by Jeremy Robins and Magali Damas
USA | 2008 | Documentary | 52 mins | English | Website
The Other Side of the Water follows a group of young immigrants who take an ancient music from the hills of Haiti and reinvent it on the streets of Brooklyn. The journey of this unlikely band offers a unique insight into the Haitian-American experience — a rare glimpse into a world of music, spirituality, and cultural activism.
Part-carnival, part-vodou ceremony, and grassroots protest, “Rara” is one of the most breathtaking and contested forms of music in the Americas. Rara originally served as a voice of the slaves in their revolt against the French, and as the voice of those struggling against ongoing dictatorships in Haiti. This documentary follows the journey of DJARARA – the only sustained rara band in America – through a hidden New York landscape of vodou temples, underground economies, violent politics, and ground-shaking music.
Combining archival footage and vérité narratives, this documentary focuses on the journey of the poetic visionary Pé Yves. Yves has led a Rara movement in New York for 20 years, through an era when the media accusing Haitians of bringing AIDS to America, to times of civil chaos in Haiti, to police brutality riots in New York – each time re-imagining Rara as a voice for an evolving Diaspora. Yet when a new generation arrives bringing a radically different vision of the music, and the Haitian Christian community attacks Yves for promoting a Vodou ritual, he’s caught in the middle of a struggle for the meaning of Haitian identity.
Ultimately, The Other Side of the Water is about the struggle to merge the traditional and the modern; the island and the City; the imagined and the real. The documentary tells the story of one man who learns to hold true to a vision; a motley band that comes to speak for a larger community; and a music that manages to create a new meaning of home in the Diaspora.