Contrary to how Haiti is often perceived, the new film “Madan Sara” introduces a brighter perspective of Haiti shown through the stories of the women whose businesses feed the people of Haiti and provide education for their families, inspiring a new generation of Haitians.
Inspired by his mother, Madan Sara, director Etant Dupain uses his documentary film to share the stories of the incredible, hard-working Haitian women whose contributions allow not only for the nation to eat, but also provide their children with an education and opportunity to follow their passions.
In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2021, the University of Pennsylvania hosted a free public screening of the film via Zoom followed by a discussion with Director Etant Dupain and editor Lunise Cerin. The event enabled many to celebrate the power of Haitian women while bringing awareness to their sacrifices and hard work.
A Madan Sara is a businesswoman, responsible for bringing food and goods from farmers to the markets and the streets of Haiti. The film follows multiple Madan Sara purchasing from farmers and distributing to the markets and streets while also sharing their experiences and stories. Through their businesses, the Madan Sara provide not only food for the whole country, but education and opportunities for their children. While their job seems of the ordinary, the resilience and determination it takes to be a Madan Sara are truly extraordinary.
The film reveals the injustices Madan Sara have faced for centuries. The beginning of their profession began during the French colonization of Haiti where the French brought enslaved Africans to work on farms. When the farmers noticed their male slaves often escaping while selling produce off the farm, they decided to send only women because they would always return to take care of their children.
The critique of capitalism is delivered through an interesting idea of how the Madan Sara operates. While it may seem that their ventures are capitalistic, their behavior is actually anti-capitalist, in that they aren’t motivated to compete but rather to encourage others to join them, very often offering jobs to family members and apprenticeship to those who seek it.
Since the 17th century, the Madan Sara has been providing an essential service to the economy and people of Haiti while enduring the negative effects that the lack of government investment, assistance, and proper infrastructure has created for them. The Madan Sara is responsible for feeding the nation of Haiti yet they’ve received no formal acknowledgment from the Haitian government.
Rape, robbery, and market burning are only a few of the challenges that the Madan Sara face every day just doing their jobs. Despite the influence and importance, the Madan Sara has on the Haitian economy, the government has provided no assistance, security, or appreciation for their essential services.
The resiliency and generosity of the Madan Sara is an inspirational narrative of the power of Black women. This awareness that this film creates for the Madan Sara is important and essential for everybody to acknowledge.