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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A candid conversation with filmmaker Rose-Philippe Coriolan

rose1By Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine

For the many years I have lived in South Florida, I could not recall having met an individual so ambitious, so daring and yet so humbled as Rose-Philippe Coriolan. I came across Rose’s path very early in my life when I was seeking the perfect way to fight for social justice. She was older, but she was flamboyant—never afraid to speak her mind. We collaborated in several students organizations in Miami which, at that time in the diaspora, constituted the heart of the opposition against the Creole fascists in Haiti. It was also the time when the struggle for refugees’ rights, against heavy-handed practices directed at Haitian immigrants was at a boiling point, reaching unbelievable pith. Rose was in the middle of it; and so were Fritz Dor, Hervé Florival, Serge Holy to name a few who have since walked into the sunset. Like many of us, Rose was managing school as well as social and community activisms. She did it stoically well, even if triple all-nighters were sometimes required.

This explains the multifaceted character that coifs Rose Philippe Coriolan’s personality. As genuine patriotism gave way to petit-bourgeois opportunism, Rose and many of us grew disillusioned and went our separate ways. However, Haiti has never gone astray or to put it in a politically correct form: Rose has never turned back on her liberal views, her social consciousness and her literary romanticism.

Upon graduating from Florida International University (FIU), Rose went to work for a 500-Fortune Company as Operations Manager. She spent 15 years there. But it was always the quest to have it all in both telecommunication and in cinema that has caused her mind to be “bewitched.” Consequently, she resigned her post to pursue her dream—a dream that will someday take her to the zenith of what she has always dreamed of: A well respected Haitian movie producer who would be the voice for the disenfranchised in both her motherland of Haiti and in anywhere around the globe where injustice has been perpetuated against those who live in the fringe of society. Rose is a woman who is never afraid of taking on new challenges. She is at her best when the odds seem unsurmountable. Her ebony face shoots aglow—always—whenever we meet. Last week at her home in South Florida, I sat down with Rose for a candid chat, where she talked about her past, her current projects and her hope for the future.

A.I.: Bonjour Rose, we’ve known each other for ages, but this is the first time I have this opportunity to officially present you to the CSMS Magazine readers. Many of them, I’m sure, already know who Rose is; but for the sake of our global audience, could you please tell the world who you are?

R.C.: Hard question to answer… Born in Haiti… Came to the States during my teenage years, and I had the opportunity to complete my high school years in this country. I went to Miami Dade College and completed my classes at FIU (Florida International University) on Management and French. I worked as Operations Manager for a 500-fortune company for 15 years. During my last year there, I began to take a close look at my life, my future and how to play a productive role in the Haitian Community. In other words, in soul searching, I was trying to find the best way to get involved in community affairs. There, I went to work for a telephone company that later revitalized itself into a Radio Station. Ten years ago, I became their Operations Manager. I also produce some of their shows like James Reports, Samedie en Folie, Place Publique, Edloz Live (a few of his daily show) and now I have The Morning Drive and Cinema Verite.

A. I. I know your area of expertise is cinema. Can you tell our audience what is your main genre of cinematography?

R.C.: Genre of Cinematography… I can say I’m open. I work on many projects and different genres, but I’m very attached to documentary… because of its non-fiction nature. True stories seem more compelling to me. Sometimes it is not the genre that makes me fired up for a movie, it’s rather its production, its montage, if you will: editing, sounds, costumes, cast etc…

A. I.: Is a Haitian/Caribbean audience your main targets? Why?

R.C.: Whenever I am producing, I always have the world in mind. I do not produce only for a Haitian/Caribbean audience. Since I live in the United States, I cannot neglect my Anglophone audience. To me, reaching a global audience is the best way to push the Haitian cause; but I already produced in Creole with “Haiti Another Struggle.” It was a documentary which was dubbed in English. By changing the language—subtitling the movie—I can cater any audience.

A. I.: Your organization has its own Facebook page, which is titled Cinema Verite Haiti (Haitian cinema foregrounded on the truth.) The etymological meaning of this name can be interpreted the same in both French and Creole. Why this name?

R.C.: Whenever we choose a name in the business, it feels like undergoing some strategic thinking. It has to be a name that has the power to capture the audience we’ll be working with. Cinema Verite is an old name used by another production company. To avoid confusion, we add Haiti because the show analyzes the business of Cinema in our island. We have guests all over the world. Anyone that can improve the aspect of cinema in Haiti is welcome… God knew Cinema Verite Haiti needed to be in existence. After the Earthquake in 2010, Haiti didn’t have a movie theater. To do a screening there, if you were lucky, you had to find a space in Fokal or you must rent a room inside of a Hotel.

A. I.: Is this an attempt to disassociate your work from that of other Haitian producers going after the same market? Are you trying to herald a truth and honesty not commonly seen in average Haitian productions?

R.C.: Truth is a must… Whatever we produce must be transparent. Our producers in the Haitian business have a lot of improvements to do. Honesty as well as integrity is key to being recognized in this business.

We have a teaser on our show Cinema Veri “Toute la vérité sur le Cinema” We analyze, discuss and ask hard questions to find the truth on the Haitian productions.

A. I.: I like to watch Haitian movies, not for their sophistications, but rather for the false sense of patriotic/nostalgic healing they seem to bring. However, many people have characterized them as picayune productions—buffoonish. Do you agree to that?

R.C.: I agree 100% on all counts. That’s the reason why in Cinema Verite, we teach our audience how to ask for better productions. We try to analyze any new project that has been screening in the Diaspora and in Haiti. We discuss them on the show and we visit many of the festivals, incognito, to see and understand their ways.

A. I.: I have also heard horror stories of abuses taken place on the set while in production. If this is true, do you think it’s because of the vulnerability that exists among our financially deprived actors?

R.C.: I heard that also… We are still in the process of doing some investigation for the show… Any good one, your Magazine will be the first to be informed.

A.I.: Good to know. Do you think vetting Haitian producers is an easy task?

R.C.: This could be a challenge. (laughter)

A. I.: From your perspective, Rose, what would be the ideal remedy to this problem?

R.C.: Better productions… The industry has to have better rules to support it in Haiti. Some of the actors have to stop believe in fake producers. Contracts and release forms must be signed before production. Also, they have to start working with Unit Production Managers to manage the production for them.

Copyright is the number one aspect we must work with. I know some of the producers that refuse to publish some of their works due to “bootlegging.”

A. I.: Besides producing short films, you’re also specializing in other forms of communications. I know you have produced several radio shows, and the most popular of all is your Sunday afternoon show where you interview movie personalities. Why did you choose films over radio productions?

R.C.: I like both. Cinema Verite Show gives me both aspects: works with the Crews and Casts for films and television, and presenting the show gives me the radio aspect.

A. I.: Rose, where do you see your production, let’s say, 3 years from now?

R.C.: Very far… I won’t be able to elaborate… You have to wait and see what will happen. We have a lot of projects ahead.

A. I.: You and I have long wrestled over the need to reach a global audience. Are you trying to emulate Raoul Peck, the most famous of all?

R.C.: Raul Peck! (burst out laughing)… Possibility is always there… We’re working better every day toward that elusive goal.

A. I.: How did you fall in love with cinema? Who has encouraged you? Do you have a mentor?

R.C.: I was raised in the environment… Many members of my family are a part of the industry in Haiti. I’ve always liked to tell stories, like a good story teller would be; and my passion for management has strengthened my love to be a producer. My mentors are mostly my teachers that I meet when I went back to school to study Film, Television and Radio at Miami Dade College.

A. I.: Who is your favorite movie producer?

R.C.: I don’t have just one. I have many, including Arnold Anthony, Raul Peck, Lee Daniels, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Michael Moore… just to name a few.

A. I.: What are some of the most serious hurdles a producer faces before, during and after the production? How does a producer overcome these obstacles?

R.C.: Production is not something that you wake up one morning and decide to do a movie or documentary. It takes a lot of preparations, from creating the script to post production, to marketing. Some of the projects take years to become a reality: Avatar from Cameron announces the movie in June 2005, and the movie was released in December 2009.

First, there are at least 4 branches that have to function properly for the success of the project:

Pre-Production: Writing Script, Breaking down of the script, budget, locations, casting etc…

Production: Equipments, sets, producer vs. director, director vs. actors, cast and crew etc.…

Post Production: Final shape of the Movie (editing), sounds, effects, color… What will make your audience tick?

Marketing: advertising, interviews, distribution.

I only discuss without details a few of the most important aspects in completing a movie project.

A. I.: Is social justice an integral part of your production? Can you name some of your short films? Where can someone find them?

R.C.: Social Justice will always be a part of my production… I have few projects in the works. My work can be found on www.janatro.com , www.jnrproductions.com , www.watchtheotherside.com. Also, I have an account on IMDB under Rose Coriolan for more details.

A. I.: Have you had a day when you simple wanted to quit? How do you triumph over these down days?

R.C.: Yes, there are days like that for anyone that works in the business of Art; but if you love what you do, you will survive those days. Support and encouragement from the people around me like family, friends give me the daily strength to move forward.

A. I.: What is your favorite Haitian actor/actress of all time? Why?

R.C.: You know in this business it is difficult to answer that question. I never know whom I will have the opportunity to work with. Consequently, I cannot answer this.

A. I.: Any big project in the work?

R.C.: Many… Many… Cinema Verite has become a platform, an institution if you will, and it’s no longer only a show. We are in the process of designing many projects for it.

Also I am working very close with Author Dr. Ardain Isma on “Alicia Maldonado: A Mother Lost” We’re working on creating an Adaptation for his book. First time I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. Right then and there, I started creating movie scenes in my head while I was reading it.

I’m also working on breaking down some script for a few short films. I believe in short films. My Haitians Producers need to work on this type of project more instead of doing only feature film where they always have difficulties in finding money to produce them.

A. I. Rose, we could talk for hours, as we always do, but for the purpose of this interview, we need to stop before I face a revolt from the CSMS Magazine editors. But before we go, however, is there any advice you want to give to our young promising writers, actors and movie producers out there?

Believe in yourself, work hard, Keep on dreaming… Your dreams will become a reality someday.

A. I. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you. We’ll surely do it again sometime in the future. What do you think? Happy New Year!

Of course, we will. Same to you … Na pale!


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