The Globe is golden

Dem nuh nice like we
Dem nuh sweet like we
Nice arready
Mi seh wi nice arready
Trash an Ready, Super Cat

There’s a scene in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when the battle for Helms Deep is on and Legolas the Elf gets on a shield and surfs down some stairs to go and save his pardner Gimli the dwarf. I was in a cinema in London watching this with a Trini friend. And our immediate gut response was to bawl out ‘Ooooh goooooud.’
The viewers in the audience didn’t share our enthusiasm and turned around in the dim light to give us withering looks of English disapproval. You see, the Pit in us came out. But I mean to say, why else would Peter Jackson put a scene like that in the film, if not to get viewers to tankalanks at the screen?
Later, after the film was finished, we wistfully imagined what it would have been like to watch it in Trinidad. In a cinema like Globe. So when I got the news that Globe is up for sale, part of me mourned for the part of my heart that will always be a Globe fan. It’s funny how cinema culture although we’ve had such a long history of interaction with this, that it’s only recently that our own film-makers have begun to dare to put us inside the big screen.
But I wonder if that is because the way we watch films puts us in the action. We react as if we ourselves are in the scene. Active observers. It is the call-and-response nature of who we are.
The characters speak to us. And if they don’t we register our disgust. Curse them with the same emotion as we would curse our own neighbours and children and lovers. The film, instead of just being some lifeless imported thing that comes to us for our passive enjoyment, becomes a larger-than-life representation of our own fantasies, disappointments, longings.
Part of the willing suspension of disbelief for us is that we have to be ourselves in the moment. It’s a chance for some us, too, to un-star the star. For the block joker to have a moment of popularity shouting ridiculous things at the screen for the entertainment of the entire theatre. For the badjohn to declare he could shoot gun better than that. The village Ram to give a professional analysis of the star boy’s sexual prowess.
Give me Globe any day over that other place where the mangrove used to be. Look, it’s part of who I am. I can’t stand a quiet cinema. I want to hear people commenting on the film. I want to get a sense of involvement in the moment. I want to buss a loud steups. I want to shout out ‘tata’ or other profane protestations at the end of the film. Even if the people in Hollywood can’t hear me, I want to register my joy or disgust. Some films are extra enjoyable if you go and see them in Globe.
So they want to sell the place. I don’t have two cents to rub together or else I would have bought it myself. To have Amitabh Bachchan nights and Bruce Lee nights. In my anti-capitalist naivete, I can stand on the sidelines and say it’s a crying shame without having any clue whatsoever about the costs involved in keeping such a building and business going.
It’s another piece of our history that may disappear from our landscape because we lack the interest in preserving things of value. If a cinema is a thing of value. And the name Gokool Meah will slip into the great void of memory that is called Trinidad’s past. I guess it’s easy to get caught up in the whole bring-back-the-old-time-days argument. But it’s more than that.
What if, for another generation of Trinibagonians, the Globe could be a place where young film-makers can see their work come to life on the big screen? And the film reviews would come from Pit. True and visceral and immediate. The film-maker calls and we respond. And the film-maker knows if to keep singing or change her tune.
Back in the days of westerns, steelbands named themselves after their on-screen heroes. Imagine if future steelbands or steelband apps or whatever were named for characters in films made in T&T. Where the willing suspension of disbelief would cease to say that we were not deserving of being inside the big screen. We could be inside and outside too. Shouting our own selves on. Believing in our own magic.
A saga boy starboy, a soucouyant romance trilogy, a tale of forbidden love where star-crossed lovers run and giggle through the verdant Caroni plains. I would pay good money to go and see that and make plenty noise for heroes and sheroes who look, sound, act and feel like me.

First published in Trinidad Guardian March 23, 2013

No one who can fly, No one who transforms

Just dragonflies

Flying to the side

No one gets hurt

You’re doing nothing wrong

Slide your hand

Jump off the end

The water’s clear and innocent

The water’s clear and innocent

Codex, Radiohead

They scream for Optimus Prime in Globe. In a way that I have never heard screaming before for a superhero. As if he being a machine means they can feel unbridled love for him. He has no human flaws. He is not prone to moments of doubt like the rest of us. There is a cautionary tale hidden away in this Transformers 3, past the pyromaniac porn and the distracting beauty of that pointless heroine who miraculously manages to make it through the entire film with flawless make-up and unbroken heels.
Can you transform yourself? Or are you stuck in a cinema wishing that you could? Oh the noise is deafening in Globe. The joy of people who are easily entertained. And while I am a non-believer and take a dim view to this kind of cinematic lack of script and weak soundtrack, even I find myself making tanka-lanks at the screen. For Optimus Prime. For Bumblebee. The humans are unnecessary. The machines are the real stars. In that willing suspension of disbelief there is something to save us from ourselves. From all the self-fulfilling prophesies of being young and black in Trini-dad. We love those moments of transformation. We love his sleek big truck and trailer. Bumblebee is the real scenes, all black and yellow and sexy one minute and big and powerful and menacing the next.

Meanwhile in Chaguaramas, Trinis can’t seem to fly. Their crafts fail, fall into the sea, cannot soar above the bay for more than 30 feet. Sinking like the body of Nicho-las Simmons into Yemoja’s deep blue embrace. We cannot transform it seems, from our wining selves into beings who can fly. We spend a lot of time on the performance but not on the actual mechanics of flight. This is no Mr Uncle Minsh studying the physics of the Bat man to make Callaloo dance tic tac toe down the river. Oh no, this is shiny mas with feathers that do not, cannot fly. We. Us here in these islands seem to have one way of being. Even the Carnival is no longer a point of transformation for us anymore. So now we need new superheroes to do it for us. To do the transformations so that we can sit back and watch. You have to be brave to transform yourself. You have to know yourself to be able to transform yourself. Flying is for others. We will never learn to fly here. And in Globe men scream for Bumblebee transforming himself, to save America, land we love. The air is electric with the stench of their own inability to transform. Into Trinis who can fly. Who can rise above class and race para-digms. But this has been bred out of us. We are machines of parties. We, like Optimus Prime , believe in a race of beings that will not save us.

I wonder why Optimus Prime chose to fight for the humans? In a way Sentinel Prime is right. Humans are an ignorant stupid race. We are naturally predisposed to notions of colonisation, enslavement, oppression of races of people based on who has the per- ceived powe. So we can do it to each other but it’s not acceptable when it’s someone from another planet. Like it’s okay for PNM to disenfranchise African people but the People’s Partnership is somehow far less justified, because they’re mostly Indians. In this non-movie realm, only politicians have the power to transform. From being for the people to doing their best work against them. From working for the greater good to ensuring the security of the wealthy few. The rest of us hiss and boo from the audience, screaming our anguish at the screen. But they   can’t hear us and we can’t get to them. Balcony vibrates and I am for a minute concerned that if something happens I will be trapped up here. There is no emergency evacuation plan. No one to save me from drowning in a sea of bodies. But I chose this. You can’t play mas and fraid powder.

Enjoy it. This feeling of insecurity. Like a whole-day fete in the traffic. To see people who do not, cannot fly.
The good side always wins in the end. In the movies anyway. I wonder who the good side is on this side of the silver screen. Good people are dying. Good people are stuck in traffic jams for hours. Good people get their homes flooded. Good people are robbed and raped and killed everyday. Good people’s children drown. Sentinel Prime is the badjohn police profiling your son. Sentinel Prime is the Ministry of National Security always coming up with some next scheme to save this country from crime. Sentinel Prime is a show called Crime Watch wallowing in the tragedies of families to make one man feel like a hero. Sentinel Prime is a state-run organisation charging you for a security service when the police don’t have enough resources. No one transforms for the greater good. No one transforms to save this place. All we have is Decepticons for leaders. And people who do not, cannot fly.