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UK: Optimum Releasing
Cast: Jean Dominique
Director: Jonathan Demme
Language: French (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 91 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity
UK Certificate: PG contains moderate images of real violence and death
USA Release Date: 23 April 2004 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 16 April 2004
THE AGRONOMIST is inspired by the pioneering work of Haitian journalist and human rights activist Jean Dominique.
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme shot many hours of footage with Dominique over fifteen years. This joint project between Demme and Dominique was tragically cut short in April 2000 when, in the turmoil leading up to elections, Jean Dominique was assassinated outside his radio station, Radio Haiti Inter.
THE AGRONOMIST is a portrait of Dominique, his extraordinary wife, and partner Michele Montas, and their beloved Haiti.
Jean Dominique purchased the lease of Radio Haiti-Inter, Haiti's oldest radio station, in 1968 and introduced key innovations that revolutionized radio communication in the country. Most significantly, he introduced the use of Haitian Creole, the language of the majority of Haitians, at a time when the French speaking elite had a monopoly on radio reports. This development meant that, for the first time, all of Haiti's people could receive the news and disenfranchised socio-economic portions of the country's population were empowered to participate in the country's political movements.
Through his innovations Dominique clearly defined himself as a militant journalist for democracy, a stance that was echoed by his own charismatic reporting. His daily editorials debated political questions and spoke freely about controversial issues of the day. He remained a voice for democracy throughout the days of the Duvalier regime that prevailed in Haiti from 1956 until 1986. His outspoken and uncompromising work did not go unnoticed by the dictatorship. Radio Haiti Inter was closed down several times in this period and Dominique forced into exile in 1980 and again in 1991.
Dominique's return from his first period in exile from 1980-1986 was testimony to his significance to the Haitian people. After six years in Manhattan, 25,000 people gathered at the airport in the capital of Port au Prince to welcome him home and to urge him to continue his work for democracy in the country.
Although his career was primarily based in radio, Dominique was by training an agronomist. His heart and attention always stayed close to the agricultural majority in the country that he attempted, through his work in radio, to inform and to draw into political debate and action
THE AGRONOMIST begins with Jean Dominique in New York in 1995 about to make his return home from his second period of exile. The film continues by weaving Jean's work and his personal and professional experience in with the history of the country and the testimonies of family, friends and colleagues who worked together towards their dream of increased participation in the political process for a prospering democracy in Haiti.