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Michèle Bennett was born in Port-au-Prince in 1950, the daughter of Ernest Bennett, a Haitian businessman. She was educated at St. Mary's School in Peekskill, New York and worked as a secretary in the garment district in New York City. She married Alix Pasquet, the son of Captain Alix Pasquet, a well-known mulatto officer who in 1958 led the Dade County Deputy Sheriffs' Invasion against Papa Doc Duvalier. By Pasquet she had two children, Alix Jr. and Sacha.
She married Baby Doc Duvalier in 1980. Their wedding, Haiti's social event of the decade, cost an unprecedented $3 million. Fireworks for the ceremony alone cost $100,000. Madame Duvalier at first endeared herself to the population by distributing clothes and food to the needy and opening several medical clinics, but she soon became famous for her cruelty, rapacity, and enthusiastic shopping. The Duvaliers had two children, Francois Nicolas and Anya. Read Full Bio >>
Duvalier's marriage resulted in the exile of Baby Doc’s mother, Simone Duvalier, and created new factional alliances within the ruling group. The million dollar wedding would be remembered as the young dictator's symbolic alliance with the mulatto elite — the very families Jean-Claude's father had decimated. Papa Doc's widow had been opposed to the match, and in this she was joined by almost all of the "dinosaurs," the Duvalierist Old Guard. Haitians feared the new First Lady because her power appeared to exceed her husband's. While Jean-Claude often dozed through Cabinet meetings, his wife, frustrated at his political ineptitude, reprimanded ministers herself.
After the marriage Michèle's father, Ernest Bennett, took advantage of his presidential connection to extend his interests into almost every sector of the economy, from his BMW dealership, to his coffee and cocoa export concerns, to the tiny but surprisingly lucrative Air Haiti, in whose planes Bennett was rumored to be transporting drugs. In 1982, Frantz Bennett, Michèle's brother, was arrested in Puerto Rico for drug trafficking, and began a three-year jail term.
Madame Duvalier’s family amassed wealth at an unprecedented rate during the later part of Jean Claude's dictatorship. By the end of his fifteen-year rule, Baby Doc and his wife had become famous for their vulgarity and corruption. The National Palace became the scene of opulent costume parties, where the young President once appeared dressed as a Turkish sultan to dole out ten-thousand dollar jewels as door prizes, while the homeless were encouraged to watch the festivities on televisions that had been set up in the parks where they slept.
The simultaneous deterioration in the already dismal quality of life of most Haitians prompted Pope John Paul II to declare in a speech in Haiti in 1983 that "things must change here." Popular uprising against the regime began soon after that. Baby Doc responded with a 10 percent cut in staple food prices, the closing of independent radio stations, a cabinet reshuffle, and a crackdown by police and army units, but these moves failed to dampen the momentum of the popular uprising. Jean-Claude's wife and advisers urged him to put down the rebellion to remain in office but on February 7, 1986 Baby Doc and his wife left the country in an American plane accompanied by 19 other people.
The governments of Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Gabon, and Morocco all refused the Duvalier family's requests for asylum. France agreed to give the Duvaliers temporary entry but also denied them asylum. Both Jean-Claude and Michelle Duvalier still live in France, however. As part of an investigation into looting allegations, authorities raided the villa Baby Doc and his wife rented in Mougins shortly after they arrived in Europe. The authorities found Madame Duvalier trying to flush a notebook down the toilet. It logged astronomical spending -- $168,780 for clothes at Givenchy, $270,200 for jewelry at Boucheron, $9,752 for two children's horse saddles at Hermes, $68,500 for a clock, $13,000 for a week in a Paris hotel.
In 1990 the former first lady was divorced from Baby Doc. The former dictator filed for divorce in the Dominican Republic, accusing his wife of immoral acts. Madame Duvalier contested the decision, flying to the Dominican Republic to obtain a reversal before her husband prevailed in a third court. Madame Duvalier was at the time living with another man in Cannes; she was awarded alimony and child support.
She lives in France, where she now uses her maiden name. << Less Bio
|2005||IF Awards||The Magician (2005/I).||Nominated|
|2000||Australian Film Institute||Best Film||Chopper (2000).||Nominated|