The film industry has spent many years trying to recreate the Haitian Revolution, but all previous attempts have failed. However, in February, a two-part television series entitled Toussaint finally aired on France 2, gaining an average of 3 million viewers. Toussaint was directed by Phillippe Niang and produced by Eloa Prod.
Since the its premier, the television series has been collecting awards. The Pan African Film and Arts Festival in Los Angeles declared Toussaint the best narrative feature and handed Jimmy Jean-Louis the award for best actor. Jean-Louis had the challenge of playing Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led an island slave revolt in 1801. With his leadership, the slaves were victorious over British and Spanish colonizers. Only three years later in 1804, L’Ouverture would pass away and be succeeded by Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Dessalines would later lead Haiti to victory over French forces, becoming the newly independent nation’s first President.
The film, which was shot in France and Martinique, was also awarded the best Diaspora feature at the African Movie Academy Awards, the most prestigious awards show on the African continent. Jean-Louis was happy and relieved by the film’s success after having to deal with the immense pressure of tackling such an iconic role.
“It is a movie that everybody has been talking about for many, many, many years. I am Haitian and I’ve been holding up the Haitian flag for many years. You have all these things that are on your shoulders and remind you that you’d better do the best possible job,” Jean-Louis told The Root. He also admitted how much he admired the man he was trying to portray. “He was a visionary…all he wanted was to be at the same level as the colonizers. He was really for equality, peace… complete freedom,” he said.
According to Jean-Louis, although L’Ouverture was fighting for victory over the French he knew he still needed them. This is why his tactics avoided killing the French. Jean-Louis explained, “When you’re a man of power, you will have to make decisions that will sometimes hurt yourself or your own people… he had to be clever to free his country.”
Jean-Louis also admired the French network for making the film, saying that France 2 understood what the story was truly about. It is a universal story, “not just a story about a Haitian hero.” In his opinion, the film also serves as a boost for Haiti after the tragic earthquake in 2010.