Director Al’Ikens Plancher On Konpa & Haitian Culture

Al’Ikens Plancher is a writer-director from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Having started high school at the age of 12, and college at 16, Plancher had multiple career options at his disposal but chose to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a filmmaker. Throughout the years, he’s worked various positions in television and film, using his income to produce and direct his own projects, resulting in winning an HBO Best Short Film award, and having a world premiere in competition at Tribeca Festival.

Al’Ikens joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about his short film, Konpa. The film follows a young Haitian-American who learns how to dance Konpa to impress his crush.

What was the inspiration for the film? 

It all started out with the idea of making a musical to push my comfort level. From there, I was inspired to tell an authentic story that shine a light on my beautiful culture. 

Why is it important to tell this particular Haitian story? 

I wanted to just show Haitians being. Just living. No trauma or nada. Just Haitians living their lives. Happy, joyful, and all that. That’s so important to me, and I believe important to the film industry. Also, besides introducing an authentic representation of Haitian culture to a number of people – at the core of the film lies an inner dialogue between Haitian culture and Haitian-American culture. 

Was there anything particularly difficult to film? 

Nothing ridiculously too difficult, but the slo mo dancing shot for sure was a bit of a challenge. Just technical stuff here and there, but overall it was a smooth shoot. My DP, Juan Barriga, and I spent a good amount of time prepping before our shoot. We had a good prep. We even created a visual book to track the emotional beats and themes of the film. We also had a detailed (flexible) shot list. 

How has the audience received the film? 

I expected the majority of people to like KONPA due to the nature of the film, especially the ending, but there’s no way I could have imagined the amount of pure genuine love that the film is receiving. I never expected so many people to come up to me after each screening telling me that the last scene made them cry or get so emotional. Such a surreal experience. 

What is next for you?

Right now I’m promoting my new series called PRESTIGE. It’s an audio drama set in 1813 Haiti which Apple Editors selected as an Apple Podcasts Current Favorite. You can binge season 1 wherever you listen to podcasts.

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