Celebrating Ourselves in Film

The mangrove did not die in vain, if now we can go and see ourselves on the screen at Movie Towne.
The streets of Woodbrook do not flood in vain now that Derek Chin in his benevolent wisdom has saved us from the wasteland that was there before.
The great thing about having a Film Festival in a place like Trinidad is that it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our lives.
It’s money well spent if we get a moment to reflect on who we are and why we’re here and take time too, to look at other people’s lives, other people’s stories.
What we give up for the good of all.  What we sacrifice in the name of development and advancement.
For so many reasons it’s important to have a Film Festival.  In this land where philistinism runs rampant like unregulated quarries ripping away at our hills, we need a film festival like America needs to not vote for Mc Cain.
Because it’s not just about the entertainment, or the beautiful people or the celebration of such a powerful form of human expression.
It is also a chance to see ourselves, to challenge ourselves.  To honour the murdered mangrove by going to Movie Towne and seeing ourselves staring back at us.
Films about transvestite prostitutes eking out an existence in Curepe and the fate of stray dogs, and Bob Marley and a Venezuelan epic poem where they extempo in a parang style, and the defiant beauty of Haitians and Jamaicans and stickfighters and street children and countless other wondrous scenes that would never be seen by those who frequent this mangrove graveyard or those who aspire to but can’t afford to give half day’s salary to watch a movie.
The Film Festival is potentially our gayelle. Our warring ring where we confront our best and worst attributes.  Where we shout at each other and sing our war songs and weep for all that we are and all that we have forgotten to be.
In the same way that I like going to the Studio Film Club in Laventille because every now and then the nice people who come there for an evening of uplifting film art get a reminding whiff on the wind of the La Basse so if even for a moment they share something of the lives of the people who live in that area and know and understand that even out of the stink you can experience great beauty, if you want to.
There is a feeling perpetuated by the capitalists, the status quo ‘ho’s, the politicians who maximize their power by making small people feel smaller.  The feeling is that people who speak out for the environment are somehow anti-development.  That because I like trees I want to turn the world back to some kind of medieval time when people died from diseases that could be treated.
There is an assumption too, by people like me that people should know better. I naively expect that everyone knows the purpose of mangrove, and even if they don’t they have enough humility to not be dismissive about it.  That people like Derek Chin can’t really believe that the mangrove that stood there before Movie Towne was a wasteland.
There is an assumption by people like me that everyone should feel some kind of emotional attachment to this land.  That they too weep for nineteen year olds found in ditches.  That they too worry about the bleak future we are creating for our children.
But as I get older and hopefully wiser I’m having to accept that some people really don’t care, some people are really dirty capitalists at heart and would destroy anything in their path if it  made them a fast buck.
But surely people like that must know that everything has a price.  And the price we pay everyday for advancement that does not connect all the dots, is a disjointed, distracted society of those who belong and those who are trying to belong.
If nothing else, the government recognizes the need to diversify the economy and has made film one of the ways to achieve this.  But it shouldn’t just be about film as business. What about art for art’s sake?  What about correcting history’s lies and omissions? What about remembrance and reparation? What about beauty because it is beautiful?
Money can’t be the only thing that motivates our capacity to create.  Money shouldn’t be the only thing that motivates our interest in improvement and advancement.
The mangrove did not die in vain if we get a chance to live ourselves bigger and better in a Film Festival. If by just seeing ourselves on those big screens we dare to think that we are more than what is expected of us.
The Film Festival is more than just entertainment, it is our chance  to save that place from being the cultural wasteland of our capital.

Check out details of the Festival here

A tale to make you weep

We got to build a better nation
Clean up Jah creation
Or there will be no future for you and me

Fools Die, Peter Tosh

What good is a community without stories? What value is a society without storytellers? I mean beyond crick crack. Beyond the loss of douens to electric lights and Anansi replaced by the World Wide Web.

The carrier of the stories is the carrier of the wisdom and a sensibility that you can’t and never will get from the Red House.

The carrier of the stories is both the revolutionary and the peacemaker. Who shows the community its beauty and its dirt and its light.

A storyteller is a shape-shifter who uses every tool, every image, every sense to draw you in, capture your imagination.

So where the hell are our stories? Who is fictionalising our lives? Who is fashioning our superheroes?

All these questions plagued me before, during and after I went to see A Winter’s Tale, which everyone should see really.

Because in the absence of our own storytellers our children grow up in awe of someone else’s mythology.

Imagine in all my 30 years on this island, this is the first time I was sitting in Globe cinema to watch a local film.

And it might be set in Canada but I have to take ownership of those emotionally scarred men and the women shouldering too much weight of dying boy children.

And we have too many frustrated artists walking around this town to not understand that the loudness of our self-doubt has a startling ability to drown out our desire to speak our truths.

Aside from the embarrassment, aside from the frustration, I am so glad that A Winter’s Tale is being shown here and now.

And I’m glad too that they chose the Globe, in the heart of my beautiful stinking city, to show it, as opposed to going to that place in the murdered mangrove.

It’s not a pleasant film. It’s not a kicks t’ing. It’s not the loud, effects-filled, slap-stick foolishness that usually numbs our brains.

And this is not a review but a Winter’s Tale is bloody brilliant. Especially because you’re not going to leave the theatre feeling all warm and fuzzy.

And especially because you will weep for a fictional dead child in ways that you do not weep when you watch the news.

Frances Anne has all the marks of a good storyteller in that you will feel more sorrow for a place and time and people fashioned out of living truths.

Because everybody knows our men are in crisis. Everybody knows but who wants to take responsibility for finding or creating solutions?

The audience titters uncomfortably at inappropriate times. They steups at the gangsta boy who falls apart when the little boy dies.

They are scandalised at two beautifully naked bodies embracing in grief. They have a problem with the cuss words as if the F word is more obscene than a generation of boys who will never know what it is to be men outside of owning a gun.

We should feel more scandalised by the fact that we have a nation of children growing up absorbing somebody else’s mythology. Who do not know that they too can be superheroes, let alone be on a big screen, playing themselves with a depth and truth that is just plain shattering.

The procrastinating writer in me winces because there are so many other stories like this that need to be told.

And I hear a lot of talk these days about developing a film industry. And it’s important, yes, to industrialise the way we operate our creative potential. Beyond oil or gas or goddamned smelters, our creativity is our real nation-building potential.

But we also have to be able to see the value of the stories that we have to tell and train our storytellers wisely so that the films we make don’t end up looking like the Port-of-Spain waterfront. Tall and empty and bright imitations that are irrelevant to the landscape.

A Winter’s Tale is now showing at Globe, Cinemas 8, MovieTowne, Hobosco until Tuesday