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The Agronomist

20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The life of Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist, Jean Dominique, told through historical footage of Haiti; interviews with Dominique and his wife, Michele Montas; and footage shot before his assassination in April 2000.

Jonathan Demme has always had a thing for Haiti. With The Agronomist, the Oscar winning director of The Silence of the Lambs takes his Haitian passion for a serious and considerably more personal turn in a documentary profiling journalist and radio pioneer Jean Dominique. Demme first became intrigued by Dominique in 1991 when he undertook a series of informal video interviews. He returned to his subject many times over the next decade, sometimes in Haiti and sometimes during extended periods when Dominique was in the U.S., a political exile from his homeland. When Demme began his documentary, he certainly couldn’t have planned for its end--the assassination of Dominique outside his Port au Prince radio station in 2000. As The Agronomist makes clear, it was a blatantly political crime and one that remains unsolved. The title refers to Dominique’s original vocation helping farmers in the rural communities of Haiti. He came from the upper classes, but continued his battles in representing his country’s poor and dispossessed even as his career path changed to professional broadcaster. As operator of the independent Radio Haiti Inter from 1960 until his death, Dominique became a hero to the masses and a frequent enemy of the government. In extensive interview segments, Dominique exudes the charismatic good humor and mischievous zeal that brought him fame and infamy from the various constituents of Haiti’s notorious political landscape. An impish, animated figure with sparkling eyes and naughty grin, Dominique gleefully or angrily recounts confrontations with the authority of Haiti’s Duvalier father-and-son dictators, and later the Aristide regime. The Agronomist is very much a homemade affair, but by no means amateurish. Using mostly raw camcorder video, Demme makes a stylish statement with his visuals and Dominique's words. He also gets plenty of help from a sensational soundtrack by another beloved Haitian hero, Wyclef Jean. The Agronomist is an apt history lesson about Haiti's legacy of political turmoil and a powerful testimonial about patriotism in the face of oppression. --Ted Fry

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Jean Dominique, Aboudja, Ronald Reagan
  • Directors: Jonathan Demme
  • Producers: Bevin McNamara, Jonathan Demme, Peter Saraf, Lizi Gelber, Edwidge Danticat
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: June 7, 2005
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007XBLK8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,428 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Agronomist" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Roland E. Zwick on June 19, 2005
Format: DVD
Jonathan Demme's "The Agronomist" is a documentary about Jean Dominique, the Haitian civil rights leader and radio journalist who was gunned down by unknown assassins on April 3, 2000. A passionate believer in a free and open press, Dominique founded Radio Haiti in the early 1960's and became know as the "voice of the people" for over four decades of that nation's turbulent, strife-torn history. Through a succession of coups and counter-coups that seemed to forever rock the country, Dominique remained committed to securing freedom for the citizens of his beloved island nation, even if that meant having to do so as a frequent political exile living in the United States. That his own life ended tragically - as is so often the case when brave individuals step out to try to make the world a better place - is of less importance than that people of goodwill pick up the banner and carry forth his message of social justice and equality for all people. Demme has done just that by putting together this inspiring and thought provoking documentary.

In constructing his film, Demme has chosen to rely primarily on the many interviews Dominique gave over the course of his lifetime. Thus, even though Dominique is dead, we are able to hear his story in his own words, a distinct advantage for those of us who knew little or nothing about the man and what he accomplished prior to our seeing this movie. We learn firsthand of all the dreams and fears, hopes and disappointments that came to define this one individual who truly made a difference in his world. In addition to these interviews, Demme also provides insights from Dominique's supportive wife and family as well as from some of the common folk in Haiti who were inspired by Dominique's vision.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Todd Steven Burroughs on June 8, 2005
Format: DVD
Radio, when used correctly, can get you killed.

It's the most powerful, most personal medium. Nothing else on planet Earth can reach more oppressed people-the poorest, the illiterate and semi-illiterate-with the same information at one time. It explains and reflects issues, events, and people. It provides company as well as context. At its best, its mixture and manipulation of supplied sound nourishes the spirit and offers hope for a better tomorrow and, perhaps, even eventual liberation.

So Jean Leopold Dominique, a member of Haiti's light-skinned mulatto elite, was tuned in to this power. He purchased a radio station. In the 1970s, he turned himself onto the potential of expanding democracy through a free medium. ("Radio, then," says Dominique, "was not a news medium. It was entertainment.") He found freedom through his frequency. He committed class suicide using his (broadcast) voice to rally for peasant power. His reward: a violent death after being twice exiled from his homeland.

Jonathan Demme, the filmmaker behind "The Silence Of The Lambs" and "Philadelphia," was, of course, unaware that Dominique was going to be assassinated in April 2000, outside of Radio Haiti's studios; Demme had begun interviewing Dominique in 1986 for a documentary on the beleaguered island. They hit it off. So, on and off, the duo's filmed talks continued until 1999.

Those interviews form the spine of "The Agronomist," a tribute to Dominique's life, his wife, and Haiti's potential and constant strife. (The title comes from the profession he abandoned once broadcasting took hold.) Dominique's widow, Michele Montas, co-owner of Radio Haiti, assists Demme in telling the story of her husband's powerful existence as a broadcaster and a grassroots political activist.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MINEISAWEAPON on January 18, 2007
Format: DVD
Jean Dominique contributed a lot to our country's history and its view of the press. Though an obvious ulterior agenda motivated this documentary it nontheless told the story of a very admired and possible leader of Haiti if were ever interested. I just wished it pushed further into rumored "lavalas" involvement in this man's death...maybe that's just not important. It's just sad that only half of this story was told...SEE IT SO YOU CAN JUDGE FOR YOURSELF.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jenny J.J.I. VINE VOICE on August 13, 2007
Format: DVD
This is one of the most inspiring documentaries I've ever seen coming from my country. Jean Dominique's unparalleled quest for freedom really made my day and deepened my enormous respect for such idealists. Jonathan Demme creates a film that is no less absorbing and considerably more powerful. The film focuses on Jean Dominique, a Haitian radio station owner, journalist, and tireless human rights activist. Dominique was born to the thin upper crust of Haiti but turned his back on that class to advocate for the poor and landless. Exiled twice to America (in 1980 and 1991), he returned to Haiti both times to press for democracy and land reform. He was assassinated in April 2000, a deep loss for the Haitian people and the world.

The film stitches together interviews Demme did with Jean Dominique over several years. Even from that grainy footage, it is apparent how charismatic Dominique was. His excitement is infectious; when he opens wide his eyes and smiles, we can't help but smile with him. At various stages, he talks about the "risky business" of operating a free radio station in a dictatorship, and we're inspired to undertake our own risky business in search of freedom. What's particularly impressive (and appealing) about Dominique is his indefatigable optimism. But when he talks about the CIA's role in his country, we're reminded of why giving that institution too much power (even in this age of terrorism) might not be such a good thing. His invitation to join his struggle along with his honesty and strength could not be bent. Only bullets could (and did) stop him.

Another extremely touching aspect of his story is the level of bonding they had with his wife.
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