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Haiti - Culture : Jacmel Friendship City of Austin (Texas)
10/08/2011 14:57:40

Haiti - Culture : Jacmel Friendship City of Austin (Texas)
Mayor Lee Leffingwell announced a new "Friendship City" relationship today - Jacmel, Haiti, is a creative community known for its art, film institute and natural beauty.

"Jacmel is compared to Austin," said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "We share many qualities, most notably our creative culture."

Jacmel, a city on the southern coast of Haiti and is home to various creative institutions and events including; the FOSAJ Art Center, Ecole de Musique Dessaix-Baptiste, The Ciné Institute (Haiti's only film school), the Jacmel Film Festival, and the Festival Mizik Jakmèl, a music festival held in 2007, which included a performance by the Marley brothers. The town sustained significant damage in the 2010 Haiti earthquake and is now on the long path of rebuilding and recovery.

"This is one city relationship where we can affect great change," said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "If our communities can exchange culture, promote tourism and economic development, the benefits will be significant. Austin can have a strong presence in the reconstruction of Haiti."

Four Jacmel residents who are members of a film team from the Cine' Institute are currently visiting Austin and will be available at the press conference.

"Austin is unique and beautiful," said Hermane "Bonga" Desorme, a 25-year old member of the Cine' Insitute delegation. "The similarities between Jacmel and Austin are extraordinary."

"The Friendship City relationship between Austin and Jacmel will create tremendous creative industry opportunities. Filmmakers and audiences alike from Haiti and Texas will develop a more rich appreciation of each other's work through the planned exchanges between both cities," said Kevin Johns, Director of Economic Growth and Redevelopment for the City of Austin.

In June, the Cine' Institute partnered with University of Texas students through Students of the World, an Austin non-profit, to combine creative forces to document the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and their efforts to provide long-term economic opportunities throughout the country.

"In Jacmel we saw a community that had great natural beauty, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Courtney Spence, founder and Executive Director of Students of the World. "Haiti and the City of Jacmel was devastated by the 2010 earthquake."

Four members of Jacmel's Cine' Institute are in Austin for the Students of the World Summit, which is held this Friday through Sunday. Students of the World is a local non-profit that brought University of Texas students to Jacmel in partnership with the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

"We would like our relationship with Jacmel to become a pilot for other communities," said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "I believe the continued relief efforts can use our relationship with Jacmel and promote other Friendship Cities between Haiti and the United States."

"We look forward to working with Jacmel's filmmaking community and sharing our own vibrant film culture with them," said Rebecca Campbell, Executive Director of the Austin Film Society and member of the Mayor’s Creative Advisory Group.

Former United States Ambassador Lewis Lucke, who served as US Response Coordinator for the 2010 earthquake, will be attending the press conference.

Jacmel Mayor Ronald Andris signed the Friendship City agreement and is planning a trip to Austin.

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