Friday 6 November 2015
My name is Roland Chassagne. My film «Disposable Souls» is about 13 men attempting to overthrow an entire country amidst betrayal and the ensuing terrible consequences.
My parents were born in the town of Jeremie, a French-Haitian enclave on the Western side of the Island. Historically, Jeremie was known as the town of artists and poets and also had the highest interracial population in the country.
My father, while still in Haiti, had managed the campaign of Francois Duvalier’s (“Papa Doc”) chief opponent, Louis Dejoie, in the election that brought Francois Duvalier to power. Louis Dejoie, was from the town of Jeremie. After fleeing for his life with my mother, Carmen Chassagne, to the United States in 1957, my father became active in Haitian/American politics and remained so all of his life.
As a result, I grew up hearing many stories about Haitian history and more specifically the town of Jeremie and a movement my father helped to found called “Jeune Haiti.” Jeune Haiti (young haiti), founded in New York among Haitian immigrants, was funded and supported by the CIA and the JFK Administration.
The CIA’s role in the movement was to train and help Haitian exiles overthrow Francois Duvalier and turn Haiti into a stable ally in the struggle to keep Cuban communism from spreading further into the Caribbean. They believed if they participated in a U.S. backed invasion, they couldn’t lose.
Secretly, these young men were fascinated by the success of Castro’s landing in Cuba in 1959, and wanted to recreate the same scenario in Haiti. They were idealists who were inspired by leftist ideas and wished to establish, in Haiti, a government based on social justice.
They possessed a list of more than l50 followers in Haiti and counted on their support (and that of the promises of several CIA agents) to accomplish their goal. They hoped, as in Castro’s case, that the news of their landing in Haiti would motivate other young Haitians to join their ranks and together they would start a mass movement that would eventually topple the oppressive regime of Francois Duvalier.
Even the failure of the Bay of Pigs did not deter president John F. Kennedy from wanting secretly to back a similar operation in Haiti.
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the CIA and FBI shut down the operation due to lack of support from the Johnson Administration; the Lyndon Johnson administration changed course and CIA and FBI support was withdrawn.
The Jeune Haiti army of exiles dwindled to just thirteen men, who were determined to liberate Haiti whatever the odds. Thirteen men... who had every reason to stay in the US, eventually invaded Haiti and attempted to arouse its citizens to fight Duvalier.
For the past several years I have been documenting in photographs and videotaped interviews the story behind the bloodbath that ensued once the Duvalier regime targeted whole families in Jeremie — including those of both my father and my mother. My uncle Roland, for whom I am named, was murdered one year earlier.
I would like to tell the story of the Thirteen, the CIA, and how they brought on the massacre that occurred in Jeremie. I want to explore the perspective of these men who believed in their homeland, their families and their city so deeply that they were willing to die to liberate them. But above all, it is the story of my search for my family’s truth because so many members of it died before, during and after the Vespers.
Recently footage of the public execution of Louis Drouin and Marcel Numa, the last of the 13 men to die, was posted. They were executed on November 12th, 1964. It crystallized for me the seriousness of their mission and the story they shared with my father – and deepened my own determination to tell their story on screen.
My Indiegogo project is to simply raise funds to finish all the remaining interviews I have scheduled in the U.S and to also help me in post production so I may prepare and the proper presentations to various productions companies. The two most important interviews are in Jeremie, Haiti and France where I will interview the priest who administered the last rights of the last two executed.
Most importantly, I don’t want this story to be lost in the passage of time. Your contribution would help me tell this amazing but tragic story and help me honor the dignity of all the victims.
It won’t bring back the dead, but they may rest easier.