“Zombi Child” Returns Vodou To Its True Haitian Origins, at The Caribbean Film Series, April 1 at BAM

A new take on classic horror tropes that “poses timely and provocative questions…a zombi drama that’s not undead but bracingly alive.” (Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily)

Zombi Child” peels back centuries of racist stereotypes to rescue Voodoo from the stuff of black magic and portray it instead as a kind of communion — a communion between spirits, a communion between generations…” (David Ehrlich, IndieWire)

March 10, 2020, Brooklyn, NY – There are a great many things to fear in this world.  Among the worst, is to be removed from your world physically, psychologically, and socially, and be placed in a state between life and death – a fate almost worse than the grave.  The violence of slavery against Africans and descendants of Africans was such a fate, and the essence of enslavement is what led the creation of the zombie.

No, not the brain-eating, slow-walking automatons we know from popular culture, but victims of the misuse of the Vodou religion – people removed from the world to be used as slave labor in Haiti and other places where Vodou is practiced.  This misuse, coupled with a Western disregard for Vodou and African spirituality in general, is what leads to a new twist in the zombie genre, with “Zombi Child.”

In the film, France’s history of colonialism and slavery in Haiti converge.  Melissa, an orphan of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, meets white French teen Fanny, and joins a secret sorority at her new exclusive Paris boarding school.  To join, Melissa reveals a family secret about her grandfather Clairvius.  Fanny, obsessed with Melissa, and lovesick for her Latin boyfriend, uses Melissa’s family origins to do the unthinkable.

Director Betrand Bonello paces between Clairvius’ harrowing zombification and Melissa’s grappling with generational pain, alongside Fanny, who believes her appropriation of Haitian culture, and as a result Black lives, are territory to be trampled with.

Bonello, as a white Frenchman, does not shy away from contrasting Haitian history with lofty white privilege. Cultural appropriation within political and historical reflection, coupled with the ignorance of love and institutional entitlement – as seen between the palatial boarding school in Saint-Denis, France and the ruins of Haiti’s Sans-Souci Palace – is indeed the focus, although through the figure of the zombie.

“What is a zombi? It is a man that has been removed from the world,” remarks Bonello.  “The Haitian zombi, which is in a suspended state somewhere between life and death… is an aspect that I find fascinating, this [Haitian] connection between life and death that is still made over there. In voodoo, there is no rift between life and death. It’s not just a belief, it’s a truth.”

The Caribbean Film Series’ screening of “Zombi Child” will also include special guests for a post-screening Q&A who will share their perspectives on the film and the ongoing cultural appropriation of the zombie, a political and religious force Haitian and Caribbean diasporean culture, as honored or reinforced by the films of George Romero (“Night of the Walking Dead”,”Dawn of the Dead”).

Co-presented by Third Horizon, BAM, and The Luminal Theater, “Zombi Child” screens at BAM Rose Cinemas on Wednesday, April 1 at 7:30pm, and will be preceded by Trinidadian director Elenie Chung’s pre-college jitters drama “November/December.”  For more information or press requests, contact Romola Lucas at romola@thirdhorizon.net or Curtis Caesar John at curtis@luminaltheater.org.

directed by Bertrand Bonello
France/Haiti | 2019 | 103 min
[language: French, Haitian Creole with English subtitles]
with Louise Labèque, Wislanda Louimat, Katiana Milfort, Mackenson Bijou, Adilé David

Haiti,1962. A man is brought back from the dead only to be sent to the living hell of the sugarcane fields. In Paris, 55 years later, at the prestigious Légion d’honneur boarding school, a Haitian girl confesses an old family secret to a group of new friends – never imagining that this strange tale will convince a heartbroken classmate to do the unthinkable.

preceded by

directed by Elenie Chung
Trinidad and Tobago | 2020 | 11 min

At a prestigious all-girls secondary school in Trinidad and Tobago, the Michaelmas term seeps with anxiety for all in their last year. Cyan, indecisive about her university choices, finds herself at odds with expectations of where she should go, why should she go and if it matters if she goes. However, as exams approach with expected dread, one by one, young girls are vanishing in the school grounds.

About Third Horizon
Third Horizon is an award-winning creative collective, dedicated to developing, producing, exhibiting and distributing film and other art forms, giving voice to stories of the Caribbean, its diaspora and other marginalized and underrepresented spaces in the Global South. Born from the merger of the Miami collaborative, Third Horizon Media, and the New York platform, The Caribbean Film Academy, the collective’s productions have screened and won awards at some of the world’s leading film festivals such as Sundance, Berlinale and TIFF and have been featured on platforms such as National Geographic and The Atlantic. Its flagship initiative, the Third Horizon Film Festival, takes place every year in Miami and celebrates the exciting new wave of cinema and creativity emerging from the Caribbean and its diaspora. It was recently named “one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine.

About The Luminal Theater
The Luminal Theater is a nomadic cinema that provides fully-curated exhibitions of diverse cinema and media of the Black/African diaspora, allowing these artists to present their work within a unique brand of shared audience experiences. Its work centers on continuing the life of Black independent films – beyond the art house, film festivals, and the torrents of streaming services – to having it be a continuous aspect of Black culture.  Grounded equally in social justice as it is cinema, The Luminal fosters intra-community healing and reclamation of spaces through cinematic exhibition, allowing a full range of Black filmmakers, still expected to conform to specific Hollywood standards and expectations, to present their work in a welcoming environment.

About BAM Film
Since 1998 BAM Rose Cinemas has been Brooklyn’s home for alternative, documentary, art-house, and independent films. Combining new releases with year-round repertory program, the four-screen venue hosts new and rarely seen contemporary films, classics, work by local artists, and festivals of films from around the world, often with special appearances by directors, actors, and other guests. BAM has hosted major retrospectives of filmmakers like Spike Lee, Chantal Akerman, John Carpenter, Manoel de Oliveira, Luis Buñuel, King Hu, and Vincente Minnelli (winning a National Film Critics’ Circle Award prize for the retrospective), and hosted the first US retrospectives of directors Arnaud Desplechin, Hong Sang-soo, Andrzej Zulawski, and Jiang Wen. Since 2009 the program has also produced BAMcinemaFest, New York’s home for American independent film, and has championed the work of filmmakers like Janicza Bravo, Andrew Dosunmu, Lena Dunham, and Alex Ross Perry. The 12-day festival of New York premieres, now in its 12th year, runs from June 11—22, 2020.

General Information:
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, BAM Rose Cinemas, and BAMcafé are located in the Peter Jay Sharp building at 30 Lafayette Avenue (between St Felix Street and Ashland Place) in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. BAM Strong Theater is located two blocks from the main building at 651 Fulton Street (between Ashland and Rockwell Places). Both locations house Greenlight Bookstore at BAM kiosks. BAM Fisher, located at 321 Ashland Place, is the newest addition to the BAM campus and houses the Judith and Alan Fishman Space and Rita K. Hillman Studio. BAM Rose Cinemas is Brooklyn’s only movie house dedicated to first-run independent and foreign film and repertory programming. BAMcafé, operated by Great Performances, offers varied light fare and bar service prior to BAM Howard Gilman Opera House evening performances.

BAM Rose Cinemas is located in the Peter Jay Sharp building at (between St Felix Street and Ashland Place).

Subway: 2, 3, 4, 5, Q, B to Atlantic Avenue; D, M, N, R to Pacific Street; G to Fulton Street; C to Lafayette Avenue
Train: Long Island Railroad to Flatbush Avenue
Bus: B25, B26, B41, B45, B52, B63, B67 all stop within three blocks of BAM
Car: Commercial parking lots are located adjacent to BAM

For ticket and BAM bus information, call BAM Ticket Services at 718.636.4100, or visit BAM.org.

For group ticket information, call BAM Ticket Services at 718.636.4100, or visit BAM.org