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The Agronomist (Jonathan Demme)

The Agronomist

THE AGRONOMIST (Jonathan Demme)

Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme has gone back to his documentary days (Stop Making Sense, Swimming To Cambodia) after Silence of the Lambs. I’m pretty grateful he has, otherwise we may have never known the story of Jean Dominique, who started out as an Agronomist, a man who worked with soil and fields, to go on and human rights activist in Haiti.

This is more than just a four-minute blip on the nighttime news. Demme takes you into the life of this man and his wife Michele Montae, who together with a group of other courageous journalists ran Radio Haiti, the only radio station to speak the truth on the travesties that constantly took place in their homeland of Haiti. What is so captivating is Dominique’s unbridled enthusiasm and gleaming smile as he brings you into his world, run by a dictatorship government that for decades, has killed it’s own people to maintain control.

This is where radio in itself is put into a whole new light; where the media really is something that provides a lifeline to what is taking place. Radio Haiti was the voice of the people, the backbone of the strength of the peasants. The viewer can see how relentless the citizens of Haiti were in pursuing their rights and freedom, even while they were being gunned down in the streets or when bullets riddled the radio station.

Demme’s use of editing to make various points throughout the film throws a definite indie film edge to it’s vibe, along with showing breathtaking shots of the deep blue waters to remind us of what a beautiful country Haiti is, even though it’s riddled with blood, bullets and tears. The shots of the protests showcase the power and resilience of these people, which is amazing.

What’s interesting is how the U.S. played in the battle for power. There is so much we don’t know about what our government is doing above and under the radar. I wonder if any of us were in that position, would we rise to preserve our rights, or go back inside and watch a sitcom. Do we question our own government enough? When they “provided aid,” is it in the interest of human rights, or money and power?

This man never flinched, was never afraid to tell the truth, even it if meant risking his own life to do so. And his wife was the rock with just as much perseverance to carry on his legacy. These are inspiring people, and I’m grateful for Jonathan Demme that he’s gone back to making art that matters.

The Agronomist is currently playing at Starz Film Center in Denver. Go to for show times.


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