I could easily watch Edson Jean's Ludi again and again if only for the emotionally honest, remarkable performance of Shein Mompremier as the title character. Ludi Alcidor is a nurse, a Haitian immigrant chasing the American dream in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood who works hard but seems to work even harder battling coworkers, clients, and an impatient bus driver in this film where little moments often add up to the big ones.
Mompremier has already picked up two fest awards for her performance, Best Actress in the Vision Independent Feature Competition at RiverRun International Film Festival and a Special Jury Award for Lead Actor at Atlanta Film Festival, and the actress seems destined for great things.
Director and co-writer Edson Jean seems equally destined for great things and was also recognized with a Special Jury Award at Atlanta Film Fest as a Rising Director.
There's no doubt.
Ludi portrays the reality of an American dream that is often elusive. Those who come here often come from difficult circumstances, though often they find themselves in a different kind of difficult circumstance upon arrival. Ludi is a good nurse, a compassionate soul who wishes to help others yet who seems to find that compassionate nature at least a little exploited by others including her family back in Haiti. She works a nursing contract, yet she seeks additional hours in an effort to send money back home. When an unexpected opportunity arises, one that stretches the ethics of that contract, she is forced to decide whether she will continue to work beyond her limits for a life in which it seems to have no reward.
Jean incorporates a wonderful device in the film, a cassette tape that is sent back-and-forth between Haiti and Miami that keeps Ludi in the loop of her family business yet also seems to have remarkable influence on her actions. Jean utilizes voiceover in these scenes when a cassette arrives, an opportunity that allows us to feel more intimately Ludi's world and her heart.
We cannot help but fall completely in love with Ludi.
Ludi is beautifully photographed by Juan Camilo Barriga. Barriga creates an almost fairytale like quality with his lensing that captures the fluid nature of Miami's Haitian culture and the connectedness that makes it all work. Darnell Monestime's original score is equally impactful.
Truthfully, however, much of the reason that Ludi soars is the intuitive, full-bodied performance of Shein Mompremier. This is the kind of performance that had me looking Mompremier up on IMDB to discover past credits that include the CW's Black Lightning and Complex Network's Grown. While Ludi isn't necessarily the type of film that hits the multiplexes, Mompremier's performance deserves to turn her into a household name.
Having had its world premiere at SXSW, Ludi continues on its successful run this week here in Indy with its appearance at Heartland International Film Festival. It's a natural for Heartland where characters like the beloved Ludi are embraced and celebrated.
The film is screening both in-person and in Heartland's virtual screenings and definitely deserves your attention.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic