SELWYN JACOB, then ten or 11, sat in the theatre and saw what he did not want to see on the screen. It is knowing what he did not want to see, which led him to changing the narratives of immigrants and black-Canadians.
The Trinidadian- born, award-winning Canadian documentary film-maker’s work with Mina Shum on The Ninth Floor has changed how the world viewed the six Caribbean students who mounted a protest against institutional racism at the Sir George Williams University, Canada, in the late 1960s.
Jacob produced the film and reframed the perspective surrounding the events which led to Caribbean students, Trinidadians among them, being deported from Canada and damage to the university’s computer centre.
But if Jacob’s story is known, one would know that he has always sought to change perceptions.
In telling Newsday how he got into film-making, Jacob said: “I think it must have been when I was about ten or 11. I remember going to a movie theatre in Trinidad and I saw the movies of the day. As a matter of fact, they gave charitable showings like Joan of Arc and the teachers would take the entire school out. On Saturdays there were matinees and some of the schools would go. I must have seen one of the pictures and I looked at the movie and I looked at how the Africans were depicted in those movies. They looked to me as though they were silly. They came across as a caricature…I kept thinking if I were making a movie and setting it in Trinidad and they [would] see people the way that I would [see them], not behaving like buffoons.