Miami Haitian Community Inspires Filmmaker Behind Recent Disney Channel Production

Sep 5, 2016

Daheli Hall, a Miami-raised actress and filmmaker, used her upbringing in the 3-0-5 to inspire a recent short film for Disney Channel.

Hall recently directed, The Exchange, a short film that largely centered around a Haitian-American family. Disney Channel debuted 12 short films for back-to-school that can be streamed on its website, YouTube and other mobile Disney platforms.

Hall, whose mom is Haitian and dad is Jamaican, said in the film she wanted to highlight a part of her culture that is also rooted in Miami-ness.

From the obligatory kisses when a child walks into a home, a moumou wearing grandma and Haitian food staples like griyo, Hall said she saw the opportunity as a way to present Haitian culture to a mainstream audience.

“For me Haitians have always had a very specific representation in the media. Either it’s something that tends to be negative or something we have to feel sorry about it,” she said.

But growing up in Miami, she said she saw the breadth and diversity of what it means to be Haitian. She attended St. Rose of Lima in Miami Shores and graduated from Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School.

“I went to a school where people would easily speak Creole in the hallways, you can hear Spanish being spoken in the hallways and that wasn’t weird,” she said “I wanted that to be reflected in this.”

Some of her family members were fixtures at Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church in Little Haiti, better known as the living room of Miami’s Haitian community.

"I loved growing up in Miami," said Hall.  "We would go to parties and here  was all this music from like Tabou Combo and then you would get little songs like Tiny Winey...from soca music to Zouk, to konpa all happening on this weekend."

Hall, who now lives in Los Angeles, said she wanted to capture that experience of growing up in South Florida’s Haitian community through the Haitian family in her film.

When it came time for casting, she said she was looking to feature Haitian and Haitian- American actors and at first that gave the casting director slight pause.

“She was like, ‘Are there Haitians in LA?’ And I said, ‘If there’s a place on the earth, there will be a Haitian person.’”

Hall said for her, it is important to see diversity in shows, especially those targeted to younger audiences.

And although the film is not set in Miami, it is so Miami, said Hall.

“There was definitely an intention to have Miami in there which is why I wanted it to be focused on a Haitian family,” she said.