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Haiti on the outside looking in at ‘Star Wars’ delirium

December 21, 2015

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Without a single functioning movie theatre in their country, Haitians have been feeling left out in recent days, while much of the rest of the world swoons over the latest “Star Wars” movie.

The debut past this weekend of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a worldwide event — except in remote and impoverished corners of the globe like Haiti, where fans of the epic film franchise are out in the cold.

“This is a situation which really brings me down,” said Vladimir Desir, 30, a long time Star Wars fan.

“I may have to wait five or six months until they show it on television, since I don’t want to watch a poorly made pirated version,” he said.

The seventh episode of this hit series has attained blockbuster status in its first weekend, with an estimated $238 million tickets sold in the U.S. and Canadian — a box office record — and more than a half-billion dollars worldwide.

Haiti’s last cinema closed its doors in 2009, after failing to make a profit, in large part because of rampant film piracy.

“This is a real problem that I regret on a personal level, but also for all the movie fans in this country, said Emelie Prophete, director of the Haitian Copyright Office, known under the French acronym BHDA.

“The piracy problem is not specific to Haiti but pirate DVDs are even sold outside the presidential palace and other state institutions,” Prophete said.

Haiti, boys playing football in Cite Soleil
Haitian children play ball in the neighborhood of Nanboule, in Cite Soleil 17, Port-au-Prince, on May 30, 2015. Héctor Retamal/AFP

There was hope for a newly renovated theater, the Triumph, which reopened this past summer after being repaired to fix damage sustained in the 2010 earthquake. The theater so far has screen movies only sporadically, all of which have been domestic films.

“Screenings of Star Wars at the Triomphe? I doubt it,” Prophete said.

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