KANAVAL: A People’s History Of Haiti In Six Chapters was nominated for two British Independent Film Awards and one London Film Festival award 2022.
Haitian history is presented through an explosion of colour, dance and music, as the country prepares for its legendary carnival Jacmel Mardi Gras. The documentary features performers who relate their own personal histories as well as the stories of their carnival characters, representing moments and people from the distant and not-so-distant Haitian past.
We speak to director and producer Eddie Hutton-Mills about his passion project and why he thinks audiences must watch the film and understand the deep-rooted history of rebellion and resistance. behind it.
Please introduce yourself …
I’m Eddie Hutton-Mills, I’m a documentary Director/ Producer from Ghana. I grew up in Camden, North London, and now live in Leyton, East London.
Describe your life right now in a word or one sentence.
Tell us about your latest project.
My latest film is about the history of Haiti, told through the prism of the Jacmel Kanaval.
What’s your role on it?
I am the director.
How did Kanaval: A History of Haiti in 6 Chapters come about – and how/why did you get involved?
The film was derived from an exceptional book of photographs and oral histories, made by Leah Gordon called: Kanaval. It was commissioned by the BBC and supported by the Doc Society. I met Leah and Natasha who runs Tigerlilly 3 years ago and got involved with the project after that meeting. As a West African, the story of the only successful slave revolution, has always been part of my cultural upbringing. Allied with stories around religion, and the demonisation of African religion by the West and in particular Christianity, it was a story I felt compelled to tell and make more prevalent in our society. I have always felt that an understanding of our context changes our content.
What did you discover about Haiti, its people, its history, and its rebellion that you either didn’t know already or surprised you or even shocked you?
I had known about the slave rebellion, and subsequent debt piled on Haiti – what I hadn’t understood fully was the extent to which the US had meddled with the country in the early 20th Century. Nor, that Britain had tried to invade Haiti to shut down the idea of slave emancipation, lest it spread to their Caribbean islands. What also surprised me was the hugely strong links between the abolitionist movements in the UK and Haiti itself, which lends itself to further exploration, but also adds much-needed agency to how Black people were always at the heart of the abolitionist movement.
Tell me about any highs and lows you went through and any solutions you came up with to issues you faced…
This was a film that was 3 years in the making. Because of COVID, we had to postpone flying to Haiti twice, and the Kanaval itself was threatened. But patience as always is key, and I feel we made the right decision to go out when we did.
Which scene or moment best defines why you worked on this film?
Chapter: The Birth of a Black Nation – which for me is all about Black empowerment. Also Chapter: Vodou, The Soul of a Nation, which is about understanding why and how Vodou (an African religion) was demonised by the west.
What’s your current plan B?
To become a primary school teacher.
What’s made you sad, mad and glad this week?
The Chris Kaba story, and the continuing stories of racism through WhatsApp groups, arrests etc .., emanating from the Met continue to make me both sad and mad. The fact that we as a community lead the fight in this also makes me immensely glad and proud.
What are you watching right now?
Pachinko and 1971 on Apple TV+
What are you reading right now?
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.
What are you listening to right now?
A podcast called Who Killed Daphne? on Wondery. I’m also enjoying a lot of tortoise media’s slow news content.
The last thing you saw on stage?
Blues for an Alabama Sky.
What’s on your bucket list?
The films that I have in my head that are yet to be made!
Celebrate someone else …
Lytannya Shannon, an incredible documentary director.
Celebrate yourself …
Kanval has been nominated for a Grierson, which is something to be immensely proud of…
Where can we find you / watch Kanaval?
It will be on the BBC later this year so watch this space.
What’s next for you?
As soon as I know for sure, I will let you know! ☺
Kanaval went on release (ICA on 11th November, and Bertha Doc house on 12th November, as well as a one-off q and screenings at Hackney Picture house 16th November, CurzonSoho 20th November, Fact Liverpool 23rd (with a one-off Q&A).
All tickets can be booked through Dartmouthfilms.com/kanaval