Michèle Voltaire Marcelin is constantly on the move. She’s a busy woman, mother, wife, prolific poet, author, performer, actress, teacher, and so much more. In a previous VoicesfromHaiti INNERview, Michèle said “It is not death that has the final say. It is life. Life always triumphs.” Perhaps it is those words that whirled around inside the mind of Micheline, the character Michèle Voltaire Marcelin plays in Patricia Benoit’s touching movie, Stones in the Sun. After having witnessed an unforgettable act of violence, Micheline enfolds herself in life–however banal it may seem to her screen sister played by Edwidge Danticat.
I am always fascinated by Michèle Voltaire Marcelin. I could not wait to understand her thoughts behind the performance. Here is what she had to say:
Katia D Ulysse: What was it like on the set with the other actors?
Michèle Voltaire Marcelin: I already knew many of the actors: the poet James Noël (Ronald) who is actually in Rome for a Villa Medici fellowship is a close friend and it was a pleasure to be on set with my “screen sister” Edwidge. She had her 2 daughters with her during the shoot and was still nursing her last born but she was very sweet on and off set. I also knew Carlo Mitton (the macoute Mésir) previously but I met Patricia Rhinville (who played Vita) for the first time and was blown away by her talent.
Cinema’s particularity is that sequences can be shot out of chronology and put in order during the editing process and because of different schedules, actors in a film may not meet until the project is completed so I never shared a moment with Thierry Saintine (the activist Gérald) or his wife until the première of the film at the Tribeca festival.
Katia: What did it take for you to be able to portray Micheline?
Michèle: Every actor’s work is shaped by the director: the person who literally and figuratively calls the shots. Film actors don’t need to “build” emotionally like stage actors, they must be able to access all their emotions at any time so it is always about the truth in the moment. What the character’s truth is at that particular point in time.
Katia: Does Micheline remind you someone you know?
Michèle: “Micheline”, the character I play is a composite of many women. She is snobbish and superficial but to quote a character in Max Ophuls’ film “Madame de”, it is only “superficially that she is superficial.”
Katia: What attracted you to the role?
Michèle: What defines Micheline is her determination to erase her complex emotional history and to recreate herself so she can live the “American Dream.” This is what attracted me to her and this is what also separates me from her as I never bought into this dream. I have always stood out more than I’ve belonged but the story of immigrants is a story of exile – forced or self imposed- it is about new beginnings. It’s what you leave behind and what you encounter in your new life and how you will shape this new life. And -how one seizes that power is fascinating.
For More On Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, check out VoicesfromHaiti’s previous INNERview with her.