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|First published in The New York Times
|Haitian Capitalism and a Hunt for Diamonds in the Sea
Raoul Peck's 52-minute political documentary "Profit and Nothing But!" is a
disappointingly flat, hectoring film from the gifted Haitian filmmaker who most recently
brought us "Lumumba."
Mr. Peck appears to have recently made the discovery that the dominant economic system
on this planet is capitalism. As the title of his film suggests, he has also discovered
that capitalism is not a system primarily driven by selfless quest for social justice.
Using the impoverished market in a small Haitian village as the focus, Mr. Peck travels
to New York and Paris to illustrate how the basic exchange of goods - a villager buys
machetes and sells them at a high price - underlies all relationships in a capitalist
economy. "Human relationships are merchandise relationships," observes one of
the French economists consulted by the filmmaker. Another concludes, "Everything has
Mr. Peck cites the great film essayist Chris Marker (whose "A Grin Without a
Cat" is playing at the Film Forum in the South Village through May 14) as an
inspiration for his work, but "Profit and Nothing But!" lacks both the
|In Haiti, as elsewhere, it's a
|of buying low and selling high.
and tolerance for ambiguity that characterize Mr. Marker's work. Mr. Peck remains a
sloganeer, given to voice-over statements like "Capitalism has succeeded in buying
Happily, Mr. Peck also
remains a filmmaker with a fine eye for people and landscapes, and "Profit and
Nothing But!" (which opens today at two Boots Pioneer Theater in East Village) is
full of alluring images of his homeland.
Also on the Two Boots
program is "Diamonds and Rust," a documentary by Adi Barash and Rust Shatz, shot
aboard the Spirit of Namibia - a rusty ship that piles the southwest coast of Africa
vacuuming diamonds from the ocean floor.
The Captain is a Cuban, the engineers are South Africans, the head of security is
Israeli and the deck hands are Namibians, all of which adds up to quite a metaphor for the
social, political and economic conditions of the continent. The ship's owners, of course,
are never seen.
Wisely, the filmmakers don't force the analogies but simply let the tense relationships
between the officers and the crew
|Directed by Raul
Peck; in English, French and Haitian, with English subtitles; directors of photography,
Jean-Pierre Grasset, Kirsten Johnson and Jacques Besse; edited by Fabrice Saliniť and Mr.
Peck; released by First Run/Icarus Films. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third
Street, at Avenue A, East Village. Running time: 52 minutes. This film is not rated.
produced by Adi Barash and Ruth Shatz; in English, Hebrew, Namibian and Spanish, with
English subtitles; director of photography, Mr. Barash; edited by Ms. Shatz; released by
First Run/Icarus Films. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater. Running time: 73 minutes. This
film is not rated.
play out during the course of a single 90-day voyage. The homesick Cubans take refuge
in Cuban music and cooking; The South Africans swap racist jokes, and one of the Namibians
observes that things haven't changed all that much since the South African occupation of
Namibia ended in 1988.
The material doesn't have much dramatic shape - no truly vivid conflicts emerge among
the crew - and the filmmakers are two scrupulous to impose an artificial structure
on it. What remains is a film that chugs along as listlessly as the ship itself,
discovering moments of value in a sea of ennui.
2002 The New York Times Company
|Wehaitians.com, the scholarly journal of
democracy and human rights