A project of the (vertical)
Centre for Imaginative Ethnography

Inspired by southern Haiti’s Vodou and Kanaval cosmologies, and co-written with the entire cast and crew, Zanj Hegel La (Hegel’s Angel), is a cinematic fable challenging the boundaries between collaborative ethnography, fiction and reverie. The film follows an inquisitive boy named Widley whose life, suspended between mundane activities and foreign myths, unfolds away from the turmoil of an upcoming presidential election. As the boy wanders through an evanescent countryside, running errands for his father and paying furtive visits to a local film editor, his searching eyes become a mirror for the exotic new spell sweeping his people from one empire to another.

Simone Rapisarda Casanova

Haiti/Canada/USA/Italy, 2018

70 min, Colour, Stereo

“tropes on the absurdity of auteur theory [...] deploys an aesthetics of allegory without ever succumbing to the ideological telos of allegory”

‑ Peter Dickinson (Anthropologica)

“a clever meta-commentary on encroaching modernity and the impact of cultural imperialism [...] a generous, richly layered work of cinematic self-awareness”

‑ Shaun Inouye (The Cinematheque)

“masterful [...] a richly lyrical portrait of the denizens of contemporary Haiti and their complex relationship to the outside world [...] provocatively combines fiction and non-fiction filmmaking techniques”

‑ Michael G. Smith (White City Cinema)

“succeeds in raising questions about how one might portray a culture that is not their own [...] allows its viewers to rethink stereotypes about Haiti and its people”

‑ Paige Smith (SAD Mag)

“thought provoking [...] inspiring us to imagine new possibilities that may be realized by transgressing conventional boundaries between fiction and ethnography”

‑ Dara Culhane (CIE)

“not only does the film confront history and memory, but its structure also radicalizes ethnographic conventions and formality of linear storytelling”

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“pioneering new forms of collaborative dialogue, exchange and co-authorship that are breaking new ground and helping redefine practices of co-creation […] significantly, [this film] speaks in particular to the struggles of access, privilege and hierarchy which are so central to our current debates concerning the decolonization of cinema […] I argue that [the director’s] democratizing and decentring models of creation are making significant contributions to debates about authorship and privilege”

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“a commitment to community-authored filmmaking, places [the director] and his work at the forefront of a new, non-extractive storytelling”

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Made with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts

Awards and honours

2020    Best in Show Award for Documentary, Best Direction & Acting Award for Documentary, Best 

                      Cinematography Award for Documentary, Best Audio/Music/Soundtrack Award for 

                      Documentary, Colorado International Activism Film Festival

            Golden Dragon Award - Experimental Film, Paro Druk International Film Festival

            Best Fiction Feature Award, Genova Flight International Film Festival

            Nominee, Best Experimental Film Award, International Film Festival Cologne

2019    Best Feature Film Award, Chicago Collected Voices Ethnographic Film Festival

            Best Indigenous African Feature Award, Oaxaca Quetzalcoatl Indigenous International Film Festival

            Best Narrative Feature Award, Canton Etowah Film Festival

            Best International Feature Film, Hukampura Ayodhya Film Festival

            Best Documentary Award, Athens Cinergo International Film Festival

            Best Feature Film: Platinum Award, Albuquerque Mindfield Film Festival

            Best Feature Film, Ahmedabad Karnavati International Film Festival

            Nominee, Best Feature Documentary Award, Glendale International Film Festival

2018    Best Experimental Film Award, London Falcon International Film Festival

Screenings (selected)

2021    Enugu Coal City Film Festival

2020   Genova Flight International Film Festival

            International Film Festival Cologne

            La Spezia Onirica Film Festival

            Castellabate Film Festival

            Colorado International Activism Film Festival

            Puglia International Film Festival

            Garanhuns FESTCiMM - Festival Internacional de Cinema No Meio do Mundo

2019    Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival

            Buenos Aires International Film Festival

            Siliguri Everest International Film Festival

            Caserta Intimalente/Intimatelens Film Festival

            Hukampura Ayodhya Film Festival

            Ahmedabad Karnavati International Film Festival

            Balneário Camboriú International Film Festival

            Copenhagen Aks International Minorities Festival

            Chicago Collected Voices Ethnographic Film Festival

            Benin City Film Festival

            Glendale International Film Festival

            Bucharest Wallachia International Film Festival

            Split Film Festival - International Festival of New Film

            Ciudad del Este Independent Film Festival

            Albuquerque Mindfield Film Festival

            Osaka Kadoma International Film Festival

            Paro Druk International Film Festival

            Brighton Rocks Film Festival

            Oaxaca Quetzalcoatl Indigenous International Film Festival

            Athens Cinergo International Film Festival

            Lagos Realtime International Film Festival

            Festival Nouvelles Vues Haïti

            Canton Etowah Film Festival

            Houston National Black Film Festival

            Cannes International Pan-African Film Festival

            Tupelo Film Festival

            Festival de Largos y Cortos de Santiago

            Darbhanga International Film Festival

2018    London Falcon International Film Festival

            Franklin International Independent Film Festival

            Nassau Docs Without Borders Film Festival

            Syracuse International Film Festival

            New Delhi The Bioscope Global Film Festival

            Chile South Film and Arts Academy Festival

            Miami Independent Film Festival

            Venezuela Five Continents International Film Festival