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By Phil Hall | March 11, 2010

Renee Bergan and Mark Schuller’s documentary on the status of women in Haiti was made prior to the January 2010 earthquake, yet it serves as a brutal reminder that the Caribbean nation had already crumbled into ruin long before the Richter scale went wild.

The filmmakers interview a quintet of women who detail the social and economic misery they face on a daily basis.  The inability for the working class to pay school tuitions has kept many children uneducated; a history of discrimination against women ensures that it is mostly girls who lose out on schooling.  Factory employment takes place in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and any attempts at unionizing are met with the abrupt firing of would-be labor advocates.  Housing is squalid and the price of food is out of sync with living wages.

Throughout the film, the women complain that the Haitian government and a select elite have pocketed foreign aid while allowing the country to rot.  The presence of United Nations peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince has not resolved the level of street violence, and the film includes a shootout between the peacekeepers and unidentified gunman.

The message of “Poto Mitan” is depressingly clear: the world should have been paying attention to the chaos in Haiti long before the earthquake further destroyed its decrepit infrastructure.

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