Bitter Cane

The award-winning 1983 documentary about Haiti's political economy


Bitter Cane is the ageless, award-winning feature documentary which portrays and explains Haiti’s socio-economic realities in the late 20th century. The social relations it lays bare continue to this day, an exposé which aids the understanding Haiti’s trials in the early 21st century.

Filmed clandestinely under the Duvalier dictatorship, Bitter Cane is a documentary classic about the exploitation and foreign domination of the Haitian people. From peasant coffee farms in the rugged tropical mountains to steamy U.S.-leased or owned sweatshops in the teeming capital, the film takes the viewer on a journey through Haitian history to a deeper grasp of the country’s political economy.

Shot in 16mm film, it was produced by Haiti Films, a collective of Haitian and North American filmmakers, who worked in close collaboration with the Haitian Liberation Movement (MHL), an underground revolutionary organization.

Bitter Cane, released in 1983, won second prize at that year’s Cannes Film Festival documentary competition, First Prize at the Antwerp Festival, and awards at Chicago, London, Florence, and many other film festivals.

Originally scheduled for a one-week run at the Public Theatre in New York, it was extended for almost two months due to the phenomenal audience response.

After the fall of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s regime in 1986, students and popular organizations projected the film on movie screens, walls, and bed-sheets in Haiti’s countryside and cities to raise political consciousness and understanding of the difficult anti-imperialist struggle that lay ahead.

Critics raved:

“Powerful”British Film Institute

“An outstanding analytical documentary… Laid out with impressive clarity… Organized with the utmost intelligence.. Fascinating newsreel footage… Convincing.”Variety

“Cogently argued… The complex human exploitation involved is made so vivid that the film becomes an especially instructive case history of U.S.-Third World relations.”Library Journal

“Thoughtful”The Village Voice

“Excellent and provocative… Exceptionally well-crafted.”Los Angeles Times

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