Rachèle Magloire and Chantal Regnault: What Becomes of the Abruptly Deported
(What Becomes of the Abruptly Deported: Rachèle Magloire and Chantal Regnault Discuss Their Deportation Documentary)
Deportation has affected many immigrant groups, in particular Haitian families. When a deportation order is executed, the immediate consequence is the breaking up of a family. But the bigger question often is, what becomes of the deportees? What becomes of the abruptly deported? What are their lives like?
Documentary filmmakers Chantal Regnault and Rachèle Magloire teamed up to seek and deliver answers to those questions through their insightful documentary work Deported. Their collaboration blends two different backgrounds—Magloire was born in Haiti, moved to Canada at the age of four to return two decades later, and Regnault was born in France to French parents, and is a former resident of Haiti.
Deported offers many perspectives in understanding the lives of those who have been deported.
Tell us about yourselves. RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: I studied Communications at the University of Quebec in Montreal. In Montreal, I volunteered in community radio, particularly Radio City Centre, on the show “The Voice of Haiti.” I went back to Haiti in February of 1987, and worked as a journalist on Télé Haiti, then briefly at Télévision National D’Haiti before starting Productions Lantern, an audiovisual production company, with Carl Lafontant. I’ve been doing audiovisual productions ever since. And I have made several documentaries, including Kalfou Plezi, Pye Devan and Children of the Coup d’Etat. Since 2004, I have been working with my sister Laurence Magloire and the foundation MWEM in the distribution of films in Haiti through the traveling movie program Sinema Anba Zetwal [Cinema Under the Stars]. In 2006, I joined Chantal Regnault to make Deported.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: I have a degree in Modern Literature from the Sorbonne-Paris-France, and I continued in the same specialty at New York University, when I moved to New York in 1971. In the late 1970s, I left school to devote myself to photography, inspired by the New York street scene and the incredible diversity of human beings from around the globe. From the outset, I was interested in the documentary aspect of photography.
For the next 30 years, I will translate that interest to personal photographic essays, produced independently and through my work with the press, magazines, and institutions. The 1970s was the emergence of hip-hop Culture in New York City. Brooklyn, Bronx: Rap, Graffeurs, Breakdancers will end up being one of my first photo projects. It is also in the late 70s that I made my first trip to Haiti, and its remaining visual wealth will become one of my main sources of inspiration. After multiple trips to Haiti between 1979 and 1983, I will not return for a decade. Back in New York, I’ll rub shoulders with and photograph several Haitian families and Voodoists, who were arriving in the 1970s by any means at hand to New York, Brooklyn, the Bronx, New Jersey. I returned to Haiti in 1993—this time to make it my primary residence until the earthquake of January 12, 2010 chases me out. How did you get interested in filmmaking? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: I already had an interest in film by choosing to study Communication. I had a concentration in radio, but we studied the basics of all the fields: photography, film, television. The interest in film came from my experience in television in Haiti. When I was little, I also loved looking at the pictures of my father, especially on Sunday nights when we watched family slides on the big screen.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: Going from documentary photography to documentary film, isn’t that much of a stretch. The values remains the same. And I’ve always loved the language of images, including movies. I remember as a student in Paris, we spent more time in the art house theaters in the Latin Quarter than in the classroom. In 1993 I was a news photographer for a while with Gamma-Liaison Agency and collaborated with foreign print and broadcast media journalists. I also met Rachèle, who already had several reports and documentaries to her credit at that point. We related to one another, and in 2006 the idea to co-direct a documentary on the U.S. Deportees in Haiti started to take shape.
What was your first encounter with a deported person like? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: Since the mid-nineties, I—like many other Haitians—were convinced that the phenomenon of crime was either introduced or reinforced by the arrival of prisoners in the country. Indeed, it is at this time that we began to talk about them. According to the information we had obtained in our research, it’s following the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier that the U.S. and Canada began to send people here [in Haiti] who had committed crimes in their home countries. Then I started to meet some of them, mostly young people in the streets of Port-au- Prince, and they gave me the feeling of what it’s like to feel lost in this country.
Then after 1996, deportations became more systematic. In the 2000s, I accompanied an American journalist who was doing a paper on the deportations, and we witnessed the arrival of a group of persons aboard an aircraft of the U.S. Marshall. It was quite shocking to see these guys landing, handcuffed and escorted by heavily-armed police. I started to get interested in what crimes they had committed to be deported. Having had to reestablish myself in this country that I really didn’t know, I wondered how things were going for them since they were in the same predicament, but not by deliberate choice, as they had been sent there by circumstances. I think the big difference was that although I had not grown up in Haiti, I had a lot of interest in the country, its history, its struggles throughout my youth in Montreal.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: The first deportee I met in Haiti was Richard, the main character in the documentary. It was in 1993 at the Holiday Inn Hotel—which will later on become Le Plaza–on Champ de Mars in Port-au-Prince. The events unfolding in Haiti—which lead to the U.S. military intervention in September 1994—brought in the international media, many of whom were staying at Le Plaza. Richard was on the scene; he could be seen at Champs de Mars. He offered his services as a guide and interpreter for English and French journalists and photographers as he spoke English, French and Creole. This thus provided the cash he needed for his addiction to crack. He told his story of being deported from the U.S. and his situation was an isolated case at the time, as he had been sent back in 1988 on a commercial flight [to Haiti] and walked out of the airport freely without any administrative procedure.
In 1998, during a visit to the National Penitentiary, I became aware of the magnitude of this phenomenon. I was literally shocked to happen on a cell crammed with young men who had come straight out of Brooklyn, NY and neighborhoods that were familiar to me. They were deported from the U.S. and illegally imprisoned and that experience was to last until 2006. I must also mention Jean-Pierre—also known as G Money—who I met in 2004. He was the “fixer” for a colleague from the Miami Herald, Joe Mozingo. I was to see him again on multiple occasions in the following years. He does not appear in the film but we were at the very beginning of our work, and he introduced me to a circle of deportees who gravitated around him.
What becomes of those who have been deported when they are sent back to Haiti? Rachèle Magloire and Chantal Regnault explore this in their award-winning documentary Deported.
In the first part of the article series, the two filmmakers discussed their backgrounds, how they met, and their first encounters with deportees in Haiti. Here, they discuss their work further.
What was the process like in putting together the documentary? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: First, we did a lot of research to find [deportees]. In fact, we learned quickly that the “deported” love hanging out together. And so, we were able to meet a number of them. We met many officials and key persons involved in the deportation process and deportees’ integration into Haitian society through organizations defending human rights, especially the ECHR, which—at that time—led a study on the issue, in order to make recommendations to the authorities. We also took part in the rehabilitation program of the deportees led by IOM—International Organization for Immigration. Then we started to make contact with their [the deportees’] family members who lived mainly in North America. This is how we were able to follow some of the people we met, so that each of them could recount this terrible experience of deportation.
In 2008, as part of a project with the ECHR for the stigmatization of deportees in Haiti, we made a rough cut of twenty minutes. In January 2010, we finished filming. Then there was the long process of editing. Meanwhile, we showed a first draft to Raoul Peck and his production company Velvet Film. He was interested in our film, and helped us to finish it. We finished editing and post-production in July 2012.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: As Rachèle explained, the first phase of research was conducted from meetings with prisoners, one leading us to the other, allowing us to remember those who become the protagonists of the film, and also a phase of deepening our knowledge of the issue of deportation through reading materials and a series of interviews with government officials and police in Haiti as well as specialists [involved in the] migrant rights in the United States and Canada. This work has not been used since we eventually decided to make the message of the film exclusively about prisoners and their families in North America.
How are deportees viewed in Haiti? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: Deportees are generally frowned upon. And as many times, the highest authorities have associated them with waves of crime in the country, it has reinforced the sense that the deported citizens are actively involved in Haiti’s criminal life. However, we must also say that if someone who is involved in a kidnapping speaks English, he is identified as a deportee, although this is not always the case. There are also people in the Diaspora who are involved in criminal networks, and aren’t deported.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: The Haitian public is generally afraid of deported criminals “made in USA” and also despise them for ruining the opportunity they had to live and work in North America. The fear of the deportees was at its height in December 2006 when the then-Prime Minister clearly linked the rise of crime in Haiti—especially kidnappings—to the presence of the deportees on national territory. We had so much research for the film.
Were you met with a lot of hesitation, when you were looking for interviewees? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: On the side of the deportees themselves, not so much, except for those who had been able to integrate into society, and had managed to make people forget that they had been deported. These guys did want to talk on camera. But in most cases, the individuals who appeared in the documentary film generously shared their experiences—and it was usually quite painful. Also, it was more difficult to get women to talk, but there are nonetheless women deportees—even if they are less in number than the men.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: In the case of deportees with a criminal past, it wasn’t everyone who agreed to participate in the film. We had to rely on our personal contacts and the trust we earned with some. As pointed out by Rachèle, those who were able to integrate [in Haitian society] did not want to re-assume the identity of a deportee given the aura of stigma that surrounds them; it was the same with those with criminal records in Haiti and that for obvious reasons.
Do you think the view of deportees will change? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: Definitely, I think that our film can help change the perception of the deportees in Haiti, and elsewhere, because you know that deportations are done in all countries from the United States and Canada. In the case of the United States, the most massive deportations are to the countries of Central America and the Caribbean.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: I agree with Rachèle about the impact that our film can have on the perception that the public has of Haitian deportees. Screenings in Port-au-Prince at Fokal and in Jacmel at Place d’Armes in December 2012 and again in Fokal in March 2013, have already proved that. It was a great moment when the lights were turned back on and members of the audience found themselves face to face with the film’s protagonists in the flesh! A passionate dialogue that could not stop got started.
The conversation with filmmakers Rachèle Magloire and Chantal Regnault continues in the last installment of our three-part article on the highly-acclaimed documentary Deported.
What did you note about the deportees? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: Each deportee had a history, and it was usually a history of difficult times. They did not come from the same paths, even if we found commonalities between them. But they all had an experience that marked their passage in a North American prison. This passage and the “return” in a rather hostile society is a life lesson for them. Now it is up to each of them—according to his “background”, his education and family support—to turn this lesson in a positive way. But the film also has scenes shot in North America, which allowed us to provoke further reflection on the integration of immigrants in North America and address the issue of the emergence of crime in that region.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: Same answer as Rachèle.
How long did it take for you to gather material for the documentary and to wrap it up? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: We started the research in 2006 and completed the installation in 2012, so six years!
CHANTAL REGNAULT: I want to clarify that we did not produce it in six consecutive years. Various internal and external factors sometimes slowed filming considerably, and the earthquake of January 12, 2010 occurred when we started mounting the long version of the documentary film. We found the money for the post-production work at the end of 2011.
Do you prefer fiction filmmaking documentary filmmaking over? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: I’ve never made fiction films, except for a few experiments with short films and some commercials. I love the documentary format because it allows you to follow certain ideas, but fiction is also attractive to me. But this form of cinema doesn’t have the same elements. And in the absence of a film industry, it is much more difficult to create the conditions to complete a very successful fiction feature. But time will tell the rest.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: This is my first documentary film. I’ve never done fiction.
What advice do you have for those Who wish to do documentaries? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: To always stay open and listen to a lot of research to understand the subject you’re talking about so you can come out with something intelligent.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: To have a good time on writing the project and to leave room to deviate, take the time to establish trust with the future protagonists of the film, and remain constantly open to elements that luck can bring.
Did you Have a particular goal in making this documentary? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: I didn’t have a particular purpose, except to deepen my knowledge on the subject, and as with other documentaries, open the horizons of the audience to a reality they don’t know too well. Generally, we are interested in marginalized societies and people who don’t really have a place to express themselves. In the case of prisoners, that was exactly the case, but what attracted me the most was that this allowed me to not only explore a Haitian reality on our island, but also to get an understanding of what was happening in the host society that had led to the deportation.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: As I said before, I was long aware of the plight of the deported in Haiti, realized that there was this injustice and the catastrophic human consequences engendered by the policy of systematic abuse and deportation, especially in the the United States. [The purpose] of making the documentary was to firstly shed light on the real situation of these people being cut off from their past life and to lead the viewer to not only question the rights of immigrants who were criminals, but also the very notion of identity. We live in a time when global migration has produced a wide hybrid population that straddles at least two countries, two cultures, two languages.
What do you think of the current Haitian filmmaking industry? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: One cannot speak of a cinema industry in Haiti today. Moreover, there is no movie theater, so no real market opportunities exist for the distribution of films. There are no funds specifically dedicated to cinema for film production, so those who make movies do so on a small scale and use a lot of imagination to finance their production and distribution. Fortunately, there are some institutions like FOKAL supporting such projects. But, you have to convince these institutions.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: What’s also missing is the training of future technicians and screenwriters.
What plans do you have for your filmmaking career? RACHÈLE MAGLOIRE: I will continue my work. I am working on several projects, but for now they are in their infancy so I prefer not to talk about them. I’ve also worked on other film projects, including Raoul Peck’s Deadly Assistance. I was the Director of Photography, and implementation of the second team in Haiti.
CHANTAL REGNAULT: I don’t have the time for another documentary project. I plan on publishing a book of photos based on the experiences that I had in Haiti during the 25 years I devoted to it.