Two nights ago, after seeing Miquel Galofré’s film Art Connect at its world premiere at ttff/14, the education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh pledged his support to extend the programme to schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
The film, based on a project initiated by artist Wendell Mc Shine, vividly illustrates how creative intervention changed the lives of a group of young people in Laventille, a disenfranchised and volatile community in T&T. The film documents the profound impact that painting, poetry, music and dance had on the children, who were given digital cameras to record their experiences.
By supporting the extension of this programme to schools throughout the country, other young people will gain the chance to express themselves in ways that they never have before.
The cast of Art Connect was there along with their loved ones, teachers and supporters and many of them spoke, thanking the film team for their experience. Their presence provoked quite a passionate response from the audience; spectators also pledged their financial support to the programme and one teacher publicly expressed that she wanted to learn how to implement the programme in her own school.
Here are some of the comments from the film team and the cast during the Q&A session:
Miquel Galofré: I have so much to say that I cannot say anything at all. This is their [the kids’ ] film; they are amazing. Thank you.
Charlotte Elias, producer: Miquel and I met four years ago and we were determined to do something together. It was and is a relationship based on trust. I think all of you can see the vision that he had for this film from the beginning and the love he put into it. One of the things that we looked at with the film is that we all believe in the intervention and transformative power of creativity. That’s what the film really celebrates; the profound effect that that can have. The key thing is that there re real artists who wake up in the morning to do this type of work. They themselves have come through a similar journey and Muammed [Muwakil] beautifully represents and epitomizes what that can be and is well-loved by everybody here this evening.
Muhammed Muwakil, musician: How many times are we going to have this same conversation before we realise that everybody does not learn the same? How many times are we going to have to say the same things over and over? Every day that we live and breathe we are losing children and it’s because we are trying to teach fish to climb trees. When we came in [the kids] were very open and they worked very hard at things that they thought they couldn’t have done but they did it.
This was supposed to be a pilot project to show what can be done. This can change lives. It didn’t take a thousand years and it didn’t take a billion dollars, it just took a little attention. Things like this can work, there are so many artists willing to give for things like this. That said, we were well paid to do this. The people who did this wanted to make sure that this was a sustainable thing. I would do it for free and they know that, they gave me an opportunity to give of myself in a way that was sustainable. You want to talk about sustainable development? This is sustainable.
Isis Gairy, one of the film’s subjects: Without everyone cooperating this would not have been finished, everybody worked as a team. Even though we had different circumstances and different brick walls, we broke that down and made sure that we did what we wanted to do
Ateion Jones, another of the film’s subjects: I would like to say thank you to the Art Connect project, especially Charlotte, you’ve made my life grow, and I’m doing things right now that actually have decided my life. Thank you everyone for this experience; parents, producers, people who helped, thank you very much.
Salif Calif, another of the film’s subjects: I would like to say that it was a pleasure working with all of my past schoolmates from Success [Laventille Secondary School], and I met some amazing people—Mud [Muhammad Muwakil], Miquel and aunty Charlotte. I just love all of these people and I hope that we can continue the programme in other school and areas and that we can show that the youth are not just about drugs and guns, that they are positive and that we san do a lot of things if we get the natural push. Thank you for coming to see the movie and enjoying it.
Miss McDowell, teacher at Success Laventille Secondary School: This [film] is so deeply personal. It was a really long journey and the film was the culmination of that and my students opened themselves up to me. Through the experience they were really broken open, they exposed themselves and quite frankly at the end of it, they were rewired. They now have a renewed sense and sensibility and I am so proud of them. I thank Art Connect for that.
Audiences can catch Art Connect again at the ttff/14 on the following dates:
Saturday 20 September, 10.30am, MovieTowne POS
Wednesday 24 September, 8.00pm, MovieTowne Tobago
Saturday 27 September, 5.30pm, MovieTowne Tobago
Tuesday 30 September, 10.30am, MovieTowne POS