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25

FRIDAY

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There are no riots, shantytowns, or machete-wielding enforcers in director Raoul Peck’s Desounen: Dialogue With Death, which depicts a calmer but no more hopeful nation than Jonathan Demme’s recent The Agronomist. The Haitian-born Peck’s 1994 film is less an exposé than an elegy, intercutting interviews with poor, rural Haitians with a parable about an encounter between a peasant and Death. Peck, who’s probably best known for making the incendiary biopic Lumumba, recounts the fable in English voice-over while conducting the interviews (from off-camera) with the observers and survivors in subtitled French. A mournful brass band’s procession to a cemetery picks up the 50-minute film’s theme, while also demonstrating the similarity of Haitian and Louisiana folkways. To these Haitians, however, the promised land is not New Orleans but Miami, land of plentiful food, jobs, and beauty products—a city that keeps tempting them to risk watery deaths. The film screens at noon in the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)