Pras Michel: Azerbaijani government really cares about refugees

Tue 07 July 2015 13:18 GMT | 18:18 Local Time

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News.Az interviews founder of The Fugees band Pras Michel.

Can you tell us more about yourself, your film, “Sweet Mickey for President”, and The Fugees?

I created The Fugees back when I was  in high school.   We had a ton of success but went our separate ways after our last album in 1996.    Afterwards I got into the film business, acting and documentary film making.  My most recent film “Sweet Micky for President,” is about a popular Haitian musician who successfully ran for President in Haiti after the devastating earthquake  in 2010.  The movie is a behind the scenes look at his transition from musician to President.

You mentioned the Haitian earthquake. It seems that there is not too much buzz about Haiti right now. Do you believe that your film will bring more attention to it?

It is going to bring some attention.  But “Sweet Micky for President” is a story about hope. You don't have to know or care about Haiti to enjoy the film. When you watch the film you get some insight about Haiti. In some films you have to care about particular subject to enjoy it, and in some films the issue is about human story, so fundamentally that what is this movie about.

You had a premiere of this movie here, in Baku. What's your opinion about that?

I am so honored to  be able to screen my movie in this country.   It was so amazing to see the reaction of the people to this film.

This movie is also going to be presented for Oscar nomination...

We will submit the film to be nominated.  Hopefully the Oscar voters will have the same feelings about the film that we do.

What movie prizes did you film win so far?

We have won four prizes so far.  We won two at film festival called Slamdance which is a part of Sundance. We won jury and audience award. Then we won another award at festival in Nashville, Tennessee, and also won Best International Director at film festival in New Zealand.

This is your first visit in Azerbaijan. What's your impression on your visit? Have you ever heard about Azerbaijan before?

This is my first visit to Azerbaijan.  I knew where it was on the map, but I didn’t know much about the country before my visit.  It wasn’t what I expected.  It is the best developing country I've ever seen. Especially the city of Baku, where they are investing a lot money.  I found it interesting that it is part of 21st  century but still maintains their identity and heritage.  There is a mixture of new and old with buildings, museums and landmarks.   It is a global culture that is elegantly done.

During your visit you also visited refugee camps.

We went to two different camps.  I was very impressed because it shows me how this government really cares about its refugees to give them a place where they can be comfortable until hopefully they can return to their home territory.   

Did you get more information about Nagorno Karabakh conflict?

Yes, I was informed,  and I understand broadly the history of what has happened. I believe there is going to be  a resolution in the future.

Are you going to make some movie on Azerbaijan or refugees here?

Yes.  We are trying to figure out how to make it properly.   The great thing about making a documentary film, is there are countless stories to be told.

So we can consider you as a new friend of Azerbaijan. Will you inform people about the country after going back to your country?

Yes, of course.  Sadly there are similar stories happening around the world.   Sometimes a tragic situation needs to happen for everyone to catch on.   Case in point: Haiti.  Globally, no one was paying attention to it before the earthquake. After the earthquake people were more aware of what was happening in Haiti.

Do you have any recipe of how to solve the problems of refugees?

All that I can do is try and spread the word and bring attention or spotlight the situation.  At the end of the day it is the government and the international community that need to discuss the issues at hand and find some kind of resolution.

What plans for future do you have?

I am going to continue promoting “Sweet Micky for President” this fall and winter.   I have a few other film projects in the pipeline and music projects.

Are you going to be engaged with politics?

No, I have no intention to run for President or anything like that.

What is your message to the people of Azerbaijan?

My message is that you have a friend.  I am honored to be here, I love the culture, I love the city and I love the country.  I will make sure to tell my friends this is an amazing place with amazing people.

What did you like in Azerbaijan, in Azerbaijani culture most of all?

The people here are so welcoming.  It is amazing the way the culture has been preserved.  I loved visiting the museums in Baku, the Carpet museum, the mugham center and Shirvanshah's Palace.  I've been to a lot of developing countries, and unfortunately they lose their identity as they develop.  That is not the case here.

This might sound odd, but did you find any similarities between Haitian and Azerbaijani people?

I did. I am probably the first Haitian to come to Baku. I was born in Haiti and my parents were born in Haiti, but technically we represent the refugee community. Coming here, I see the similarities in the refugees here, and how the people and the culture are so welcoming. If you go to Haiti, it is a taste of the Azerbaijani attitude. It is kind of like déjà-vu. Unfortunately, Haiti is not as developed as Azerbaijan. One day it will be, but I still see a lot of similarities in the people.



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