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.

Best you cover your head

All ah we got we own set ah little drama
Some drink ah rum, some seek a saviour
Some run down fun, some never quench thirst for power
And some seek love in the most desperate hour
Stand firm and don’t let self-doubt devour
Yuh got to be the dread at your controls in this iwah
Cah sit and hope for a break in the rain or is we tuh ketch again

—Rain, Kin Sound System

The rain falls. Doing her thing. Getting on with the business  of being in season. The sky is almost as deep grey these mornings as it is deep blue in a cloudless dawn. You smile into your pillow because the sweetness of sleep with a rain lullaby is like no other. Rain on the galvanize that you miss when you are in far-away places that do not know the joys of this kind of percussion. It is a soundtrack that slows your racing thoughts, silences the voices of unhad conversations, unachieved goals, unresolved disagreements. The rain gives dreams a gentle soundtrack. Somewhere else someone is not so happy that it is raining. So you give thanks for rain on the outside of the galvanize and not inside, dripping slow and steady onto your bed, onto your sleeping child, onto your damp clothes.

Rain is not joyous for everyone on these islands. Rain is headache. Rain is flood. Rain could mean successful crops or failed crops. Rain is hours of waiting for public transport that takes its sweet time to come. But in this dawn moment you smile into the cool side of your pillow and arch your feet into the warm corners of your blanket.  Enjoy the benevolent sound before you have to wake up and face the reality of this music and all the good and bad things the rain brings. Rain to wash your dishevelled soul. Rain to mingle with your tears. Rain to bring zaboca. And rain to bring cool evenings. The rain brings flies. Of all descriptions. Fat flies that dance their diseased dance on your mangoes. And mosquitoes that sing off-key for spite in your ears. And rain flies to dance to their deaths in your fever grass tea.

Rain brings mixed emotions and the delightful confusion of love you feel for a place that is a most sometime-ish lover. The rain washes away Sasha’s sins. And you who have not sinned are righteously indignant. Not understanding that in this time of any number could play, of mysteries and signs and amazing wonders, Sasha’s sins can be washed as easily as Uncle Jack’s. The rain doesn’t judge the crimes of those she falls on. The rain doh business with who is washed away or who is left standing.
The rain brings a reshuffled Cabinet. And tears of happiness and sadness for Aunty Verna. Wishing that this is an opportunity for children to get the protection they need. Fearing it is an opportunity for politicians to destroy the dreams of another community worker trying to do good for the people.

But Shango sends lightning bolts of warning and Osun washes Aunty Verna in her tears. SEA results come with the rain. And the rain mingles with tears. For children who are taught from young that the only way to succeed is to work hard and work long so that you can go and work for someone else and realise their dreams. For children who are good at passing exams but not necessarily at thinking for themselves. For children who get relegated to the schools where they are taught to believe they are stupid. For parents who are not sure if they can find the money to put their children through school because they fear for what will become of their children at the hands of schools that breed the brightest idlers whose skills that may not come in a book become the skills that lead them to the dark side of the force.

The rain falls and we run for shelter in MovieTowne. While up the road Woodbrook floods. Because who cares about the mangrove when there’s such a desperate need to be entertained out of the mind-numbing boringness of our island lives. And when you’re finished watching the movie you can have your own high-speed chase and your own near-death moment of stardom. We’re all ready for lights, camera, action on the most popular reality show every night that is called the news, although it really should be called the Haven’t we seen and heard this all before? And if you want to live in a crime-free place, I mean you could just move to Switzerland. But the rain doesn’t fall on galvanized roofs in Switzerland.

The rain falls like our tears for Norris Deonarine. Whose departure is still too much to consider. Whose departure remains unmarked by a so-called caring government. The rain falls and the prices of fruits and vegetables begin the high and low dance. And talk of food crisis and climate crisis and land crisis from other parts of the world are lost in the din of rain. The rain falls. Doing her thing. Oblivious to her impact on us. Or our impact on her. Thunder is rolling in the distance. Thunders is rolling like a literary device and you try to decide whether you will wake up and face the rain and whatever good and bad it brings.  Or stay here a little longer enjoying the sound of it. The way those dreams may never become real and the possibilities of all the beauty and the horror that is just outside waiting to consume you with equal intensity.

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