Film festival dishes up Dal Puri Diaspora for We Beat festival
As a boy growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Richard Fung loved dhalpuri roti. As a filmmaker now living in Toronto, he decided to discover the origins of this justly celebrated dish.
Richard’s journey took him first from Canada to his native land. He then headed to the Bhojpur region of India, where the ancestors of the majority of people of Indian descent in T&T came from. Finally he made his way back to the snowy streets of Toronto, where a sizeable Caribbean community lives.
All the while Richard filmed his epic quest. The end result was the documentary Dal Puri Diaspora, an eye-opening and richly enjoyable 80-minute tribute to a unique culinary invention that has travelled the world.
Dal Puri Diaspora had its world premiere at the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) in 2012, and was rapturously received by audiences. Now the Festival presents it again, free of charge, on Saturday 7 June from 7pm at the St James Amphitheatre, as part of the annual We Beat festival.
The screening is sponsored by the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (TTFC) and presented in association with the St James Community Improvement/We Beat Committee. This is the fourth year that the ttff will present a film during the We Beat celebrations.
According to Melvina Hazard, ttff Director of Community Development, “This screening is a perfect mix of occasion, venue and subject, since We Beat celebrates our culture and St James has a longstanding tradition of street roti sales.”
As if to emphasise this point, one of the most popular roti sellers in St James is featured in Dal Puri Diaspora.
In an interview with Xfinity TV blog Richard recounted some of his discoveries in making the film. “What’s intriguing is that the West Indian roti is something that is intensely regional in India, only eaten at certain times and not commonly sold on the street,” he said.
“In Kolkata dhalpuris are more commonly available than in Bihar,” he continued. “Yet in the southern Caribbean it became the most widely eaten ‘Indian’ food, and in the Caribbean diaspora it has become the most commonly consumed dish. So not only has the dish changed, but its very identity.”
As a result, the documentary tracks dhalpuri’s remarkable passage across space and time, linking colonialism, migration and the globalisation of tastes.
Dal Puri Diaspora also features interviews with leading scholars and food writers, including Brinsley Samaroo and Patricia Mohammed of Trinidad and Tobago, and Pushpesh Pant and Radhika Mongia of India.
Admission to the St James Amphitheatre to see Dal Puri Diaspora is free. There will be refreshments on sale.
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Filmmaker in Focus: Teneille Newallo
Teneille Newallo is a writer, producer and actress from Trinidad and Tobago. Recently, she was selected as one of two local women filmmakers (the other was Juliette McCawley) to attend the Birds Eye View Film Festival in London, an international festival dedicated to women filmmakers, courtesy the British Council. Here Newallo talks briefly with ttff editorial director Jonathan Ali about her experience.
Jonathan Ali: How did you come to be selected to attend the Birds Eye View Film Festival?
Teneille Newallo: The trinidad+tobago film festival gave me a call and told me the British Council had contacted them and were looking for two female filmmaker delegates to send to Birds Eye View, to represent female filmmakers from Trinidad and Tobago. I was selected to be one of the two, to be fully funded by the British Council.
JA: Had you heard of Birds Eye View before?
TN: I actually had not. When I looked it up I realised that it was actually doing some fantastic things for women filmmakers. It appeared to have a good attendance, which proved be true when I went there. It was very well organised.
JA: Could you say something about the festival itself? The mission?
TN: The mission of the festival is to promote women filmmakers from around the world, since the majority of filmmakers internationally are men—over ninety per cent I believe. So it’s basically to encourage female filmmakers, so that they have their own voice as well in the filmmaking market.
JA: What did the festival comprise of?
TN: They showed international shorts, they had British shorts, they showed feature films, and they were all either produced, written or directed by women. The festival also gives women filmmakers a lot of opportunities to meet with one another and hear and share different stories from their filmmaking experiences, some of which would be unique compared to men. It gave us the opportunity to share our work with one another as well, and network with distributors, people that run different film festivals internationally, things like that.
JA: You went to Birds Eye View with a project you’re working on. Could you say something about the project, and what the response was like?
TN: I went with a feature fiction project called The Cutlass, which is based on the true story of a kidnapping of a Trinidadian woman in a Trinidadian forest by a sociopath. At the end of the entire festival is when we actually shared our films with one another, after we’d gotten to know one another very well. We all only had six minutes to share whatever we wanted. So I decided I would show the first six minutes of our film, and when my time was up, nobody wanted to stop it [laughs]. They wanted to keep watching to see what happens next. They were all very interested and we all decided to keep in touch to share our work and keep supporting one another.
JA: What did you find most eye-opening about the festival?
TN: That women are very talented filmmakers, and there are quite a few of us! More than I expected. Looking at some of the short films I was highly impressed. Obviously they selected the best of the best for the festival, but there was some terrific work that blew me away, and that was just among the British shorts. And just learning from women that have been in the industry for a while. We watched Bhaji on the Beach (1994) by Gurinder Chadha [director of Bend it like Beckham]. She was there, with the cast. It was lovely to see a pioneer woman filmmaker like her come so far and watch that film—even though it was made so long ago it’s still incredible. It had the audience in stiches.
JA: What happens now for you and your film?
Our main priority right now is raising the rest of the funds we need to shoot the feature, which we’re well on our way to doing. A lot of good things came out of this trip, but the best thing was meeting a distributor, Soda Pictures, possibly interested in our film and in distributing it throughout the UK. [Soda Pictures are the distributors of ttff/13 opening film Half of a Yellow Sun.]
TN: Finally, any advice for young women filmmakers out there?
I would first off say don’t even consider yourself a woman filmmaker, just consider yourself a filmmaker. Work hard. It’s not an easy industry to be in so you have to love what you’re doing. You have to do your research, you have to put your hard work into it. Nothing’s going to fall out of the sky for you. You might have to work a tad bit harder, being a woman, but don’t even put yourself in that mindset. Do the hard work and everything will fall into place.
Now available: European Film Festival brochure
The European Film Festival (EFF) of Trinidad and Tobago is now less than two weeks away. The EFF, which is presented in association with the trinidad+tobago film festival, runs from May 14–27 at MovieTowne, Port of Spain and May 21–27 at MovieTowne, Tobago.
Brochures for the EFF containing the list of films in this year’s programme, plus the screening dates, times and ratings, are now available free of charge at the locations below. This list will be updated as more locations are added.
MovieTowne Port of Spain
Nalis, Port of Spain (National Library)
Nalis, Chaguanas (Chaguanas Public Library, Centre Point Mall)
Nalis, San Fernando (Carnegie Free Library, Harris Promenade)
Veni Mangé restaurant, Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain
Alliance française, 17 Alcazar Street, St Clair
The French & Spanish Embassies, Tatil Building, Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain
The UK High Commission & German Embassy, 19 St Clair Avenue, St Clair
Office of the EU Delegation, Sagicor Financial Centre, Queen’s Park West 16, Port of Spain
The Reader’s Bookshop, 1 Middle Street, St James
Drink Lounge and Bistro, 63 Rosalino Street, Woodbrook
Paper Based Bookshop, Hotel Normandie, St Ann’s
Adam’s Bagels, Maraval Road
Trevor’s Edge bar, 1 St John’s Road, Saint Augustine
Martin’s Piano Bar, Woodford Street, Newtown
University of Trinidad and Tobago, NAPA campus, Port of Spain
Malabar Farms, Long Circular Road, Maraval
Medulla Art Gallery, 37 Fitt Street, Woodbrook
Tablespoon Coffee and Desert House, 79 Eastern Main Rd, St Augustine
The office of the Film Programme, University of the West Indies, Carmody Rd, St Augustine
The Spanish Department, University of the West Indies, St Augustine
The French Department, University of the West Indies, St Augustine
The Spanish Department, University of Trinidad and Tobago
Humzinger Juicebar and Kick-ass Kitchen, Maraval Road
Nigel R Khan Booksellers, Grand Bazaar and Trincity Mall
T&T Sailing Association, Chaguaramas
Scotiabank St James
Republic Bank, Long Circular Mall
Sagicor Financial Centre, Queen’s Park West 16, Port of Spain
Marriott Hotel, Port of Spain
Hyatt Hotel, Port of Spain
Kapok Hotel, Maraval