And the ttff/16 Winners are…
The ttff awards prizes in three categories: jury prizes, people’s choice awards and special awards. The awards ceremony took place on Tuesday 27 September at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port of Spain.
BEST FEATURE FILM–NARRATIVE
TT$12,500 / Sponsored by The National Gas Company
Antes Que Cante El Gallo (Before the Rooster Crows)-Arí Manuel Cruz, Puerto Rico-WINNER
El Acompañante (The Companion) – Pavel Giroud, Cuba
Esteban-Jonal Cosculluela, Cuba
Play the Devil-Maria Govan, Trinidad+Tobago, The Bahamas, the USA
The Cutlass-Darisha Beresford, Trinidad+Tobago
BEST FEATURE FILM–DOCUMENTARY
TT$12,500 / Sponsored by The National Gas Company
Se Bondye vie Yuli (God Willing Yuli)- Jean Jean,Haiti/Dominican Republic-WINNER
Make Mine Country-Ian Berry,St.Lucia
Diva:Enemy of the People-Tony Oldham, St.Lucia
BEST SHORT FILM–NARRATIVE
TT$7,500 / Sponsored by The National Gas Company
Carapazón/Shell-Joa Vidal, Cuba- WINNER
SO.C13.TY-Khris Burton, Martinique
Nightmare Before Wedding-Orain-Chomaud Fabienne, Guadeloupe
Lost Boy-Aisha Porter-Christie, Jamaica
Rico-Lynda D’Alexis, Guadeloupe
BEST SHORT FILM–DOCUMENTARY
TT$7,500 / Sponsored by The National Gas Company
Iceberg-Juliana Gómez, Cuba- WINNER
Blessed Love-Kra Kouassi, Guadeloupe
Welcoming Arms-Rosanne Ma, Bermuda
H20 -Clish Gittens, Barbados
BEST T+T FEATURE FILM
Trip to Regional Festival/Market
Sponsored by The Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (FilmTT)
The Cutlass – Darisha Beresford + Play The Devil – Maria Govan – JOINT WINNERS
Tomb – Nicholas Attin
Sanskara – Christopher Din Chong
BEST T+T SHORT FILM – NARRATIVE
Trip to Regional Festival/Market
Sponsored by the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company
Sweat-Josiah Persad- WINNER
Dream Seller-Shane Lee Kit
BEST T+T SHORT FILM – DOCUMENTARY
Trip to Regional Festival/Market
Sponsored by the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company
Who I say I Am- Amir Aether Valen Ali- WINNER
The Dying Swan: Ras Nijinsky in drag as Pavlova – Christopher Laird
How We Play with Fire – Desiree Sampson
Living Without You – Anna-Lisa Wickham
BEST FILM AS DECIDED BY A YOUTH JURY
TT$5,000 / Sponsored by COSTAATT
Play The Devil-Maria Govan, Trinidad+Tobago, The Bahamas, the USA-WINNER
Battledream Chronicles-Alain Bidard, Martinique
Antes Que Cante El Gallo (Before the Rooster Crows) – Arí Manuel Cruz, Puerto Rico
Ixcanul-Jayro Bustamente, Guatemala
Mustang-Deniz Gamze-Ergüven, France
Mountains May Depart -Zia Zhange, China
Presos (Imprisoned) -Esteban Ramirez, Costa Rica
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS PRIZE
Se Bondye vie Yuli (God Willing Yuli) Jean Jean, Haiti/Dominican Republic-WINNER
Antes que Cante el Callo (Before the Rooster Crows) Arí Manuel Cruz, Puerto Rico
El Acompañante (The Companion) Pavel Giroud, Cuba
UNITED NATIONS T+T AWARD FOR BEST EMERGING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER
Amir Aether Valen Ali-Who I Say I Am-WINNER
Desiree Sampson-How We Play With Fire
Jamie Lee Loy-Super Me
Dylan Quesnel-Small Change
Kyle Sahadeo-The Absentee
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS
TT$5,000 each / Sponsored by Flow
BEST FEATURE FILM – NARRATIVE: THE CUTLASS – Darisha Beresford
BEST FEATURE FILM–DOCUMENTARY: LANDFILL HARMONIC – Brad Allgood + Graham Townsley
BEST SHORT FILM: SWEAT-Josiah Persad
RBC FOCUS: FILMMAKERS’ IMMERSION PITCH WINNER
TT$20,000 / Sponsored by RBC Royal Bank
Juliette McCawley, Avalon
CARIBBEAN FILM MART BEST PROJECT AWARD JOINT WINNERS
6 month consultation from international film industry professional Sydney Levine of SydneysBuzz
Karen Martinez, Scattered + Sonja Dumas, Angels Living in Tunapuna
Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess invokes our inner warrior
by Aurora Herrera, ttff blogger
Roy T. Anderson is writer, director and producer of the award-winning film Akwantu: The Journey (2012), on the history of the Jamaican Maroons. In his day job, he leaps from tall buildings; Anderson is a veteran movie and television stuntman/stunt coordinator and second unit director. He has performed stunts for Hollywood stars like Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Morgan Freeman among others.
His second feature film ‘Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess’ documents the incredible resistance movement of the Maroons, led by the legendary, indomitable 18th century Chieftainess. Known in local legend for her spiritual healing abilities and winning guerilla warfare tactics, Queen Nanny has inspired generations of Jamaicans to rely on their deep inner strength.
The film is told through the use of staged historical flashbacks, as well as present day interviews with Jamaican Maroons and also people like Rita Marley and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller. The emotional journey of the story is mirrored by the physical journey of a group of people to Nanny Town, the location the warrior was said to have occupied.
“With that trek to Nanny Town I again wanted to walk in the steps on my ancestors,” Anderson said. “It was quite a journey. I have to give my producer credit because while I was in the cushy helicopter filming, Allison was on the ground leading men on the 13-hour trek to Nanny Town. The Maroons are window dressing for most anthropologists; an afterthought. So this was historic as this was the first expedition by Maroons back to Nanny Town. They were at the centre of this heading to their Holy Grail, to where the spirit of Nanny still inhabits.”
According to Anderson, Nanny is only written about three times in the history books.
“Shame on this historians,” he said. “Like the African proverb, now the lion is telling the story. When people ask me about Queen Nanny, I tell them it’s like Ned Turner but time one hundred and they sit up and listen.”
The film had its world premiere last year at the United Nations in New York. The UN information department has embraced the film as part of their educational outreach and made it available in over 20 African countries as well as Georgia and Australia.
Members of the audience were quite enthused by the film and asked how they could share the piece.
Anderson and his team have put together a discussion guide at nannythemovie.com for educators who want to lead structured discussions about Queen Nanny before or after the film.
“For me women are at the centre of our existence and I give thanks to the every day,” Anderson said. “I think there is a bit of Nanny in all of us.”
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise is your story too
by Aurora Herrera, ttff blogger
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise is my my Shonali Bose moment.
Since last year’s festival, I’ve had a new saying when I am very moved by something. I call it my Shonali Bose moment. For those of you who attended the ‘Margarita With A Straw’ screening at ttff/15 and heard the director, Shonali Bose, share her story, you will understand what I mean. The way she told the story is magical. I felt that if I hadn’t seen that film, my life would have been less in some way and I am deeply thankful that I shared in that luminous experience.
I feel the same way about this work on Dr. Angelou’s life.
Directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack have crafted a beautiful story.
Hercules is an Independent Filmmaker whose recent films Include ‘Joffrey: Mavericks Of American Dance’ And ‘Bill T. Jones: A Good Man’. Hercules’ acclaimed ‘Forgiving Dr. Mengele’ (2005) won The Special Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival and has been seen in film festivals around the world. Coburn Whack is also an Independent Filmmaker with Emmy-Award winning documentaries for curators of culture, Remembering 47th Street and African Roots American Soil. Under her direction Maya Angelou’s Radio Show for Oprah Radio won various awards.
As part of Dr. Angelou’s inner circle, Coburn Whack was able to show her intimate knowledge of the subject’s life with a respect and gentility that was endearing. Through the use of archival photographs and footage, the life of an exceptional woman is revealed. From her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas to her moves for work, love and identity to California, New York and Ghana, Hercules and Coburn Whack have traced a journey of inspiration.
“How do you go from being raped, being a prostitute, a madam, to this person?” Coburn Whack asked. “She read her poem ‘A Brave and Startling Truth’ at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations when she had stood outside its doors at 16 and pregnant, President Clinton asked her to read a poem at his inauguration. There were not a lot of people who could have had a relationship with both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King but she was able to work with both of them. I couldn’t tell all the stories but I didn’t want to clean it up and not tell all of those parts. I had to find the story she told with the most dignity.”
Here is a taste of the Q & A with Rita Coburn Whack:
Q: What choices did you make around chronology? How much of it was in consultation with her life with her family?
A: Early on we purchased her story rights so she did not have a say after she said she was ready to do [the documentary] but unfortunately she passed in 2014 before we were finished with the film and she never got to see any of it.
Prior to this documentary my work had been in television and radio for the past 30 years. In 2006 I was working for Oprah radio and Maya Angelou was one of my hosts. Oprah Winfrey’s generosity was “she is older, go to her house and take your equipment so she doesn’t have to come out and tape radio shows. Maya’s generosity was “you will stay with me, you don’t have to get a hotel,” so for three to four days a month, I would be at her home in Winston Salem or at Harlem or on the bus with her going to events and taking programs.
I asked her if she would do a documentary and she said, “I don’t need another thing”. I understood what she meant; she had done 36 books, seven autobiographical memoirs and she was near the end of her life. She asked “Do you know what you’re asking me?”
She would have to go back through all of that but [because of our history] we had a bond by then and she said, “If you’re gonna do it, do it all the way.”
Q: What inspired you to make this movie?
A: A lot of what I’m doing is because there are young people in the room and you need to know how things happen. A lot of times you’re being prepared for things all your life, you just don’t know it. So I was a little girl in a small town that was four blocks by nine, and if you wanted to go to the village library, the jail was on one side and library was on the other so you had to be a little toughie. There were probably two town drunks at any one time. I loved to read but I didn’t see any books by a black woman and then one day I see this book and on the back cover, there is a black woman with an afro. I got the book and I ran all the way home and I sat down and I began to read it. That was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 1969. I was 11. I read it and it talked about abuse. People didn’t talk about abuse back then and the book was banned in many places because of that.
So when I had that opportunity to work with her [I took it]. History had not been written from a black woman’s perspective but [I thought] I’m hearing history. I’m hearing the 1928 Jim Crowe South with the black and white signs. I’m hearing Saint Louis rough and tumble great migration and then you’re in a gold rush town of San Francisco and going with the state deportment abroad.
I look for the stories that are not told and for ways to tell them so people will know that all of us are more than what we think. Her story checked all the boxes for me.
Q: What sort of reception had the film had?
A: The film has won awards in Cape Town and Ireland. It is going all over the world. It’s been in 40 festivals. Some people have never heard of her before. Some have but they don’t know as much as they think they know. I came here at the same time I was asked to go to Nova Scotia. I thought it was important to reach as many varied crowds as possible; this is your story too.
lamb is solidly grounding and simply exquisite
by Aurora Herrera, ttff blogger
‘Lamb‘ is Yared Zeleke’s love song to his homeland Ethiopia and, like any true love song, it is simultaneously grand, spontaneous, gentle, quite, ineffable, solidly grounding and simply exquisite.
The protagonist Ephriam, is forced to leave his home as a child. Ephriam’s mother died from the drought and he travels with his father to meet relatives. His father leaves to find work in the city and promises to return when the rains come. This sudden loss of home and parents takes hold of him profoundly but he has one comfort, his lamb Chuni, the last link to his treasured past family life.
Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that the Europeans never colonized. Zeleke also had to leave this home as a child.
“I was born and raised in Ethiopia and I had a really happy childhood,” he said. “When I was 10, at the time Ethiopia was at war with Somalia, I had to leave behind my family and beloved home and move by myself to America and the little kid in me, his heart broke.”
Ephriam and Chuni are like two peas in a pod and their friendship eases the trauma of displacement and brings comfort when Tsion, a headstrong, education-thirsty young woman in the family refuses to speak to him and also when his uncle mocks him for cooking, which is traditionally a woman’s task.
However, when his uncle announces that he will be sacrificing Chuni on the upcoming holiday, Ephriam is agonized and agitated. He embarks on a plan to save Chuni and return home. He decides that he will sell samosas in the market and earn enough money to buy the bus fare back home. He suffers several setbacks, including a gang of bullies in the market and soon the day of the sacrifice approaches.
He manages to get someone to look after Chuni and he tells his uncle that the lamb was stolen. His uncle beats him but at least Chuni is safe. He eventually finds her a safer place with a young shepherdess and figures out how to deal with the bullies. He even becomes friend with Tsion. Eventually, Ephriam saves enough money and returns to the shepherdess to get Chuni. The lamb doesn’t want to leave with him. She has found a new home. The shepherdess tells him to let go.
‘Lamb’ is a coming of age story. It respectfully tells of the challenges of growing up as an outsider without parents and also in a multi-religious society; Jews, Christians and Muslims populate Ethiopia and Ephriam is part of the minority group of Felashas.
“In Ethiopian, Judo-Christian culture, in all these religions, lamb represents innocence,” Zeleke explained. “This story is about a boy becoming a man and what better creature to represent innocence than a lamb?”
Rediat Amare and Kidist Siyum who played the roles of Ephriam and Tsion were part of a casting process where Zeleke auditioned more than 6,500 people; more than half of them were children.
They are both from poor families and Kidist lost her parents at a young age. Now, thanks to the efforts of the team behind Lamb, Rediat is going to a private school in Ehtiopia where he is funded until graduation. Kidist was seen by a famous director in Switzerland and he cast her as the star in his new film.
Many other people in the film were from that village and had no experience with filming. Some of them had never seen a film before. It is probably this genuine naiveté that makes them so authentic and allows the audience to feel that they are inside of the film with these people. There was never even one hint of camera consciousness.
Ephriam is seen throughout the film in yellow galoshes and Zeleke commented that aside from being typical of a farming country, the colour is one which reflects his hope for the continent.
“We face a lot of difficulties and I myself am from a poor Ethiopian family but there is a lot of love and humanity and we need to see more of that from this part of the world….My vision and my dream is that we don’t have to throw away everything in who we are but we can also change some things. There is nothing wrong with a boy cooking or a girl wanting to delay marriage. That is why these kids represent my hope for Ethiopia and I think it is the future.”
Filming at 3,000 feet was no easy task however. According to Zeleke, the film took three months because of the need for preparation.
“If there are any film makers doing filming in the mountains I recommend a lot of preparation,” he said. “There was no electricity. We had a lot of preparation with the equipment and generators. If you shoot in a mountain location, you have to worry about fogs, elevation sickness, some of the Europeans got sick from that so you have to spend some time [to acclimate]. You have to really study the place.”
The boundless landscape stood as its own character in the film. Leaning almost towards pathetic fallacy, the emotions of Ephriam echoed off the beautifully stoic mountains. Zeleke inspires one to wonder what sort of imprint those mountains would leave on a soul. Surely, through Lamb, we can attempt to understand the imprint it left on his.
Lamb premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard 2015. It was the first time an Ethiopian film has ever screened as an Official Selection at Cannes.
Zeleke credit his grandmother for his storytelling abilities.
“I credit my grandmother because she is very famous for her storytelling,” he said. “It was ingrained in me from her ability and it is what made me who I am and I have a bit of her genes maybe. I was educated in New York University. I was actually the first Ethiopian in the programme but I credit her.”
Zeleke has also written, produced, directed and edited several short documentary and fiction films. He also worked with Joshua Atesh Litle on the award-winning documentary The Furious Force of Rhymes. Lamb is his first feature-length film.
ttff/16 future critics: At The Stardust Cafe
Amelia Thomas-Student, Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies
This was the first time I watched a film and felt like I had to be high to understand what was happening. I would like to think that with such a short film, the creator would at least get us to understand what it was about. I got lost somewhere between the white body suits and rainbow Mohawks.
It was only until the end of the film that I came to a conclusion about what the film was about or what I thought it was about. Within the bar scene, the two that seemed to be the main characters wore white body suits and had rainbow coloured Mohawks. The one thing I remember about the rainbow Mohawks is the colour. The LGBT community is represented by a rainbow. However, the pair in the body suits were not two females neither two males. Instead it was a male and a female, perhaps symbolizing a heterosexual norm? So I scratched that idea.
However, I noticed that the pair were the only ones dressed that way. They were being treated with great hospitality from the persons surrounding them. With this in mind, I came to the realisation that they were being treated like tourists. When it comes to the Caribbean dynamic of hospitality and customer service, tourists almost always have the upper hand on locals.
It got me thinking, “What are we leaving for locals if we only give tourists the courteous treatment?” It was refreshing to see that these people who were so different from the people they were around were being treated with such courtesy. It was also a bit disappointing because I didn’t see any other people at the bar being treated that way.
The scene was almost a display of the satellite and metropole relationship the Caribbean has with western territories. This sort of “beck and call” functionality that can make the people of the Caribbean think that everything foreign is better. This film was nothing like what I expected. I believe ‘At the Stardust Café’ was intended to appeal to an audience comprising of those who are very in touch with their “artsy” side. This film would not appeal to the average man as the concept of it is not one that would be easily understood.
Granted I had gotten the opportunity to talk with the director of the film, I would have had a better understanding as I would have heard it “straight from the horse’s mouth.’ I hope that whatever the creator tried to accomplish with this film, that they got it done. People usually dislike what they don’t understand, which is why this film was not an enjoyable one for me.
Would I have watched this on the big screen? Definitely not. It isn’t one I would recommend either. I honestly think this film was directed at a thin sliver of society, but was not suitable for the general audience.
ttff/16 future critics: the cutlass
Shiv Sawh-Student, Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies
To paraphrase the movie critic BC Pires, “great movies have the power to disturb which is not all together a bad thing”. ‘The Cutlass’ the feature film directed by Darisha Beresford will inflict several wounds upon any of its viewers, the scars of which are not rooted in fantasy, but reality.
The power of film is that it can be a mirror that shows our society’s reflection in its entire splendor but on the flipside it also reveals our horrors. This film is a harrowing tale based on a true story of a young woman who is abducted by a lone kidnapper and held against her will in the forests of Trinidad.
There are beautiful aerials shot of the various green tones of the Trinidadian rain forests that contrasts against the dark story that unfolds before our eyes. It is a huge credit to the film’s script writers that the antagonist, Al played brilliantly by the actor Arnold “Pinny” Goindhan is not at all one dimensional. Al reveals his complex background of sibling rivalry with his brother and also his past sexual frustrations when he had lost the interest of his first love, Kiki.
His captive, Joanna, played by Lisa Hirschmann, narrates certain scenes that give insights into the mind of a person who has to succumb to a man she abhors yet depends upon for her survival. The director revealed at the Q&A session after the screening that Hirschmann walked through the forest barefooted and many of the scars that are seen about her body in the film are real. This level of commitment from an actor is partly what makes it possible for an under-resourced film to shine as ‘The Cutlass’ has.
The film’s dialogue between Al and Joanna exposes clashes of classism and racism that exists in Trinidad and Tobago’s past and present day. There are scenes that will leave the viewer feeling truly unsettled; one in particular had the audience in attendance at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Film Building gripped in uneasy, skin-crawling silence.
At its heart ‘The Cutlass’ is a film about survival, courage and the strength to move on. It asks of its audience not to judge a book by its cover but to read deeply into its subtext. Three of the most popular films released in the last five years of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival dealt with real problems that face our nation. ‘God Loves the Fighter’ (2013) dealt with gang culture in east Port of Spain, ‘Trafficked’ (2015) looked into dark world of the drug trade. ‘The Cutlass’ joins this group with its terrifying insights into kidnapping, which leaves this critic with the notion that our films are showing us a reflection in the mirror that we must bravely confront. Looking away from it may just destroy us in the long run.
ttff/16 future critics: Diwali-The Gift of Dance
Janelle Collins-Student, Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies
‘Diwali – The Gift of Dance’ directed by Steve James of Guadeloupe explores the cultures of Trinidad and Tobago and Guadeloupe during the “Festival of Lights” celebrations which takes place in Guadeloupe.
This is a very interesting short documentary. It highlights a cultural stereotype that still exists today. How can a man of African descent master Indian Dance – Kata to be more precise? This is definitely an anomaly which smashes the stereotype associated with this East Indian traditional dance.
Kendell Charles is not just an Indian dancer…he is a trained professional dancer who got a scholarship to master the art of “Kata” internationally. This black African Trinidadian is the best there is in the world, his technique is second to none and when he moves you can feel his passion and devotion to his art.
I found myself intrigued by this magnificent Afro Trinidadian dancer who is the best at what he does, in a place where he is not of but at the same time commands effortlessly. He is soft spoken and open; he carries himself confidently and professionally – a demeanour that is humbling and refreshing all at once! I enjoyed listening to him share parts of his journey – how he got into this style of dance, the ups and down, challenges and successes, the effects of his race and skin colour on his training and pursuits.
During the documentary we got the opportunity to see Diwali celebrated outside of the shores of Trinidad and Tobago. The celebration were well attended, thousands came out and like Trinidad the people of Guadeloupe represent a melting pot of every creed and race actively participating in the national festival. It was a sharing and fusion of cultures as the rhythms of Tassa and Gwo Ka come together and fill the air with a feeling that can leave one in awe!
A well spent, exhilarating fifteen minutes!
ttff/16 future critics: sugars (jafta propella)
Wilfred Quamina-Student, Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies
Sugars is a poor girl who appears to be the bread winner of her family. She does housekeeping in what seems to be a guest house or institution. The director leaves us to guess at this. She has learnt from her mother’s experience and she is ambitious and diligent.
Sugars, despite the instant gratification that her name suggests, has learnt to defer present satisfaction for future benefit. On this day she arrives at her job and learns two things about a friend/colleague at work – one, that she was fired, and, two, she was secretly involved in a threesome with guests. The two revelations are not necessarily related. This morning too, she realizes that money she was saving for her registration at a school was taken by her mother who is a recovering addict, so she arrives at work disappointed and angry.
The plot is simple. To do or not to do.
Sugars perceives herself as a morally upstanding person but circumstances and opportunity have conspired to test her virtue. The film gradually builds up to her decision: Does necessity justify immorality? This film, though short passes the “Bechel” gender test. It has a number of female characters, some of who are named, and they speak to each other on topics other than a man. The film is also engaging and creates a sense of expectancy.
There is an overarching morality to this film. Even the musical theme, The German monk Martin Luther’s hymn Ein Fest Berg (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God).
The film is a study in human nature. ‘Human Nature 10I.’ It calls you to the jury seat. Would you consider Sugars weak if she falls, or strong if she stands? Milton in his epic poem “Paradise Lost” has God saying of Adam and Eve “I made them sufficient to have stood, but free to fall.”
Watch the film. Be the jury.
displacement and loss in sweet bottom
by Aurora Herrera, ttff blogger
Sweet Bottom is the story of Roy Ashby who left Barbados as a child and immigrated to Brooklyn and then grew up in New York City. After pleading guilty to a few minor crimes, the war veteran and accomplished chef, played by Sean Casely, is unceremoniously deported to Barbados as an adult. Knowing nothing about his family on the island, he feels that he has nowhere to go and no one to turn to. This sense of displacement fuels his desperation to get back to the Big Apple and it seems that he will do anything to accomplish that.
This narrative is the first feature-length film of the director, Gladstone Yearwood and the trinidad + tobago film festival is its world premiere.
“The film is about loss in Barbadian society,” Yearwood said. “I was looking at the displacement of the people of Emmerton to build a sewerage plant and also about the loss of Sweet Bottom. Sweet Bottom was a historical place and the name has also changed.”
Yearwood is known for his writings on black film aesthetics. He received a PhD and M.A. from Ohio University, Athens, and a B.F.A from New York University Institute of Film-Television. He is a Professor of Film and Creative Arts and Director of the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and was instrumental in establishing the UWI Film Programme.
Yearwood does a fair job of commenting on the prejudiced US system, marrying a fiction story with actual statistics and portraying the mindsets of lawmakers.
One of these lawmakers is Inspector Rock, played by Daniel M Best. The Inspector is essentially the bane of Asby’s existence as he tries to seek out new opportunities in work and love.
Inspector Rock accurately describes the general view of returning deportees, saying that the Unites States sees the Caribbean islands as their “refuse pile” where they can send their criminals and “dregs” of society when they don’t want to deal with such offenders.
While the lack of finances affected the production value of the film, Yearwood’s intimate knowledge of the story as well as his passion for telling it, engages the audience, encouraging them to look past the issues with continuity, audio and staging.
One audience member commented, “I must congratulate you. We all realize the difficulty deportees have in the Caribbean. When a child got pregnant, the parents sent them away and changed their name. The child is then deported back into the Caribbean with no roots because of the name change and this is the problem psychologically with a number of or children today. The Ministry of Education and this festival can try to help children in our schools today who have this problem.”
Early on, the film sets up the psychological strain that Asby is under. I felt that Yearwood did a fine job of establishing the character’s desperate state; the fact that he is displaced both internally and externally.
I was behind him when he managed to land a job at a restaurant, I felt proud when he did volunteer work and also found a good girlfriend. I saw that he was really trying to do the right thing. When Inspector Rock starts snooping around and effectively ruins these new prospects for Ashby, I felt very frustrated as well.
“Trauma is important but I think we need to look beneath the surface at what trauma does as opposed to graphically portraying and exploiting the violence,” Yearwood commented. “Displacement is interesting because in Barbados there was never a revolution…and there is a perception that it had a very smooth history but there is a lot of trauma and I wanted to explore the impact of that turmoil on those persons whose history has been broken by displacement.”
One very interesting facet of the film is the amount of help that it received from the Cuban film community. According to Yearwood, all of the heads of department were Cuban and they gave generously of their knowledge to the Barbadian students and filmmakers who worked with them on the film.
Also very encouraging is that the young people who worked on the film were part of an anti-poverty programme called the “Motion Picture Arts” impact programme where they trained in the art of filmmaking for six months before working on the project. The audience was told that several of these young people went on to work in commercials and other productions.
In terms of casting, Yearwood shared that most of the actors were not professional actors.
“I think the lead actor has never done film, he was a person who had lived in the US and came back,” he said. “Earl Maynard [the gang boss] played in several films in Hollywood and he was a Mr. universe and a body builder. We also cast through the Barbados association or retired persons and so on.”
The film does end on a bittersweet note, leaning more to the sweet rather than the bitter. There is a good life lesson in this work.
Yearwood acknowledges that there is still work to be done to raise the quality of Barbadian film and believes that the world will begin to see more content within 5-10 years.
“We have the film programme at UWI and the Barbados Film and Video Association,” he said. “Also, the film commissioner’s role is to look at ways of building film. There is a Barbados cultural authority that works to fund culture but we are desperately short of money these days. The legislation is there but it is taking a while to happen. We are hopeful.”
You can catch another screening of Sweet Bottom on the following date:
Tue 27 Sept, 8.30pm, MovieTowne Tobago
ttff/16 future critics: Shoot The Girl (Jafta Propella)
Ryan Nanton-Student, Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies
If you suffer from a weak heart or find yourself unable to cope with a tension laden movie, the Jamaican short film, ‘Shoot the Girl,’ is a production that you would probably want to stay away from – far away from. But for the avid filmgoer it would surely stoke your fancies and land itself a spot on your top ten list. From its first second all the way to its last, the 20 minute film takes you on a roller coaster ride, high up to cloud nine.
The momentum never stops as the main characters, a Rastafarian dad and his 10-year-old daughter, Likkle, and a gangster, appropriately called Satan, are involved in a real life hide-and-seek game, where the winner gets the glorious prize of staying alive.
From the onset you are given an all access pass to infamous Trenchtown, Jamaica. In a maze of galvanize fences and densely peopled shacks, Likkle is trained by her father for the inevitable; his death. She canvases the community in ninja style, scoping out secret and vulnerable places alike in hopes of eluding a gruesome demise. Her father is astounded by her adaptability to the game and her abilities. She would, however, be given a rude awakening as what she’d grown to love and know as a game would instantly become her reality.
Before you can blink or finish sneezing, her father is shot at point blank range by Satan, in full view of Likkle and Satan’s two accomplices. Ambiguity is widespread as one wonders what would have inspired such a horrid death to a man who appeared to be model father figure. Nevertheless, Likkle’s skills are tested and she storms through the narrow alleys and tunnels to make good her escape of the gangsters – but she fails.
A play on the word ‘shoot’ is integral to how the story unfolds – you can shoot someone with a gun or with a cell phone. Either way, depending on your aim, both “weapons” have the power to change a life. Everyone is ready to “shoot” Satan. But he remains relentless in his attempts to murder Likkle in like manner as her father. The community “cavalry” rides in, armed with their mobile phone cameras shooting footage of Satan during the entire incident; from Likkle’s sprint across the community, all the way to where she is cornered and where the barrel of Satan’s gun meets her eyes. Interestingly, she would have her cake and eat it too, as revenge and justice – two sides of the same coin – meet Satan at the heart of the community.
The resonating message of “it takes a whole village to raise a child” is conveyed as the community stands behind her. Satan keeps aim at Likkle, but she’s unfazed, seeming to know her fate. Satan has lost, but vows like the real Prince of Darkness of Biblical fame, to kill all who stood in his way. Nonetheless, the overwhelming spirit of love is hard to ignore which also causes viewers to melt into a pot of absurdity, slowly realizing that gangsters were outsmarted by a 10-year-old and her arsenal of cell phone cameras. So it’s Satan versus innocence, in a tussle of violence, blood and death. That should be enough to “trigger” a viewing! Just make sure your heart can take it.