January 13, 2020  (Web Review)

David: Return to the Land

(2017) 96 min. In French & Haitian Creole w/English subtitles. DVD: $29.95 ($250 w/PPR). Study guide included. EPF Media (www.epfmedia.com). PPR. Closed captioned. ISBN: 978-1-933724-60-7.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

David, who is black, was born in Haiti but adopted at the age of one by a white family in France. When viewers meet him in this documentary, thirty-ish David is French, but now he wishes to know his roots. Sorting through boxes at his mother’s home, David searches for official papers about his life and comes up with enough to obtain a passport and travel to Haiti. On the island nation, he is stymied by a lack of records about his birth, a frustration somewhat mitigated by the support of bureaucrats who sympathize with his plight, regard him as truly Haitian, and come up with creative workaround solutions to help him find what he needs. At the core of this interesting if talky film by Anais Huerta (who has said that David—no last name given—is her best friend) lies a haunting question about identity. What does it mean not to know who you were before a second name and identity were imposed by people who don’t look like you? While there are no concrete answers to the questions raised here, the film does carry emotional and psychological impact. When David ultimately sees scant but clear evidence of his infancy in Haiti—photos of unidentified people who probably held him, a few lines of writing—it only adds to the rabbit hole that is his search for a past. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)