. Leah Gordon & Eddie Hutton Mills, Haiti / UK 2022, 78 min., Haitian Creole with English subtitles
Every facet of the annual carnival, from the extravagant masks to the dazzling costumes and magnificent street pantomimes, tells a story about the people of the southern Haitian port town of Jacmel. In Leah Gordon and Eddie Hutton Mills’ gorgeously surreal portrait of preparations for the carnival, the history of both the event and Haiti unfurls with a seductive, lyrical charm. Every brushstroke of a painted mask and stitch of an elaborate costume informs a narrative that highlights the perseverance and joie de vivre of a people.
Employing a rich archive, Kanaval perfectly captures the spirit of a major cultural event that acknowledges the country’s tumultuous past and present, and that looks hopefully to its future. This celebratory spirit will remain with you long after the rhythms fade and the film’s credits have rolled.