To Serve The Gods
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by Karen Kramer
color, 33 min, 1982
To Serve the Gods is about the beliefs, rituals and performances of a week-long ceremony given by a Haitian family in honor of its ancestral spirits. We are told at the outset of the film that this sevis loua only occurs every twenty to thirty years. This particular service takes place in a rural community in southern Haiti, on family land, where relatives have gathered to propitiate gods inherited by their ancestors. This celebration of one's birthright and obligations involves drumming, song, dance, possession, animal sacrifice and sharing of food with the gods and with friends, family and neighbors.
Filmmaker Karen Kramer has been a student of Vodou for twenty years and attended ceremonies for the first time in Haiti in 1971. Her film is based on the ethnographic research of anthropologist Ira Lowenthal and his paper, Ritual Performances and Religious Experience: A Service for the Gods in Southern Haiti.