French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) and Artists Institute of Haiti present Haïti Optimiste

On the heels of a banner year in which Haiti’s Artists Institute was honored with a Creative Arts Emmy Award, completed the construction of a full-service recording studio, produced a blockbuster music festival, and received numerous other awards and accolades, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is thrilled to join Artists Institute in presenting this year’s edition of Haïti Optimiste. Celebrating ten years since Artists Institute’s inception, the festive and star-studded event benefits Haiti’s renowned college for film, art, and technology.

To help Artists Institute carry out its work and pay tribute to its vibrant contribution to Haiti’s unique culture and economy, FIAF will host an evening of film screenings, music, and discussions with distinguished leaders in the film and arts industries on Thursday, February 26, at 7pm in FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall. The evening will include a screening of films from the Institute; a performance by Paul Beaubrun, lead singer/songwriter and guitarist of the band Zing Experience in support of Artists Institute’s new division Audio Institute; the announcement of a new documentary film directed by Academy Award-winning director and writer Paul Haggis; and a Q&A with Artists Institute supporters, including Haggis, celebrity photographer Marc Baptiste, and Artists Institute founder David Belle. The evening will also feature the premiere of a special-edition music video of Grammy and Juno award-winning rock band Arcade Fire’s hit song, Here Comes the Nighttime, produced and shot on-site at Artists Institute by students and graduates.

The celebration will continue with an exclusive cocktail reception in FIAF’s Tinker Auditorium. Guests will be treated to tasty Haitian delicacies furnished by Whole Foods and expertly prepared by notable Haitian chef Nadege Fleurimond, author of the cookbook Haiti Uncovered: A Regional Adventure into the Art of Haitian Cuisine.

Artists Institute Celebrates 10th Anniversary
In 2004, filmmaker and activist David Belle founded a film festival in the vibrant, historic town of Jacmel, Haiti. The festival’s success led to the creation in 2008 of Ciné Institute, a tuition-free school that provides college education and employment opportunities to underprivileged Haitian youth. Ciné Institute’s new sister school, Audio Institute, created with the support of the We Are the World Foundation, welcomed its first class of students in fall 2013 and completed its full-service recording studio in the summer of 2014. The two schools are now united under the umbrella of Artists Institute, with 150 students receiving full scholarships this year for film, music production, and audio engineering.

In addition to the completion of its new audio division, 2014 has seen a number of impressive achievements for Artists Institute.

In February of 2014, the Institute produced Jakmel Jou Bare’n!, a 20,000 person free music festival presented during Jacmel Kanaval and featuring performances by Boukman Eksperyans, BelO, and Arcade Fire.

In August, Ciné Institute shared a Creative Arts Emmy Award with multimedia director Vincent Morisett, Arcade Fire, and Google Creative Labs, for the interactive music video Just a Reflektor. Filmed in Jacmel, the music video was directed and produced by Vincent Morriset with Google Creative Labs and with the help of Ciné Institute.

Marc Henry Valmond, a graduate of Ciné Institute’s class of 2012, won the gold medal in a public contest organized by MTPTC with UN-Habitat, Internews Europe, and the European Union in January 2014 for his proposal for a short film on safer construction and youth. Principle photography on the project was completed that same month and the film was distributed via Internews Europe throughout 2014.

Ciné Institute graduate Amiral Gaspard, class of 2013, won the inaugural Shadow & Act Fantastical Short Films Contest for his 20-minute supernatural tale The Good, The Bad, The Apprentice (Le bon, le méchant et l’apprenti) in early 2014.

Several Ciné Institute graduates are currently working with Paul Haggis on a new feature-length documentary about the humanitarian work of doctor and priest Father Rick Frechette. And in coming weeks, graduates of the Institute will begin principle photography on a documentary short about the restoration of Port-au-Prince’s historic Gingerbread houses, sponsored by the Prince of Wales Foundation.

Recent Ciné Institute projects also include a media campaign for Kombit Rebwazman, the social responsibility division of Total Gas in Haiti for an annual event promoting reforestation in Haiti; and a regional campaign to promote sanitation, financed by CRESFED and the European Union, featuring a script by Ciné Institute graduate Frero Pierre class of 2011.

Artists Institute founder David Belle said, “This year’s Haiti Optimiste includes a few milestones. We are celebrating our tenth anniversary since our work began in Haiti with a film festival and the tremendous progress we have accomplished since the earthquake, five years ago. We wouldn’t be here without all the support from our friends, donors and sponsors. We couldn’t be more grateful to our co-hosts, Paul Haggis, Edwidge Danticat, and Marc Baptiste, to FIAF and the Efroymson Family Fund, and to all the event attendees for their extraordinary enthusiasm and support.”

“FIAF is thrilled to support Artists Institute as the institution continues to evolve, empowering students to tell their own stories, supporting the local economy, and growing a national industry for film and the arts in Haiti,” said FIAF President Marie-Monique Steckel. “Artist’s Institute’s impressive achievements are a testament to the dedication, talent, and passion of its founder David Belle, along with the students, teachers, artists, and friends, who continue to nurture and sustain this vibrant, dynamic organization.”
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