A story that traces a hero’s journey to bring fresh water to his native Haitian village and is aided by the help of earnest Ivy League students sounds, frankly, clichéd and worn out.
But when the story is true, the hero works two jobs, the Ivy League students raise over $30,000 in funds to boost the project and the documentary is filmed by an outstanding crew, it becomes downright inspiring.
Toss in narration by Don Cheadle and you’ve got a winner.
And a winner is what the documentary, ‘la source’ is.
In a nutshell, ‘la source’ follows the work of Haitian emigrant Josue Lajeunesse who works two jobs – one as a taxi driver and one as a janitor at Princeton University.
He is interviewed near the beginning of the film discussing his native village la source – located about an hour outside of Port au Prince – and how the residents have to travel upwards an hour to get fresh water each day from a spring at the top of a mountain. The travails are tough. They have to scale rocky terrain. Water from other local water sources are foul and result in disease.
The film shifts between chronicling Lajeunesse’s day-to-day life as a worker and a father at Princeton and life in the village.
Enter the massive Haitian earthquake of 2010 and the film takes a completely different turn. Lajeunesse travels to Haiti where his brother still lives, gets hooked up with various humanitarian groups, such as NGOs Project Blessing and Generosity Water, and work on capping the spring and bringing fresh water to the village begins.
It is an arduous project. There are logistics and the physical work itself, but Lajeunesse rouses the villages with words that often sway between a preacher and a football coach.
In a Cinderella story, water would then flow from the mountain, the village would be saved and Lajeunesse dubbed a folk hero. But this is not a Cinderella story and the crew follows the project as the villagers cope with issues such as having to re-dig hundreds of feet of trenches, fine tune diplomacy over water rights with other villages, secure the building supplies and wrangle with the overall cost of the project.
Though the ending is predictable, it is no less impactful. And while the story is the driving point, it is worth noting how well the film is shot. Directors Patrick Shen and Brandon Vedder push the boundaries of your basic documentary style and a combination of intriguing angles, outstanding use of light and creative cinematography make this story come alive even more.
‘la source’ is not just a film about finding inspiration in dark times. It is about finding inspiration, despite dark times.
It is currently showing at sites throughout North America and can also be ordered through its website.