By Tadia Toussaint
Being homeless and jobless has left many hopeless, yet still resilient in Haiti. Clowns who toured Haiti both pre and post earthquake were able to uncover this resilience by bringing high-spirited amusement to the Haitian turf.
“Send in the Clowns,” directed by Samantha Lee, features four artists members of an organization called Clowns Without Borders, who travel to Haiti with intents of healing the people they meet with laughter and joy.
“It’s very important to laugh,” film director Sam Lee said. We want to reignite memories and thoughts about the “forgotten country” (Haiti), by using laughter as medicine.
The 86- minute narrative feature film was selected to be screened during the SR Socially Relevant Film Festival, which runs this week. The film is scheduled to premiere on March 20.
In 2009, Clowns Without Borders put on 20 shows in Port-Au-Prince and Cap-Haitian over the course of two weeks. They partnered with Sonje Ayiti and performed for small groups of children at churches, orphanages and community centers.
Unpaid, and sometimes uninterested by the Haitian audiences, the clowns slept in tents and engaged with the Haitian people leaving memories that would last a lifetime.
The film presents humanitarian aid in a new and innovative way which caught the attention of founder and artistic director of the festival Nora Armani.
“I loved the human elements and personal human stories that were shown in the film,” Armani said. “Every image is a story.” The smiles on the faces of the children during the performances is the image that resonates with her most.
Clowns without Borders is devoted to bringing laughter to alleviate the suffering that people deal with on a daily basis, especially in regions with severe living conflicts. The performances and workshops are designed to celebrate and distract the audience from the challenges of their everyday life.
While the film captured the uplifting memories the clowns created when engaging with the people, it also exposed the lack of long-term commitments of aid in Haiti.
The clowns left something that the NGOs didn’t, one Haitian local said — memories.
Tim Cunningham one of the contributing artists who quit his job as a nurse to rejoin Project Haiti post-earthquake said in the film that they’ve received emails shaming what they do.
“We’re not as important as food, or as important as water, but I think we’re way up there on that list,” Cunningham said proudly.
Evident throughout the film, “Laughter can change people’s minds, spirits, and lives,” said Lee.