For our readers in the New York City area, an event of interest – Haiti Optimistepresented by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAFand Ciné Institute of Haiti.

A Gala Benefit taking place on Thursday, February 20, at 7pm, at Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, with fashion designer Donna Karan, Arcade Fire video director Vincent Morisset, actors Michael K. Williams and Jamie Hector, all present for the evening, in support of Ciné Institute.

Ciné Institute is an institution we’ve profiled previously on this blog. In short, it provides Haitian youth with film education, training and production support – a program that began as a film festival in Jacmel

Haitian filmmaker Amiral Gaspar, – whose 20-minute supernatural tale The Good, The Bad, The Apprentice (Le bon, le méchant et l’apprenti) won the inaugural S&A/Avenue TV Fantastical Short Films Contest – was a student at the Institute from 2011 to 2013, where he studied film, and The Good, The Bad, The Apprentice was his graduation project.

That film, and 3 others, will screen during the February 20 event.

Tickets range in price from $50–$300. Call 800-982-2787 for more information. Or visit or

The rest of the story follows via press release and poster below:

New York, NY, February 5, 2014—Four years after a devastating earthquake decimated much of the country’s already fragile infrastructure, Haiti continues to rebuild. Amidst the challenges of nation building, a vibrant institution in the southern town of Jacmel has emerged as a shining example of Haiti’s immense potential and a leader on the country’s path to a sustainable future.

Founded in 2008 by filmmaker and activist David Belle, Haiti’s Ciné Institute is a remarkable, tuition-free college that is fuelling the local economy as it educates a young generation of talented professionals who are quietly putting Haiti on the map as a destination for groundbreaking film and multimedia production.

Ciné Institute graduates recently collaborated with multimedia wiz Vincent Morisset on his acclaimed interactive video for Arcade Fire’s hit single Reflektor, which uses cutting-edge technology to integrate a viewer’s mouse, phone, or tablet to control the effects of the scenes. The graduates also helped produce multimedia advertising campaigns for Donna Karan’s Fall/Winter 2013 and Spring/Summer 2014 collections, both starring supermodel Adriana Lima. Upcoming projects include the launch of a film fund sponsored by Italian luxury lifestyle brand Brioni.

Thanks to Mr. Belle’s potent blend of intelligence, dedication, charisma, and A-list friends, the students receive instruction and support from a roster of professionals that includes icons from the worlds of fashion, film, and media, from Oscar and Emmy-winning actors Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, and Ben Stiller, to Oscar-winning directors Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme and Paul Haggis, and fashion luminary Donna Karan.

In addition to providing support for North American productions, Ciné Institute’s students are investing in local Haitian productions, including the feature film Reincarnation directed by Ciné Institute graduate Frero Pierre, which recently had its world premiere in Haiti. And multiple Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack (The Farm: Angola USA) is currently producing the episodic Creole-language telenovela Joumou et Kalbas with Ciné Institute alumni.

To help Ciné Institute carry out its work and pay tribute to its vibrant contribution to Haiti’s culture and economy, FIAF will host an evening of film screenings and discussions with distinguished leaders in the film industry on Thursday, February 20, at 7pm in FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall. The evening will include a screening of films from the Institute, followed by the announcement of the new Brioni film fund and a Q&A with Ciné Institute supporters, fashion designer Donna Karan, Arcade Fire video director Vincent Morisset, and actors Michael Kenneth Williams and Jamie Hector of HBO’s The Wire.  

The celebration will continue with an exclusive cocktail reception at the Tinker auditorium. Guests will be treated to delicious Haitian delicacies by notable New York City Chef Elle Philippe.

Ciné Institute founder David Belle said, “Our annual gathering to celebrate young Haitian talent at FIAF is always the high point of the year for us. Haiti Optimiste allows us make a vital institution for arts and creativity in Haiti stronger and stronger each year. We couldn’t be more grateful to our co-hosts, Donna, Michael, Jamie, and Vincent, to FIAF, Brioni, and to all the event attendees for their extraordinary support.”

“FIAF and I have had a close relationship with Haiti since our World Nomads Festival celebrating Haitian culture in 2009,” said FIAF President Marie-Monique Steckel. “After the 2010 earthquake, we worked closely with David Belle and his Ciné Institute on a very special project to help rebuild the institute so it could continue to educate Haitian youth about film, technology, and media. I went to Haiti after the tragedy and was touched and inspired by the incredible mission David Belle promotes and the many students who benefit from his diverse programs. What began as fundraising efforts to help them rebuild has evolved into a dynamic partnership.”