It was apparent quickly that this screening of “The Lego Movie” would be very different from any American IMAX theater experience. Rather than look for a particular row and seat, everyone filtered outside from several buildings in all directions. Some carried folding chairs while smaller children dragged their chairs through the large gravel courtyard, leaving a circuitous trail to their destination: the movie projector set up only a few feet from the main building. “The Lego Movie” was all ready to shine on the exterior wall of the orphanage like the Bat-Signal, for those in the immediate area to stare at and point to.
Tonight was Movie Night, a weekly tradition for the sixty-four children of the orphanage, located in the village of Croix de Bouquets just a few miles outside the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Despite a trip to the beach earlier in the day, many of the kids found the energy and were excited to see an American film on this Saturday night– a humid evening with temperatures still hovering near 90 degrees and thunderstorms building only a short distance away.
A parked olive drab Toyota Land Cruiser and large yellow school bus nicely cordoned off the side and back area of our outdoor showing. I took my seat in the back row, marveling at the ingenuity and determination of the orphanage to make Movie Night happen for these kids. The film projector, donated by a fellow American on one of his previous mission trips here, cast a surprisingly impressive and clear picture on the cinder block wall. Soon popcorn for the kids emerged from the building that housed the facility’s kitchen, a treat made by other Americans using a large, steel mixing bowl with a frying pan on top to heat the kernels…a technique that would have left MacGyver proud and even Orville Redenbacher smiling.
As I spoke quietly with the orphanage’s pastor, we discussed how much the children look forward to these Movie Nights–every bit as much Americans do on their Friday and Saturday evenings. It provides not only entertainment to the orphans, but another structured event for the youngsters desiring commitment, routine and stability in their lives. One by one, the kids found their favorite viewing spot near a best friend or an adult, who would help braid their hair for the perfect look the following day or share popcorn from a tall paper bag.
During one of the more hilarious Batman scenes of “The Lego Movie”, I noticed that my laugh was the only one heard. While many adults were still conversing with each other in the back row, the kids were all laser-focused on the big screen, but none laughing or reacting to the movie. All that could be heard now was the constant humming of the nearby generator and the occasional motorcycle pass down the dirt road just outside the main gate of the orphanage.
Then it hit me–without subtitles and having only a modicum understanding of English so far at their young ages, these children had no idea what was being said on film. To me, it felt as though the Silent Film Era of the late 1920s in the U.S. had arrived on this cloudy night in Haiti. But to the kids, it didn’t matter to them one bit. Not one. They enjoyed every minute of “The Lego Movie” regardless of whether they thought Batman–or some plastic construction worker–was funny. They didn’t care because they had each other and people surrounding them offering care and love.
After “The Lego Movie” ended, the kids returned the folding chairs to the church and classrooms fulfilled and happy—just the feelings that movies are meant to be foster and spread, everywhere in the world.
(To learn more information on how you can help donate or get involved in this orphanage in Haiti, contact the nonprofit organization, Third World Missions at www.thirdworldmissions.org. Their goal is to take the essentials of food, water and clothing to one country at a time, bringing hope and change to as many people in the world as possible. You can also follow Third World Missions on Facebook and Instagram. Email questions to: INFO@THIRDWORLDMISSIONS.ORG)
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"Patrick, you are my go-to guy when it comes to the box office". - Judy O.