The Other Side of the Water – Lòt Bò Dlo – a Jeremy Robbins and Magali Damas film, follows the journey of DJARARA (a Brooklyn Rara band) through a labyrinth of vodou temples, underground economies, and violent politics from Haiti to New York City.
Exploring the personal stories behind the music, this documentary-in-progress shows how young Haitian immigrant musicians, fueled by their passion for this music form, have transformed the language of Rara on the Brooklyn streets.
From the hills of Haiti, came this ancient music, this rousing noise: the voice of slaves rebelling against the French…
Traditional Rara, at once carnival, vodou ceremony and grassroots protest, is ground-shaking music whose main instruments are cylindrical bamboo or recycled metal trumpets called vaksin, although it can also feature drums, maracas, metal bells and other wind and percussion instruments.
During this vibrant annual festival, followers of the Afro-Creole religion Vodou, accompanied by twirlers using metal batons, take to the streets marching loudly into public spaces to demand an active role in politics. Processional performances begin on Ash Wednesday and culminate at Easter week-end. Rara is often used for political purposes, with candidates commissioning songs praising them and their campaigns. Lyrics also often address difficult issues, such as political oppression or poverty. Consequently, Rara musicians and groups have sometimes been banned from performing and even forced into exile by the dictatorships.
“In 2002 I had just returned from Haiti where I had been for ten years. On a rainy night in September a friend took me out to hear Djarara, and I found myself running through streets in the middle of a huge crowd through the rain, and it was as if a piece of Brooklyn had been transformed into Haiti. I knew then that this story needed to be told. As a first generation Haitian-American, my biggest challenge is to try to present positive information about Haiti, but also remain objective as a filmmaker about this aspect of the Haitian experience.” Magali Damas
The title “The Other Side of the Water” comes from the full name of the band “DjaRara: Lòt Bò Dlo.” The idea of coming or being across the water is central to the documentary. As the band’s founder Yves puts it “The wind that blew us here will one day blow us back.”
“The film offers an essential, re-affirming perspective of Haitian imagery and culture that desperately needs to be seen.”
Michelle Materre, Professor of Media Studies, The New School
The Other Side of the Water combines archival footage of early Rara bands in Haiti’s countryside with vérité narratives, and interviews with the musicians, their family and friends. Conversations about the group and the music, what it means, how it came together, fell apart and was re-created, tell the story of Djarara. Dissenting voices are also heard, and these meandering, non-chronological images and moments create an insightful, surprisingly touching and at times hilarious look into the life of Djarara. For those interested in discovering Rara music for the first time or those already well into the madness, this emotionally generous documentary offers a fascinating look at young, impoverished kids looking to make a difference with their rhythms, and will prove a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Jeremy Robbins:(director, co-producer) is a media educator and filmmaker with a passion for visual storytelling. In early 2004, he produced and directed “The Cause of Pierre Toussaint”, a documentary on a 17th century Haitian former slave who is now considered for sainthood by the Catholic church. He has worked with POV, MTV and DCTV.
Magali Damas:(co-producer) works tirelessly to promote Haitian culture both here and in Haiti. She has worked the past fifteen years in video production, festival organizations and civic activism. In 2004, she co-produced “The Cause of Pierre Toussaint” and co-directed a music video for Djarara featured on the national cable broadcast of “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman.
Interview HaitiXchange.com in October 2005
Other Rasin (root music) bands you might want to listen to :
Ram & Boukman Eksperyans