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Posted May 8, 2002
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First published in The New York Times
- The Arts - May 8, 2002
Haitian Capitalism and a Hunt for Diamonds in the Sea
          By Dave Kehr        

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 a price."

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 analytical intelligence

In Haiti, as elsewhere, it's a case
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 our silence."                                                                                                                                                                                          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.
Directed and 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.                                                                                                                                                                                        Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company, the scholarly journal of democracy and human rights
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