Gessica Geneus movie review (Cannes 2021)

Freda lives with her mother, her sister and her little brother in a popular district of Haiti. They survive with their little street shop. Faced with the precariousness and violence of their daily lives, everyone is looking for a way to escape this situation. Even if it means giving up her own happiness, Freda decides to believe in the future of her country.

Film critic

First fiction by Gessica Genealogus (previously documentary director), Freda is above all the name of a young adult in search of emancipation in a country still scarred by the terrible earthquake it experienced in 2010. The film takes place eight years later, while international aid is struggling still to materialize and that popular anti-corruption demonstrations generalize the use of violence in the whole of society. From the small grocery store that her mother runs, Freda is confronted with this ambient anger as a man is shot dead in front of her door, on the day – precisely – of the Feast of the Dead. The eruption of physical death cannot obscure more intimate demons and the film will never cease to be crossed by the attempts of its main protagonist to reveal deeply buried traumas.


Not only a spectator of the historic turning point in her country, Freda is resolutely critical, in the face of certain university comrades, as to the still visible predominance of French – the “language of the colonist” – in the national public services, to the detriment of the French. Haitian creole. The use of Creole throughout the film is also the result of a fight by Gessica Géneus, who did not see her feature film made in another language. The director, whose documentaries already questioned the foundations of contemporary Haitian identity, appears in Freda the temptation of elsewhere which the inhabitants of the island are necessarily confronted with today, young people in addition.

To leave or to stay, such is the dilemma facing people deprived of a bright future in their country.

Gessica Géneus takes the fate of a popular family, where women have taken the power abandoned by men (who only play stooges in the film). Its staging, deliberately sober, aims to represent all the characters on the same level, for the sake of realism inherited from the documentary register. However, she struggles to convince when it comes to appearing on screen the power struggles that inevitably operate between age groups and social classes and deprive the two young sisters of the success to which they aspire. Freda therefore lacks a true author’s point of view on her themes – moreover too numerous and too dense to be really tackled in depth in the time of a one-and-a-half-hour fiction. Paradoxical when we know that the film was selected at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un certain regard category.


If she manages – barely – to avoid a bad-quality Manichaeism, Gessica Generus erects female characters that are too weakly characterized and made functional by a scenario poor in twists and turns. Led by a Nehemiah Bastien who somewhat saves the film by his beautiful impetuosity, Freda All too rarely manages to be nothing more than a rather prosaic coming-of-age, with heavy writing strings and convoluted narrative structure.

While it aspired to reflect the disarray of a youth faced with the political and economic situation of his country, the feature film multiplies the entry doors and ends up losing its viewer in a maze of vaguely linked scenes. and of which it is difficult to determine a real common thread. We can bet that Gessica Géneus’s next works will rediscover the authenticity and dramatic power of his previous productions, with the multi-awarded Douvan Jou Ka Leve in the lead.

In some perspective

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