19 September, 2012

RIFF: "La Source" (****)

Josue Lajeunesse is featured in "La Source"

A lot of visual contrast is prominent within "La Source." In Haiti, the white sands contrast with the seemingly ever-ominous skies; while in Princeton, we see the deep grays and browns of the brick and stone frosted with thick snow and ice. Then there is the cultural contrast between the affluent students of Princeton and an immigrated janitor, working hard and still having to double as a taxi driver. Even greater, we contrast these two places against each other. They are both home to Josue Lajeunesse, a Haitian national who moved to America in 1989 seeking better opportunities to provide for his family.

His hometown, La Source (pronounced La Soos), is a remote village on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Two sources of water exist in La Source; one is a polluted stream shared by man and animal, the other is a natural spring high atop a mountain. The treacherous hike up and back down the mountain forces many residents to resort to bathing and gathering water in the stream, typically resulting in skin infections and diarrhea. In the wake of the January 2010 earthquake, Lajeunesse renews efforts in the plan that he and his father before him had begun in order to pipe water down the mountain and into the heart of the village.

"La Source" is a real life fairytale, where a once hopeless romantic ideal catches fire and ultimately, the dream comes true. Every fairytale is marred by some tragedy, but the tragedy here is the kind of devastation that forever changes a landscape. When Lajeunesse arrives in Haiti for the first time in years, and the first time since the earthquake, your heart has nothing else to do but break. The devastation and rubble reflects off of Josue's formerly stoic face. Seeing pictures or footage is nothing compared to watching someone return to the ruins of their home.

The rallying around of Lajeunesse by different charities, ministries and the students of Princeton is stirring. The crafting of the picture does a great job of telling the story from every setting. Once again, filmmakers Patrick Shen and Brandon Vedder ensure that contrast is an omnipresent and multilevel theme throughout the film. Don Cheadle lends his compassionate voice as the narrator, which should thankfully play well in marketing the film.

When the kids of La Source rush the faucet as water gushes out for the first time, I thought of kids rushing the buffet table at a church potluck before any of the adults. How impactful, though, the struggle and fulfillment over something as basic as water. I'm hardly ever moved to tears by film, but I find it appropriate that my tears would be propelled by a story about water. "La Source" is a meaningful film. While it has a ways to go to get the word out, I would not be surprised if the good will towards Haiti brought the film enough awareness to garner a worthy Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

4 out of 5 stars.

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