On this subject, I’d rather let Dany Laferrière who wrote the stories this film is based on, speak, and quote from an interview he gave when his book came out :
“Physical desire and sex, as a political metaphor, seemed to me to be the fundamental element, something extraordinary, because, in a society where the relationships between social classes are so terrifying, where the gap between the rich and the poor is so huge, where humiliation, disdain, contempt for others is so intense, the only thing that can bring one particular person closer to another is physical desire. I’m not describing an innocent form of sexuality, but sexuality as an instrument of political, social, or economic power. We’re dealing with a small group of very rich people who can buy anything, or who think they can buy anything, people or objects, and with others who are ready to sell the only thing they possess, their youth and their body. I wanted to find out if in this exchange, in this trade, where flesh meets flesh, there wasn’t something more.”
Interview with Laurent Cantet
I discovered Haiti by chance in January 2002. I went there to meet someone for vacation, never dreaming that I would make a film. I stayed one week and left with the certainty that I would be back. It was a very short stay, just enough time to set off a multitude of powerful emotions, ranging from fascination to revolt, from this sort of peaceful bliss to extreme dejection faced with the misery seen there. All the paradoxes that rapidly make your status as a foreigner embarrassing.
On the return flight I read Dany Laferrière’s book, “La Chair du Maître.” The short stories take place in the 70s, but I was able to relate very well: the proximity of such absolute beauty and the unacceptable, of nonchalance and tragedy. The fact that the book often raises the issue of foreigners who discover this country for the first time certainly made these tales more accessible to me.
I don’t really like generalities. I did not want to create an imaginary country, an entity that would be the South, and another one, women from the North. It is important to name a country, define a framework and a period in time. I didn’t want this to be a contemporary fable. Which is why we did everything in our power to shoot part of the film in Haiti, even though this meant postponing the film for one year because of the events that took place there during the winter of 2004 (the fall of Aristide), which made the presence of a film crew impossible.