How Pierre Valmera Believes Basketball Can Save Haiti

05/31/2017 08:03 pm ET
Pierre Joseph walking on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to the basketball court
A still from Two Four Six
Pierre Joseph walking on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to the basketball court

In the United States, sports are a billion dollar industry that are ingrained in American culture. We have massive arenas built for them, entire television channels dedicated to them, and a sea of merchandise that has even turned them into a fashion trend. Sports are everywhere during every season with no intent of vanishing into obscurity. However, in third world countries like Haiti, sports are not just entertainment, they are a lifeline.

Filmmaker Leyla Nedorosleva makes her directorial debut with the cinéma vérité documentary Two Four Six, a genre of film defined by its observational style of capturing human behavior and interaction rather than pushing a story via voiceover narration. Nedorosleva’s documentary follows former Haitian basketball player and mentor Pierre Valmera, 32, as he travels between the U.S. and Haiti, training his mentees and recruiting new ones. Two Four Six is not a sports documentary, though basketball plays an important role; what drives this film is its characters.

Nedorosleva creates artful montages, rhythmically editing together images of Haiti’s derelict conditions alongside its beautiful, natural terrains with fast splices of American, urban scenery. She also utilizes sound very intentionally, creating trancelike soundscapes with lapping water or the metrical beats of dribbling basketballs. The urban cacophony of Las Vegas and fast moving traffic offers a more startling reaction, pulling the viewer out from the films cadence. While most documentaries simply possess the intention of conveying a message or narrative, Nedorosleva also wants to stimulate your senses along the way.

Pierre Valmera giving a speech to a group of aspiring basketball players in Haiti
A still from two four six
Pierre Valmera giving a speech to a group of aspiring basketball players in Haiti

With no voiceover narration telling the story, the viewer assumes the role of a voyeur. We watch Valmera as he travels to Dallas to check in on his Haitian mentees who are still in high school. From the outside, we watch them interact with one another and their environment. We see them during intimate moments of rest and introspection as well as on the basketball court. We hear Valmera’s concerns and hopes, his complaints and visions, and his grand plan of saving his home country through its athletes.

Valmera is the founder and CEO of POWERforward International, a not-for-profit organization that is “dedicated to inspiring underprivileged children to achieve excellence in education and athletics.” He believes that all countries have their strengths and for Haiti, it’s in their basketball players—extremely tall ones. We meet Schnider Herard, 17, who lost his mother at a young age and was raised by his grandmother. Struggling to cope beneath the pressures of his own talents, Herard’s rebellious nature worries Valmera. Even still, Valmera believes that Herard has what it takes to go professional.

In the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince in Haiti, we meet 15-year-old Pierre Joseph who lives with his mother in a shanty home. Every day he walks for hours, unable to afford public transportation, to the amateur basketball court where he feels liberated from his impoverished life. Joseph is one of the chosen few selected to study in the U.S. by Valmera through his organization.

Valmera’s goal is not just to save these kids from poverty, but also to encourage other recruiters to look to Haiti. While he believes that basketball will lead these kids to a better life, he also wants sports to act as a vessel to a better education. Through Valmera’s journeys, we see the true compassion he feels for each of his mentees as he works tirelessly to show them how much he cares. While not all these kids will make it to the pros, it is the fact that someone cares enough to tell them that it’s possible which makes all the difference.

Two Four Six will have its world premiere at the ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City on Monday, June 19 at 8:50pm as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival.

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