DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Agronomist

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matt Stone, May 27, 2005.

  1. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

    Jun 21, 2000
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    The Agronomist
    Directed By: Jonathan Demme

    Studio: New Line
    Year: 2003
    Aspect Ratio: 4x3
    Running Time: 91 minutes
    Rating: PG-13 (Some violent images and brief nudity)
    Audio: 2.0 Dolby Digital (English, French)
    Subtitles: English and French (Partial)
    MSRP: $27.95
    Street Date: 7 June, 2005

    Review Date: 27 May, 2005
    (Ratings are out of five stars)

    With The Agronomist, Jonathan Demme tells the story of Haitian freedom fighter, Jean Dominique. Dominique owned and ran Haiti’s only radio station and was a tenacious advocate of free expression. As a result, he was constantly at odds with Haiti’s oppressive government. He spent much of the 1980s and 90s exiled in New York City. Finally, after many years of fighting against Haiti’s corrupt political regimes, Dominique was assassinated in April of 2000. It was this assassination that motivated Jonathan Demme to assemble all of his footage he had shot into a complete film.

    Demme switches focus between a lot of different interviewees in the film, but Dominique gets most of the face time. Jean Dominique is a very interesting character. He’s expressive with his responses to Demme’s questions and makes sometimes boring material seem pretty interesting. He instills strong anti-establishment emotion into the material, but never comes across as a propagandist. Most of the other interviewees were interesting as well. Some spoke French, some spoke English, and some spoke both (explaining the “Partial” comment regarding the subtitles). Demme’s editing style is strong throughout the film. He effectively splices interview footage with still photos and stock film of the Haitian culture. In the end, Demme gives us a 360-degree view of the various stages of oppression in Haiti.

    Film Rating: [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Most of the film was shot between 1986 and the present day, so the video quality varies from sequence to sequence. It looked like a good portion was shot on video or 16mm film. In general, the quality is pretty bad. The scenes with Dominique are usually the worst looking. The quality problems in no way hurt the film experience. The subject matter is dark and grimy, so the guerilla documentary quality fits well. The Agronomist is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio.

    Video Rating: [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Audio is as it would be expected for a documentary. Voice levels aren’t matched well from sequence to sequence due to Demme filming the movie over many years. The quality is never bad, but it’s not something that you’ll be putting in for demo material. Music usually runs in the background of the film, and its use is effective. Again, like the interviews, quality really depends on the track. Considering the nature of the documentary, the overall quality of the sound is fine.

    Audio Rating: [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Zippo. Not even a trailer.

    Extras Rating: ZERO

    In Closing…
    I’m actually surprised that I didn’t know about this film. I usually like to see as many documentaries as I can get my hands on, but somehow this one slipped by my attention.
    As someone who knows very little about Haiti, The Agronomist provided a lot of interesting information about the culture and government of the Haitian society. Unlike some other recent documentaries, the film did not come across as preachy or heavy handed. The people in question, rather than the filmmaker, provided the information. The feast or famine nature of democracy in Haiti was particularly interesting to me. Demme and Dominique draw a direct correlation between American policy and the freedom of the Haitian people. Not to take this review in a political direction, but after watching this film I have to wonder why we spend so much time trying to stabilize the Middle East when countries like Haiti are stuck in such a conflicted state. In any event, Demme craftily assembled his footage into a very coherent film with a driving narrative. The issues discussed in this film effect the world at large, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a solid documentary.

    Overall Rating: [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Matt Stone
    27 May, 2005
  2. Joe Cortez

    Joe Cortez Stunt Coordinator

    May 29, 2002
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    I've actually been waiting to see this flick for quite a while (I'm a big Demme fan). Thanks for the review; lack of extras aside, I'm adding it to my collection.

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