It’s raining as we taxi and take off. There’s no glimmer of a new day until we push through the clouds. Six hours and one short layover later and we’re driving through the mass of humanity that is Port-au-Prince.
We dive out of the city through Saint-Martin and squeeze our way through the streets guided by our friend, Nadège. Our production meeting in Petionville lasts about two hours. The team is meeting for the first time Louis Henri, Tatiana, Welele, Nadège, Ashley and me. We build our plan with an understanding that this is Haiti and it is imperative that we go with the flow. We drive up the mountain that sticks out beyond Port au Prince to our home for the night, up here the air is crisp. Tomorrow we begin bright and early in Ti Bois.
We’re in the hills outside of Port-au-Prince. A community called Ti Bois. It is a five-block neighborhood that crests and encircles a peak amidst these endless hills. It is fortified with gates and guards. From this vantage point I can see just how large this city is, it winds unending for miles stopping only when it abuts the sea. The leader of the baz (what we know as a gang) in this neighborhood is allowing us to spend the night and film.
We tour the streets and are introduced to young and old by our hosts. This is a closed neighborhood, the police don’t enter and the leaders can’t leave. The gate on the street in front defines the length and breadth of their freedom. A bounty is literally on some of their heads. Fritzgerald shows off the changes that are starting to grow as this community embraces peace; the small outdoor amphitheater where the community gather, the tree and bench that serves as a conflict free zone if a neighboring gang invades, and the community center (baz club) that will be our home.
At 8:00pm the rain begins in earnest. We sit with the thunder as bass while a local musician turns the rain into something else, something unexpected and extraordinary. I don’t understand rap, I tell myself I’m to old, but here where the words slip past and the rhythm bobs heads I’m mesmerized, midnight comes to soon.