Haitian Gaëlle Bien-Aimé, winner of the RFI Theater Award 2022 for “Port-au-Prince and its sweet night”

For a whole night, she awakens with tenderness and terror the nightmare dreams and realities of a couple in love in Port-au-Prince. With this sublime, metaphorical and poetic portrait of her country, the Haitian Gaëlle Bien-Aimé, 34, won the 2022 RFI Theater Prize that will be awarded this Sunday, September 25, at the Festival des Francophonies, in Limoges.

His voice, soft and strong, is based on a powerful and poetic imagination. Gaëlle Bien-Aimée’s theatrical thought is nourished by a multiple language that reflects the terrifying reality and the dreams wrapped in the violence of her country. Port-au-Prince and its sweet night, written with a realistic and assertive pen at the same time, it leaves little room for hope, but opens the doors of imagination for a better future.

To face the pain, the author had already written another work, your kingdom come, about two men who find themselves stranded on the burning streets of the Haitian capital. This time, in his fourth work, he introduces us to Zily and Férah, a couple in love who kiss, look at each other, talk, with the window open, during a long night in Port-au-Prince. They live in a house in Pacot, a luxury neighborhood in the city, but the situation is more than tense… Zily, “ poet on the run “, it has been exhausted for a long time from this country that has often done it” the effect of a birth control pill “. Ferah works in the hospital and sees all the atrocities of this city on the edge of the precipice.

we die alone ! »

In such circumstances, which perfectly resemble the news coming out of Haiti, why write a play? ” I write so that people who are not in the country or who do not know Haiti understand what is happening there, explains the author contacted by phone in Port-au-Prince. This is important for me. Cause there’s total media silence around what is happening in haiti. For two weeks all the streets have been blocked, for two weeks people have been blocked in their houses. I write so that people understand each other and speak in this country. I don’t know if this will help us in any way, but we are very isolated. We die alone! And I thought to myself that maybe this could help a little bit to open a window to the island. »

How to stop the fall ? “. In the text the question is omnipresent, but the answer seems to have disappeared once and for all. Even if the first names of our antiheroes recall the perfect romance. In fact, Zily (“ a short name to abbreviate chaos ”) and Férah have their roots in voodoo mythology, in the Goddess of love and the God of war, a nod to the superhuman challenges that this sweet night in Port-au-Prince reveals. A night that is not content to be just a moment of the day, imposes itself as a different place, a different state of mind, a different world.

For me, the night means this absence of light and hope. We don’t know what will happen. We don’t see the light. We don’t see the change. It is very metaphorical, the sweet night, it is the sweet descent into hell of all Haitians, for quite some time, with all these popular mobilizations, the violence exerted by the State on the population. There really is a big tightrope there. In my opinion, there will be a big wave of migration. This long night is the night of uncertainties. We don’t know what we’re going to do. »

Streets ” tell truths about the city and about us »

In the story, the lovers whisper sweet words to each other, caress each other, reminisce about past times, but meanwhile, the horror that surrounds them advances tirelessly through the streets. wrapped in invincible darkness “. In Gaëlle Bien-Aimé, the streets are almost characters that “ tell truths about the city and about us But the only way to walk its streets safely is to take refuge in its memories.

The streets are political spaces, the author emphasizes. The streets explain how the city works, the inhabitants, and explain who are the people who frequent these streets. Naming streets was a way for me to make this city almost uninhabitable, given the political and security situation. And also to return to the memories of those lovers who frequented these streets when they were in love. I myself, as an author, remember my memories. It is also a gesture of love to say that it was not always so. Port-au-Prince has never been a completely safe city. But, there was a little light… and laughter. »

From the Small Conservatory to the ACTE

Born in 1987 in Port-au-Prince, Gaëlle Bien-Aimé had her first contact with theater at school. ” I started taking theater workshops in high school. Then after my studies I wanted to make it my job. So I went to the Petit Conservatoire, the school of the spoken word, founded by Daniel Marcellin, a school that no longer exists. Daniel Marcelino transmitted everything to me. All. The first thing was: since it is a difficult job in a difficult country, a country that does not recognize this work, you had to have a lot of fun doing it. And he taught us to have a lot of fun doing it. For us, this school was also an executor. Most of the young people who came to the Petit Conservatoire came from disadvantaged neighborhoods, except for me, I was more or less privileged. For us, the Petit Conservatoire was the place where we were able to rebuild ourselves, a place where we learned to love ourselves, but also to love this profession and this country. »

Bien-Aimé considers theater as an executor, but also as a weapon at the service of his multiple commitments in society. Beyond being an author, she is also a journalist, actress, humorist, director, co-founder of a theater school (ACTE) and, beyond her very brave fight for women’s rights, director of artistic expression for a feminist festival, Nègès Mawon…

This reflects an extremely complicated situation in my country to the extent that the drama school I run is the only drama school. It’s not just for the fun of making a school. It took me so long that I could have written fifteen plays. As a citizen, I told myself that I have a responsibility to my community. As happened to me with the Petit Conservatoire, it is a school where young people do not necessarily come to do their work, but to breathe a little. »

Haitian theater and francophone theater

A pessimism that also has a great impact on the situation of theater in Haiti: “ Honestly, in Haiti, I do humor. The works are for a French-speaking audience. Humor is for me. And that makes people react much more. People want to laugh. My works refer mainly to theater goers in Haiti. »

However, with John of America and many others, Gaëlle Bien-Aimé is part of a new generation that is making its way internationally and represents a rebirth of Haitian theater after the merits of its elders such as Daniel Marcellin, Jean-Louis Lemoine or Guy Regis Jr.. ” We are in our contemporaneity. We are in our time. We are in the process of transcribing word for word, with the help of poems and plays, the crisis that surrounds us. Whereas with the previous generation, there was much more of a dream, something that took you away from reality, even if there are parts that have brought us together in reality, like pelentet of frankettienne, but it was also done in such a sweet way. We, the new generation, are unable to remove all this heaviness and darkness in our works, perhaps because we suffer too much. Our theater is very hard, perhaps, because we don’t want it to be any other way and we feel exactly what is happening. »

Creole occupies a significant place in the theatrical language of Bien-Aimé. When Zily sings and dances in Port-au-Prince and its sweet nightalso expresses itself naturally through words and movements in Creole, such as the be submerged, sensual dance of the compás, a legendary musical genre originating in Haiti. ” I realized that the Creole came alone, even in my normal way of speaking. I can not explain it. It’s not done on purpose. What I did on purpose was write an entire play in French. If I wrote how I feel, my works would be half in Creole and half in French. But I don’t, because I want my creations to cross the Francophone world with ease. »

writing and film

And then there is something else that distinguishes Gaëlle Bien-Aimé’s imagination from that of her colleagues, the influence of cinema on her writing. She is the daughter of Haitian filmmaker Jean-Gardy Bien-Aimé, she starred in the acclaimed Cannes film, Freda, by Gessica Geneus. And he admits that his obsession with giving very detailed indications about the position and posture of the characters’ bodies also comes from a love of the seventh art:

In my head, I saw this room and the characters literally as photos. They were like cinematographic portraits. I wanted to place them in this room and have them move around a bit. Because, after a while, I had to move within the text, but also with the characters in my head in order to move forward with the writing. I saw them change position and with each sequence, I saw a very particular posture, like a photo. I think that Port-au-Prince and its sweet night It is a piece that tends towards the cinema. Honestly, I do not want to direct this work, but rather adapt it to the cinema. I really wanted to direct this movie. An almost documentary film. A romantic movie. A film about Haiti. A film that for me will present this country in pain and sweetness. »

“The life you dream of is possible”

how to cross the horizon barricade from a country where the capital is surrounded by armed gangs? With Port-au-Prince and its sweet nighther work crowned with the RFI Théâtre award, Gaëlle Bien-Aimé managed in her own way to create a place of hope, a refuge to house the wishes and dreams of Haitians in an increasingly desperate situation.

Yes, totally. I want us to rebuild this city, to take this country by the hand. And that we can go out late at night, make noise, have a drink, dream, create… But I don’t know if that will happen again in the near future, because it looks very dark. I want to give Haitians hope that another city and another life are possible. That the life you dream of is possible. »

The “RFI Theater Award” is organized in collaboration with the SACD, the french institute, the French Institute of Saint-Louis in Senegal Villa Ndar, les Francophonies – From writing to stage, Open Theater – National Center for Contemporary Theaterand the National Dramatic Center of Normandy-Rouen. This award continues RFI’s commitment to theatrical creation after the success of the public reading cycles organized at the Festival d’Avignon and broadcast on the antennas, It’s alright, it’s alright people!.

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