Friday, November 25, 2016

Philippe Girard's "Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life"

Philippe Girard is a professor of history at McNeese State in Louisiana and the author of four books on Haitian history. A native of the Caribbean, he studied in France and the United States. In 2014, he was a research fellow at the DuBois Institute at Harvard University.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life:
Every historian is convinced that their book would make a great Hollywood spectacular. Meet a historian at a conference, and after a couple drinks he or she will inevitably tell you that their 700-page Ph.D. dissertation on 13th century Serbian church steeples could be a blockbuster if only Michael Bay would pick up the script (That is the true “drunk history”).

I am no exception! I am convinced that my biography of Toussaint Louverture, the man who led the only successful slave revolt in world history, would make for an incredible biopic. The Haitian Revolution featured plenty of sex, violence, intriguing characters, stirring speeches, battles, and betrayals. Take all the historical importance of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and liven it up with the blood and gore of Game of Thrones and the layered character studies of Master and Commander. Add some pirates, a Caribbean locale, a Voodoo ceremony, and voil√†: the Haitian Revolution.

Casting the actor to play Toussaint Louverture would be no easy task: he was a man of incredible depth and complexity, so humanizing him while remaining faithful to his true self would be quite a challenge. I’ve spent over ten years studying him, and even I can’t say that I truly know who the “real” Toussaint Louverture is.

To portray the many facets of his personality, a director could make the radical choice of employing different actors for the different periods of his life. Mahershala Ali, the crafty and ruthless Remy Danton of House of Cards, would be a great early Louverture, when he made his way from lowly slave to rebel leader.

The tortured Denzel Washington of Flight, at once competent, flawed, and insecure, would make a great middle Louverture, when he tried to reconcile his responsibilities as Haitit’s governor with his record as an emancipator.

Morgan Freeman has played a Supreme Court justice (Madam Secretary), a US president (Deep Impact), a speaker of the House (Olympus has Fallen), a senator (Momentum), a general (Outbreak), a civil rights hero (Invictus), and God Himself (Bruce Almighty). I’m sure that there is a law somewhere requiring that he play a role in any movie about Toussaint Louverture! Freeman’s gravitas would work perfectly for the last months of Toussaint Louverture’s life, when the aging revolutionary was overthrown by Napoleon and dispatched to a prison cell in eastern France.

And... cut.
Learn more about Toussaint Louverture at the Basic Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue