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Films in Focus: Cubes and A Story About Wendy 2

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My ttff14 experience began with laughter!

The local short film Cubes, directed by Ryan Lee, was ten minutes of hilarity. It focuses on a character named Sean who is having his first day of work at a new office. His co-workers seem normal but upon closer inspection, they all have some very memorable quirks…and that is putting it lightly. They include a food addict, an alcoholic and an idle, self-obsessed “hashtag” bacchanalist.

After he wraps his mind around the doubles-and-cheese-sticks combination and the coma-inducing White Oak rum-and-coffee mix, poor Sean has to deal with a jealous boss.

Sean is sweet on the office secretary, Candice. At first, she refuses to give him her number. After some entertaining lyrics, Sean gets Candice to agree to going out after work. His crazy-eyed boss sees this and dumps a load of work on Sean’s desk that he knows will make him have to stay late to finish. If that wasn’t enough, bossman publicly offers to buy Candice lunch, which she accepts.

At the end of it all, Sean can’t make the date because he has to work late but Candice sees his effort and gives him her number and a kiss on the cheek. In the midst of feeling like a shiny shilling, he realises there’s an issue with her last name. His joy is turned into vexation, which leaves the audience wondering, and wanting more.

During the Q&A period after, Lee—who made them film as a student at the UWI Film Programme—mentioned that film festival founder and director, Bruce Paddington, who lectures at the Film Programme, had recommended he make the short into a series. The audience agreed.

If my schedule allows, I am definitely going to see it again!

Cubes was followed by another local film: Sean Hodgkinson’s A Story about Wendy 2, which I really enjoyed.

The establishing shot of the dappled sunlight filtering through the Bamboo Cathedral in Chaguaramas panning down to Wendy running in slow motion in her wedding dress is simply exquisite. Kudos to Sean Hodgkinson and cinematographer Anthony Fung on that shot. That completely set the tone of the film and also raised my expectations. I can honestly and happily say that I was not disappointed.

What I liked most about the film—which chronicles the continuing adventures of Wendy Phillips, a young woman who’s been dumped by her fiancé—was that it was serious and hilarious at the same time. Hodgkinson’s writing, supported by a great cast, really brought a great experience to the audience. There was drama and comedy juxtaposed successfully, something I think is very difficult to do and something that many writers and directors do not achieve well.

The cast also did not disappoint. Heidi Walcott (Wendy) has a quite endearing girl-next-door quality that makes you invest in her troubles and triumphs. Catherine Emmanuel (Simone, Wendy’s boss at Quirky TV), reminded me of the evil queen from Snow White. Her character was sumptuously nefarious. Ayanna Cezanne (Wendy’s best friend, at least in her mind) has a dynamism that gives the film buoyancy. I am really proud to know that our country is producing screen actors of this quality.

Here’s a taste of what the Q&A between the director and the audience was like.

Two years went by between Wendy 1 and Wendy 2. Why the big gap in time?

We had some technical problems. We have a very tiny crew and things take longer and we didn’t have the budget to expedite the film. We had some sound problems. I just want to caution people, when you hire people be sure to check their résumés because people talk a lot and they can mess up your film. But we put it all together and we hope it turned out OK and we’ve learnt our lesson.

I know you had your world premiere at the Zanzibar Film Festival. Tell us about that.

Showing the film in Africa was really interesting. The reception was sort of similar, there were pockets of laughter and they were really engaged in the story and they were actually more upset when the film ended abruptly, more so because we had the opportunity to show part one and part two together and they got invested in the characters and then when it ended they were like “What the…?”

How did the language travel? Did you have to subtitle it?

No that was really weird, we didn’t have to. I think there may have been some words they didn’t understand but they got the gist of the story. I think that’s the most important thing. Visuals make the language of film, of cinema. Words aren’t really important and they get involved in the characters and the situations and they put two and two together.

(To Catherine Emmanuel) How did you get to such a position to play such a beautifully evil character?

Sadly, she’s not that hard to play. You should ask my brother and my boyfriend. When I say that she is easy to play I mean that she is so much fun to play, so much fun to put on because I am, I hope, not like that in real life so when I get to be evil I love it, but it was still challenging to just be in the moment when the camera is in front of you.

Is the writing mirrored after anyone locally?

I have no comment on that. I think everybody knows I used to work in the media so I pulled my experience from the media into these two films and the actors have taken the characters we created and ran with it.

What was the most difficult scene to film?

The opening scene. We had to wait for weather. We had to wait an additional six months because we shot in dry season and then we had to wait for the rains to come to get the bounty, the green. The first time we shot it, it turned out like shit. Then we went back and shot it and I think it turned out beautifully. I’m very happy with how the film turned out. Without Anthony Fung’s eye, our director of photography, our film wouldn’t look this good. The man knows what he is doing. But he is part of team Wendy so no one can steal him.

Do you plan to make a TV series out of Wendy as you mentioned a few years ago?

Writing is a lot of work. If I get paid to write, I’ll do it. The television stations are not going to pay for local content. Why pay, how much did Wendy cost, $150,000 or $200,000? Why pay money for that? Who’s going to pay money for that when you could license a foreign programme for US$100? It doesn’t make sense. So how do we get productions out there where we get paid a salary so we can live, where we don’t have to work in a store and then be an actor on the side? How is that possible? What can we do?

At this point ttff Editorial Director Jonathan Ali, who moderated the Q&A, chimed in.

“Everyone here needs to write, call, e-mail, text, tweet the local stations and tell them that this is what you want and this is how we get it done.”

Hodgkinson then asked the audience if they enjoyed the film and would recommend it, and a resounding yes filled the theatre.

You can catch another showing of A Story About Wendy 2 on Wednesday 24 September, 3.30pm, at the Little Carib Theatre.
You can catch
Cubes again on Wednesday 24 September, 3.30pm, at the Little Carib Theatre
, and on Saturday 27 September, 6.30pm at UWI.

Date: Thu 18 Sep, 2014
Category: ttff news and features

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