A tiny-budgeted, over-earnest shot at fashioning a Paul Haggis-Crash-like topical weave from the crisis of Haitian émigrés coming to New York in the late ’80s, Patricia Benoit’s indie has the lit-glam distinction of featuring novelist Edwidge Danticat in a key role.
It doesn’t help — like most of us non-pros, Danticat can’t open up for the camera, and in any case Benoit gives her cast little to do besides bicker and glower over past violence, revisited in flashbacks. The story traces three small families in Brooklyn disheveled by the appearance of immigrating relatives: Danticat is the mopey sister dropping in on middle-class real estate broker/single mom Michele Marcelin; WBAI-ish activist radio pundit Thierry Saintine deals with his alkie politico-torturer father (Carlo Mitton), a fugitive from civil unrest; and a scrambling dayworker (Atibon) is joined by his wife (Patricia Rhinvil), who’s permanently traumatized from a gang rape back home.
Good intentions can be deadly: Benoit runs into the common tripwire of caring more about pitching her cause than she does about movies. Scenes illustrate simple social-injustice points, and the characters are one-dimensional sufferers.
The exception is Mitton’s self-pitying monster-on-the-skids — however overacted and underwritten, he’s a compelling figure, a wilted megalomaniac on the brink of death but still fighting to escape his crimes. His story is the movie that didn’t quite get made.