DER Documentary

Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy

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by Renée Bergan and Mark Schuller
color, 50 min, 2009

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All proceeds from sales of this film will be sent to The Lambi Fund of Haiti - Supporting economic justice, democracy and sustainable development in Haiti.

Told through the compelling lives of five courageous Haitian women workers, Poto Mitan gives the global economy a human face. Each woman's personal story explains neoliberal globalization, how it is gendered, and how it impacts Haiti. And while Poto Mitan offers in-depth understanding of Haiti, its focus on women's subjugation, worker exploitation, poverty, and resistance makes it clear that these are global struggles.

Marie-Jeanne details her dual struggles as a woman and worker: employed in a garment factory, she toils under miserable conditions to give her children the schooling she was denied because of education's high costs and gender discrimination. Living and braving death in Cité Soleil, Solange spells out how Haiti's current violence stems from a long-brewing economic crisis and the global apparel industry's inherent instability. Frustrated with male-dominated unions, Frisline joined a woman's organization. She offers a gendered and class analysis of Haiti's contemporary situation. Working for thirty years, Thérèse brings a perspective that is historical and comparative. Her ailments also highlight the critical state of public health. Pushed off her land by foreign agricultural policies, Hélène leads a new grassroots campaign against violence, encouraging women to defend themselves. These five brave women demonstrate that despite monumental obstacles in a poor country like Haiti, collective action makes change possible.

Initiated by the women themselves, Poto Mitan aims to inspire solidarity activism to end injustice in the global economy. Our struggles have a common thread. Fighting for justice: for women, workers, or Haiti can't help but bring about our own liberation.

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“Now as never before, Poto Mitan is needed in the classroom... Raw but not crude, stark yet not simplistic, this film illustrates how, even prior to the earthquake, global and national factors impact the everyday lives of low-income Haitian women, intensifying their struggle against poverty... The breadth and depth of Poto Mitan make it suitable for both undergraduate and graduate students.” — Fauzia Erfan Ahmed, Miami University Teaching Sociology
“A moving and stirring film, showing Haitian women speaking for themselves. A must see.” — Edwidge Danticat
“For many years now I've been telling people that fanm se poto mitan tout sosyete (women are the central pillars of society). This wonderful film is definitely a testimony of the courage, resilience and determination of Haitian women. Needless to say that I'm very thrilled! I encourage everyone to support this great endeavour!” — Marleine Bastien, MSW, LCSW, Founder/Executive Director, FANM (Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami)
Poto Mitan will be a valuable tool. Indeed, the value of the film for advocacy and education results not just from the quality of the story telling but also from the quality of the film itself. People will want to see this film, and be open to demanding change from the policymakers.” — Quixote Center
“The great strength of this film is in allowing the five women... to speak from their hearts at length, without moralizing from a narrator. The film should be in all university libraries for classroom use. ” Contemporary Sociology, May 2010, Vol 39, No 3

Related Resources
Study Guide with interactive links to resources
Article by Masum Momaya for The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID).
Review by Régine Jean-Charles for Films for the Feminist Classroom, from the journal Signs.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Indie Spec Best Documentary Award, Boston International Film Festival, 2009
Nominated for Social Justice Award, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, 2009
Social Justice Film Festival, Seattle, WA, 2009
Reel Work Film Festival, CA, 2009
M.A.L.I. Women's Film & Performance Arts Festival, Austin, TX, 2009
New Filmmakers at Anthology Film Archives, New York, 2009
Caribbean Studies Association Conference, 2009
American Sociological Association Film & Video Festival, San Francisco, CA, 2009
Festival des Films du Monde / World Film Festival, Montreal, Canada, 2009
St. John's International Women's Film Festival, Canada, 2009
African Diaspora Film Festival, New York, 2009
Top Kreyol Film Festival, Jacksonville, FL, 2009
International Studies Association, New Orleans, LA, 2010
Addis International Film Festival, Ethiopia, 2010
Maine African Film Festival, 2010
Women's International Film & Arts Festival, Miami, FL, 2010
Los Angeles Women's International Film Festival, 2010
Gasparilla International Film Festival, Tampa Bay, FL, 2010
Big Muddy Film Festival, Carbondale, IL, 2010
ETHNOCINECA, Austria, 2010
Athens International Film + Video Festival, Ohio, 2010
Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, Austin, TX, 2010
Byrd Theatre, Richmond, VA, 2010
2010 Women of African Descent Film Festival, Brooklyn, NY
Anthropology Film Festival at UBC, Vancouver, Canada, 2010
African Odysseys at the British Film Institute, London, UK, 2010
American Studies Association Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX, 2010
American Anthropological Association/Society for Visual Anthropology Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2010
Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, Brooklyn, NY, 2010
Trinidad + Tobago film festival, 2011

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