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Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 15:54 UK
Bristol Cube Cinema quake film volunteer on Haiti trip

The mobile screen is erected for a film show
David and Marko arrived in Haiti six weeks after the earthquake

In March 2010, David Fitzsimons and Marko Wilkinson - two volunteers from Bristol's Cube Cinema - took a mobile screen and cine-projector to show films to children in Haiti.

Writing for the BBC Bristol website, David gives us an insight into his experiences in Port au Prince.

It was with some uncertainty that I and my colleague Marko travelled to Haiti to set up a mobile cinema and tour the Port au Prince area as part of the Cube Cinema's Haiti Kids Kino Project, only six weeks after an earthquake had devastated the area in mid-January.

None of us at the Cube knew quite what to expect once we arrived in Port au Prince.

Filling fuel can
People in the camps rallied round to help David and Marko

We had seen and read the news coverage, talked to people who had just returned, but what was both immediately noticeable and surprising on our arrival was just how calm people seemed, with a real "business as usual" feel.

Yes, there were a lot of flattened buildings, extreme poverty, tents and refugee camps on any open space, but people were carrying on with their day-to-day business and were very friendly and welcoming to us.


We had brought with us all the equipment necessary to set up our cinema, from projector and PA system to a generator.

A lightweight collapsible frame for the screen was made locally and it all fitted perfectly into the back of a pick-up truck.

Introducing ourselves and finding a venue in one of the many camps in and around Port au Prince wasn't hard.

Mobile cinema screen is set up in Haiti
David And Marko's equipment had to fit into the back of a pick-up truck

Sometimes we would be put in contact with or be invited to a camp, other times we just drove in, in the back of the pick-up and asked to talk to the camp committee or representatives who were always enthusiastic, and coordinated people in the camp to help us set up the screen or carry the equipment.

We managed to cover a lot of different areas in our time in Port au Prince, from the wealthier areas like Petion-Ville and Rue de Delmar, to a small town called Leogane - which was close to the epicentre and was badly hit by the earthquake - and from an amputee hospital in Carrefour to the poorest areas like Cite Soleil.

'Tense atmosphere'

Here the atmosphere could be quite tense to begin with, but once we explained who we were, where we were from and what we wanted to do, people understood, really engaged and were quite protective towards us.

We had brought with us nearly 100 films to try out, as we had no idea what the Haitian children might like, and it was a sharp learning curve.

Haitian children pose for the camera
'The reaction from the children and the crowd in general was unbelievable'
The screenings that stuck out as hits were films like Kirikou, a French language animation based on west African folklore, with a sound track the children loved to dance to, Aardman's animation Wallace and Gromit, and especially Shaun the Sheep were very popular, as were BBC nature programmes.

We also screened Haitian films, Ti Sentaniz - a Kreyol language animation tackling modern-day child slavery prevalent in Haiti- and Les Rescapes, a Haitian comedy based on Mr Bean and Benny Hill.

And, as we stayed in the same camp, screening for up to four days, we spent a lot of time with the community.

'Unbelievable' reaction

This allowed us to build up trust and work with the children, playing games and setting up video workshops where they learned to use child-friendly video cameras, make short films and film themselves sending messages to children back in Bristol.

Haitian boy dressed as Superman
Marko and David taught the children to make their own short films

The reaction from the children and the crowd in general was unbelievable, they really appreciated the cinema and entertainment.

Despite the rain which very nearly ruined our equipment, and despite our generator breaking down due to dirty petrol which we managed to fix ourselves, in a period 44 days in Haiti we did twenty-two screenings to a total audience of some 5,000.

We were the first of hopefully many teams of volunteers from the Cube cinema to travel the camps of Haiti screening films and working with the kids.

Fundraising events regularly take place at the Cube Nanoplex in aid of Haiti Kids Kino. To find out more, visit the website.

All images by Marko Wilkinson and David Fitzsimons

Volunteer talks about quake films
04 May 10 |  Arts & Culture
Haiti victims shown Bristol films
01 Apr 10 |  Arts & Culture
Cinema helps Haiti quake children
09 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Country profile: Haiti
17 Oct 12 |  Country profiles
Haiti begins to pick up the pieces
16 Mar 04 |  Americas


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