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Filmmaker Sage Love Returns Home To Haiti

For many immigrant families, coming to America is a chance at a better life - and that's exactly what it provided for SAGE LOVE, #photographer and #filmmaker. When he was just six years old, his grandfather filed the papers and sent for him and his mother. Because there weren't many opportunities in Haiti, his mother was determined to get him away from the hardships that many Haitians still face today.

What was it like leaving something so familiar to you?

The move was very exciting for me. I was so happy. I had never been on a plane before so when I got ready to pack and leave... I told all my family that when I returned, I'd be rich. Rich enough to take them all with me. [ laughs ]"

I remember it was raining when we arrived in America. We were on the highway. Haiti didn't have highways - and I was in awe at the skyscrapers. I had never seen anything like it. I asked my grandfather if they shut off the electricity at a certain time like they do in Haiti, he told me it was not like that here. Knowing that I never had to worry about blackouts again reassured me about the future.

You recently returned back home, how was that experience?

So on December 15th, I journeyed back home to Haiti. I hadn't been there in over 8 years - about a year before the earthquake. While I was there, I had an overwhelming sense of home. I grew to appreciate it so much more because of my experiences leading up into the man that I am today. I'm not the same person that I was 8 years ago, you know? Life lessons tend to put things into perspective so I can really cherish the memories, the natives and the streets that make Haiti what it is. I've learned to live in the moment and I found myself meditating a lot, touching the ground and connecting with my roots.

Jean Jacques Dessalines is my great great grandfather, and most of the people from my village know that. So returning home was very surreal. The village I grew up in (originally the capital of #Haiti) is called MARCHAND DESSALINE it was named after my great great grandfather. Marchand is a commune in the Artibonite department of Haiti - about 2 hours away from what is known as the #Haitian capital today.

A lot of the natives didn't recognize me at first. I have locs now, my face has changed and matured. When they realized who I was, I got embraced and welcomed with so much love. It was such a positive experience. Some of the same people that watched over me as a child, ended up being the same people I captured on film on this trip. Things truly came full circle and I'd never would of thought I'd be documenting them.

As you travel out away from the city, you see more land, gardens and agriculture. You see a different lifestyle. It gave me flashbacks of when I was younger and I used to work on the farm.

It was interesting seeing Haiti in a different light. It was like being on another planet. I was always around the agriculture and farmland but now that I'm older I can truly appreciate it for what it is. So many of us here in America depend on companies to provide us with food, and though they may lack many of the things we take for granted here, most of the natives understand and have a deeper wisdom of living and survival. Being able to grow your own food is so important.

How much time did you spend on this trip? Was this for a project or more personal?

Well... both really. I thought it would be nice to take a vacation and visit family, but I also saw it as an opportunity to capture another side of Haiti. Since I am coming up on my year 4 in film school, I have to present a project to graduate. So I rented a camera from school before I left and decided to do the project on Haiti, it has such a personal impact on me - ironically our President made very ignorant comments about Haiti just after I returned from the trip. This fueled my fire even more to spread knowledge.

I know there were moments you couldn't capture on film, tell us about the stories you felt, seen and heard behind the scenes.

There were a lot of moments I didn't catch on film. A lot of powerful moments, like I was in a fort in my hometown where I grew up. The same village of my great great grandfather, Jean Jacques Dessalines. It was the same fort he used to fight in. It was so powerful, it was like I was right there with him. We went on a journey, looking at cannons. We walked to the mountains and the lower fort was at least a good 20 minute climb. I was looking up at the higher ones like 'aww hell naw' I don't do heights... plus how we getting back down, naw bruh. I was not going any further.

But I remember seeing the tail of the helicopter at the top. It had been there for a very long time. The story goes that some Europeans came in and landed to steal some sacred artifacts and items. The natives spotted the helicopter and seen it land but the men driving it just disappeared. They were never found. Just vanished. No bodies, no nothing.

Do you feel the media shows us the true Haiti?

Of course not. No. Haiti has been a poster child for poverty but it's completely out of context. Haitians are resilient. Haiti has overcome war, invasions, debts that other countries pretty much raped them out of their resources. I mean Haiti is in the state that it's in BECAUSE OF AMERICA. I just hope people begin to do their own research and use their own minds.