Haitian representation. Sr. Premil, Marcus Boereau, Rolaphton Mercure, Bruno Mourral, Jasmuel Andri, Anabel Lopez, and Manfred Marcelin at the premiere of “Kidnapping Inc.” (Donyale West/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)
By Veronika Lee Claghorn
The floor of the Egyptian Theatre was literally shaking so hard from the thundering noise generated by Bruno Moral’s Kidnapping Inc. that you could feel the sound in your bones. The Creole and French language film starring Jasmuel Andri and Rolapthon Mercure revolves around two kidnappers trying to hold a Haitian presidential candidate’s son for ransom. Although it’s a dark comedy, filming the project in Haiti was no laughing matter: In a true case of life imitating art, members of the crew were actually kidnapped.
“Shooting in Haiti is very difficult as there is no film community at all [which is why] you probably don’t get a lot of films,” explains Bruno Mourral during the post-premiere Q&A. The film was self-funded through the director’s family and it began shooting in 2019. Due to political unrest and ceaseless riots, it was no small feat to get the show on the road. Exhausting the budget early on, the filmmaker had to work hard to get more French crew on board. Mourral says the atmosphere was so unsafe he feared losing his actors. Covid certainly didn’t help matters either. Locations were another thing — the crew had to switch paths to Port-au-Prince to ensure a somewhat safer experience. “[The foreign crew] got to see what people in Haiti are living through every day,” explains the director and co-screenwriter, talking about the members who were kidnapped. Detailing the various hardships his international crew from China and France faced, he jokes, “Well…the Colombians were used to it.”
And the director really did need hostage negotiations to get his crew back. The Haitian crew were especially dedicated to the mission because they need the world to understand what life is like for them on their island. So how does he manage to stay so lighthearted and optimistic about his film?
“Under the comedy, there’s always a big pain. I think that’s the best way to say that. Comedy starts with pain. That’s the thing that we’re looking for, that something on the surface looks funny, but the second time you’re looking at it, it’s different and it goes deeper and deeper,” he offers.
In spite of it all, Mourral did his best to maintain a level of normalcy — playing tennis, taking his kids to and from school. He had to keep going to keep on a brave face for his international crew like DP Anabel Lopez, who he calls to the stage. Senior Sundance Programmer Adam Montgomery shakes his head, saying this might just be the craziest story he’s ever heard of a production at Sundance.
“Geez…the next time somebody complains about snow,” says Montgomery.
“I’m still living in Port-au-Prince and sometimes you see this country collapsing and it’s really hard,” shares Mourral. “Just by seeing this movie, it’s a rough movie, I think maybe we can put ideas in the minds of a lot of people, and maybe that could help. That’s a feeling we have, that maybe the story could help thinking another way about this country.”