FATAL ASSISTANCE (Assistance Mortelle) is Haitian-born director Raoul Peck's attempt to set the record straight. The feature documentary rebukes the naive assumption that relief efforts are purely altruistic, and shows another side of the Haitian people - one of hard-working, inventive men and women whose patience with all their new, international "friends" is wearing thin... It's an economic vampire story with enough examples of mismanagement to make you scream.
Last week's premiere event was a great inauguration. "The Politics of Community" was the overarching theme, but after a wonderful introduction to give some academic context, Taylor expertly guided our discussion forth and back to other areas of concern. Topics ranged from politically correct vocabulary (one beautiful Black women rejects both terms "race" and "mixed" to describe herself), to how German administrative forms fail to reflect the diverse background of some Berliners (how can you communicate that your place of birth, ethnicity and place of residence are are varied when there is only one box to check?) to how the emphasis on Germany's Nazi past leaves little room to address the atrocities of colonialism that foreshadowed it.
The original master material of Clarke's was lost for over 45 years, and thanks in part to Milestone Pictures Kickstarter campaign, a restored print was premiered at the film festival in Berlin to sold- out audiences. One has to wonder how such a seminal film, one that Ingmar Bergman described as, “The most fascinating film I've ever seen,” could come so close to being lost from history. It would be easy to say that the Black, gay character and a female director are the cause for the films mishandling by the powers that be, but perhaps the films' challenging nature - exactly the thing that make it so special – is what put it in danger of being erased from the film canon.