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Raoul Peck’s Haiti-set political drama MOLOCH TROPICAL is centerpiece of Human Rights Watch Film Festival

MOLOCH TROPICAL (Raoul Peck, 2009)

Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Sunday, June 20, 7:00 (festival continues through June 24)

Selected as the centerpiece of the 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Raoul Peck’s MOLOCH TROPICAL follows the sad decline of democratically elected Haitian president Jean de Dieu (Zinedine Soualem) as power corrupts and overwhelms him. A combination of nineteenth-century Haitian leader Henri Christophe, twentieth-century president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, any of several Shakespearean kings, Aleksandr Sokurov’s Nazi drama MOLOKH, and General Vargas from Woody Allen’s BANANAS, de Dieu lives in a mountain fortress where he takes advantage of the female servants, gets all excited when a Hollywood film crew shows up to meet him, and tries to prevent his mother from visiting because he is ashamed of the poverty he came from. In the beginning of the film, he steps on a piece of broken glass, so he limps through the rest of the movie, symbolic of his shaky regime. Although the film does suffer from an overabundance of clichés, it’s still a compelling portrait of the downfall of a powerful man. The Haitian-born Peck (LUMUMBA), who received the festival’s Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking in 1994 (this year’s winners are Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, who made ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE, about the Khmer Rouge siege of Cambodia), will participate in a postscreening Q&A with Kent Jones following the June 20 screening.

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