By Onz Chery

Filmmaker Yanatha Desouvre on his laptop. Photo courtesy of Yanatha Desouvre

Although Harry Jeudy is a screenwriter, he’s not an avid reader. But he was willing to plow through a 356-page novel, “Revelations: Roads to Redemption.” Because his childhood friend, Yanatha Desouvre, wrote it.

The two have been through good and rough times together, from replacing a tire on a cold day in Philadelphia to attending friends’ weddings together and visiting L.A. to pursue their dreams. It was a no brainer for Jeudy to dive into the novel.

When the 44-year-old reached the second chapter of the novel titled “The Sweetest Girl,” he was filled with discomfort. A mother died in that chapter. Jeudy’s mother died when he was in his early 20s. Because of that discomfort, he had a burning desire to write something around that chapter.

Based on that chapter of the book, Desouvre and Jeudy wrote the screenplay of a short Haitian-American film together, “The Sweetest Girl: A Forbidden Love Story.” The best part about it is that they wrote it together.

“It’s the first time I actually wrote a screenplay with a childhood friend. Think about it, I wrote a screenplay with my childhood friend,” Jeudy said while raising his voice. “It doesn’t even matter if it’s my best work or if it’s garbage, I did it with my childhood friend.”

“Instead of finding our egos, we found our passion, we found our energy. And that—that is…”

Desouvre finished Jeudy’s sentence: “A story to tell.”

Jeudy continued: “I don’t even live around Haitians anymore. I got so far removed from my culture and I was able to come back with this other person who’s from my culture and do this story together.

“Maybe this is a bad metaphor, it’s like two lovers having a baby, having their first child together, The Sweetest Girl.”

Screenwriter Harry Jeudy. Photo courtesy of Harry Jeudy

“The Sweetest Girl” is the story of a 25-year marriage that ended sorrowfully when the husband told his wife a heart-wrenching secret on her deathbed.

The married couple will be played by an actual married couple, Genji Jacques, whom they call “Haitian Denzel,” and Sandra Justice. They’re without a doubt two of the most prominent Haitian actors in the United States.

Jacques starred in one of the most successful Haitian movies in the U.S., Wind of Desire, in 2002, and is also seen in other notable accomplishments. Meanwhile, Justice acted in Miami Vice in 2006, a movie Jamie Foxx played in and featured in a Lifetime movie, “The Boyfriend Killer” — just to name a few of her notable achievements.

The couple is extremely strict as far as who they work with. Desouvre and Jeudy’s script caught their eyes.

“I thought it was well-written,” Justice said of the screenplay. “It was well thought out, very creative.” Jacques agrees with his wife.

“I think the film is very inspirational,” the 46-year-old said. “It’s a film that will open people’s eyes.”

Jacques is also fond of many of Desouvre’s characteristics. “Based upon how I see Yanatha’s approach is, his work ethic and professionalism. I do applaud that.”

The film was originally scheduled to get shot in April but because of the novel coronavirus they were forced to reschedule it to possibly July 17 to July 19 in Florida, including in Little Haiti.

“It was a disappointment,” Jeudy said, softly, “not just for us but it was a disappointment to the directors, it was a disappointment to the actors. COVID-19 it’s been — it’s been hard.”

They didn’t allow the virus to completely put the making of the movie on hold. The Sweetest Girl’s film crew organized casting and meetings via Zoom.

One of Desouvre and Jeudy’s missions with “The Sweetest Girl” is to honor Haitian musician Wyclef Jean. Every chapters in Desouvre’s book, “Revelations: Roads to Redemption” was named after one of Jean’s songs.

Yanatha Desouvre, who’s also a pianist, titled every chapters in his novel “Revelations: Roads to Redemption” after one of Wyclef Jean’s songs. Photo: Brittney Bomnin / University of Miami Communications

Desouvre is an Amazon best-selling author and a professor at Miami Dade College. Meanwhile, Jeudy is an engineer based in Delaware but also a gifted screenwriter. One of his most notable short films is “A Great Day in Harlem.” The two childhood friends dream of taking their writing careers to the highest heights possible — Hollywood.

It’s been their goal for over a decade. In 2007, Desouvre and Jeudy visited L.A. with the hope of putting themselves on the map. Desouvre woke up around six in the morning to go stand in a street corner to promote his books. 

After many rejections, the pair of writers are still striving to make it to the entertainment industry.

“It’s really, really hard to make it to Hollywood,” Jeudy acknowledged. “You have to work, you have to be calculating, you have to be a thinker, get rejected a billion times, make a bunch of mistakes. That’s how you make it into Hollywood. We need to make it to Hollywood. We are calculating, trying to make it.”

Perhaps “The Sweetest Girl” is the next step into them reaching their goal. One of the reasons why Jeudy and Desouvre are eager to crawl their way up to Hollywood is to work with some of the finest entertainers in the industry. Wyclef Jean is on their wishlist.

But if they fall short into making it to the big screen “that’s okay,” Desouvre said.  Their main objective is to tell stories, Hollywood or not. They aspire to create a Caribbewood.

“We’re trying to tell stories that no one else tells,” Jeudy said. “Stories of what’s going on in Haiti specifically. We have a ton of stories. We’re trying to do it in a compelling way, in a way that appeals to the American audience, not just the white Americans, to the African-Americans, to the Latino-Americans. To all of us. But these stories are rooted in the Haitian culture.”

“We’re hoping to be the Tyler Perry of Haitian stories.”

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.

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