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The Agronomist (2003)

7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 770 users   Metascore: 82/100
Reviews: 15 user | 45 critic | 29 from Metacritic.com

The true story of Jean Dominique, a Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Jean Dominique ...
Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Aboudja ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
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Storyline

A profile of Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist, Jean Dominique. It includes: historical footage of Haiti's vivid and tumultuous past; interviews with Dominique, himself and with Michele Montas--his heroic wife, life-long love, and extraordinary partner; and incorporates footage shot before Dominique's assassination on April 3, 2000. Written by Sujit R. Varma

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

31 March 2004 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Jean Dominique, the Agronomist  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$30,855 (USA) (23 April 2004)

Gross:

$226,189 (USA) (25 June 2004)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Peasant Leader: [prior to pouring the assassinated Jean Dominique's ashes into a farming community's river] "We peasants, from all corners of this country, will not give up this fight. The same way Jean stood with us, Jean has trusted us with his body, his ashes, to be joined with the waters and soil of the Artibonite River. Jean always said you can take the body, burn the body, but the spirit... you devils! the spirit... you criminals! the spirit... you assassins! lives on in our minds."
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Connections

References La Strada (1954) See more »

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User Reviews

 
not just about the man, though he is quintessential as a voice of reason, but about the methods of power and power corrupting absolutely
12 August 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Jean Dominique might have been just another impressionable and hard-working radio personality/journalist in Haiti had it not been for the fact that the country was, and more than likely still is, caught in the quagmire of political unrest and violence always in the air. Because of repression, of military coups, of democracy becoming like something of an inside joke in countries outside of Haiti (the US saying they would give aid on one hand while on the other the CIA making sure the military dictators stood in reign), Dominique had no choice as a voice of reason for some semblance of order to reach the people. Free speech is a big theme running throughout The Agonomist, probably the most politically charged film Jonathan Demme has ever made (and second only to Philadelphia, for its time period, as being the most timely), as the independently run Haiti radio station becomes like a battered wife, sustaining lots of bullet-holes on its exterior, occasionally with some of its workers being thrown in jail or the equipment being destroyed, depending on who's suddenly taken control of the country.

So that's one side that makes the film compelling, is the whole facet of the power of some voice reaching the people, of ideas being stirred by more than just simplistic entertainment as opposed to the run-of-the-mill tactics of the Haitian government(s) at their worst, which is to keep them shut out and afraid. You can tell the bitterness through Dominique's dark sarcasm interviewed while in quasi-exile in the early 90s. But there's another side to Dominique's saga that makes him such an important figure, and such a worthy subject for Demme, which is that before free speech can even really be seen as something permanent there has to be stability, some real sense of hope, that there can be trust in those in power to not be like rough-and-tough Stalinists and give the people a real say. One sees however, and this is what adds to its timeliness given the state of Iraq, is the fragility of democracy in a country where power by militaristic means is the easy route. Aristide is, for quite a few years, seen as a figure-head of peace and leadership, and one of the key struggles was his reinstatement in the country as the president.

But then one sees little by little the cracks showing (there's a great scene with an audio interview with Dominique asking tough questions to Aristide), corruption within the folds of the government, and soon enough it starts all over again- with harsher results for Dominique, who continued to stand up against just as sinister (if not more insidious) a threat than militaristic dominance: corporations. Demme's approach to telling this story is important because he keeps Dominique as such a smart, amusing but critical force in his interview segments that the storytelling has to come back around to him, as someone who is an outsider to the social unrest but embedded in giving some spirit through his speech. In a sense it's a very bleak film, where there is no answer given to what will come of the Haitian people, the peasants who have tried to flee the country, or are beaten down or killed, or who sometimes do revolt, and there's still no way to know if there can be democracy.

Yet it is positive- and thanks to Wyclef Jean's surprising score energetic- about the possibilities of charging up a national consciousness; without Dominique and radio Haiti when it was on it is questionable whether or not it would've made a difference as far as historical changes to the infrastructure, yet there was a presence, some kind of critic ala philosophers in Greece who could say 'hold on, what the hell is going on?' It's absorbing documentary film-making all the way.


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