As a terrifying reminder of the physical and moral destruction caused by colonialism, ‘Freda’ is the portrait of a humanitarian tragedy, which abandons, neglects and erases its own history. The Haitian director Gessica Généus gives a wake up call to the world, reminding us of the havoc caused by the French colonization in the country. The film mixes documentary sequences of riots while it shows the same rage within the characters and their actions. The collective outrage is debated in the classroom and in its own culture, when European Christianity faces the Vodou’s traditions of the country. With her conservative morals, Janette (Freda’s mom) represents the colonized part of Haiti when she involuntarily agrees with the visions that were imposed on her, while Esther and Freda represent the progressive and libertarian part of the country, ignoring the moral bases taught by their mom. While Freda is not as progressive as Esther, as she still finds it hard to be fully free, she is part of the revolutionary group that wants to change the country.
Colonization rips the country apart, annihilating any sense of freedom they might have as their actions and their whole language faces erasure from its own people. The French invaded and stole the history away from the country as they denied the very meaning of liberty they had, obliterating their ideology and culture while enforcing their one. They gaslighted the country by teaching that the revolutionaries were the enemy while creating heavenly figures of the genocides who destroyed them. The rallies represent the marks and the traumas caused by the slaughterous acts against their existence and Généus understands the painful feeling of being explored and dismantled.
As expected, conservatism defines that there’s no space for women in the country as it destroys any kind of individualism and liberty for them, whether it’s sexually or politcally, they will never be truly free because of the sexist actions that weighs in the country’s. Every woman in the film suffers from some kind of aggression and as Freda’s past shows, they are not safe in their own home. The culture that perpetuates these kind of violence against women gives some sort of hopelessness to the film, showing that in a country where the meaning of democracy is blurred, brutality is something ordinary. Those acts of cruelty against women are something everybody just looks the other way because there’s no hope for them, as we can see Janette ignoring the violence in her own home. In the film’s version of Haiti, pain is hereditary, because how can someone give love when they’ll never know what it is? And without ever having the answer, life goes on.
With an empathic eye, the cinematography captures the essence of their pain and their struggle, showing the shells of this broken humanity while building an empty world into it. It focuses on their reactions and emotions, as they are the meaning of its existence, showing love and pain with the same intensity, wandering into the community that will never understand their feelings. The actors achieve the same excellence of the direction, showing that fragility doesn’t mean weakness. They give layered performances as conflicted people who are trying to change in a world where change doesn’t exist, especially Néhémie Bastien, who masters the emotions with a certain amount of maturity.
In the urge of forgiveness and change, Freda must find her way into the remains of this destroyed country, whether it’s by discovering herself or trying to change it.