THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY
THE 12TH TRINIDAD and Tobago Film Festival, which started on Tuesday night, rages on, just like Trinidad’s other great entertainment, murder, which started either two decades or two centuries ago, depending on how you count it.
Even with four MovieTowne cinema screens in the picture (and additional showings at the University of the West Indies), it’s hard to predict whether there’ll be more films than killings on any given day of this festival of murder/movies.
And which one Trinis prefer, really.
Trinis have always been influenced by film – by any story, really – and, far too often, far too disproportionally. The East Port of Spain steelband, Carib Tokyo, eg, was far better than and outlasted the Hollywood movie, Destination Tokyo, that inspired it (though you could argue the film case for Casablanca).
Trinis take the time of day – or night – from the silver screen.
Many of my pardners were so powerfully swayed by whatever movie we’d just seen, I’d have to take it into account when we were leaving the cinema: after a Wang Yu kung fu flick, eg, I learned to walk behind them down the steps leaving the cinema, or they’d launch into their Trini white boy version of Shaolin – on me! If we’d watched a comedy, it would be shiretrit-talk; after a thriller, they wouldn’t talk at all, just look over their shoulders constantly.
Once, in the 70s, a group of us, all teenagers, had to walk home to St Ann’s from De Luxe cinema – now Zen nightclub – after a horror double late show, which had started at 11.30 pm; at 3 am, men were so frightened on the pitch-dark Savannah pitch walk, when I suddenly shouted, “Boo!” at Jerningham Avenue, they didn’t stop running until Cadiz Road.
Trinis may be the strongest evidence in favour of the life-imitates-art argument that says hip-hop lyrics cause violence, not the other way around.
Watch several of the shorts at this year’s festival – ranging from the pretty good Paranoia to the pretty bad Live Bait – and you can make the connection between Trinidadian fiction films and Trinidadian reality; which is crime; specifically, gun violence, usually murder.
There’s no doubt modern cinema glorifies violence and makes stars of guns themselves. In 1992. Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his portrayal of a cannibal serial murderer in The Silence of the Lambs. In the same year, John Woo’s Hard Boiled almost gave more runtime to the guns than the actors. Again, it was in 1992 that Quentin Tarantino, who has got rich tying gore and grins together, made his first great bloody splash with Reservoir Dogs.
And Trinis lap it all up like cats who thief milk.
The wonder isn’t that the current Attorney General’s children should have been photographed playing gangsta with real regiment guns, but that it wasn’t their dad who took the pic; assuming, of course, that it wasn’t him.
Go beyond the TT Film Fest to YouTube and see the kinds of films being made at Trini grassroots level: they’re almost all about gun crime and almost all very bad.
The exception that proves the rule is Welcome to Warlock, described, by its creator, Jeffrey “D General” Alleyne, “Trinidad’s Most Discriminated Director,” as a “gun-and-run” film. Too many bad copies have been cut from D General’s template, some of them well enough to make the festival’s own cut, but most of them just sad reminders of where we are, as a nation, as defined by the stories we tell about ourselves.
The lost boys, the dead and dying boys, of East Port of Spain and anywhere that the drug trade touches, set out to make supposedly fictional movies about guns and murder but turn in films that are really closer to documentary; in Laventille and Morvant, the difference between the big boys and the little boys is that the big boys play “police and thief” with real bullets.
In that context of Trinidadians being so powerfully and so permanently formed by the films they watch, I want to recommend the Jamaican documentary, Dancehall’s Asian Ambassadors (8.30 pm tomorrow, MovieTowne, San Fernando and 6 pm Sunday, MovieTowne, PoS).
Next week, if Trump the jack--- doesn’t abuse presidential power for personal get-out-of-jail-free purposes a la Monopoly again, I want to make a proposition based on Dancehall’s Asian Ambassadors that might be a more reliable saviour for Trinidad in the last reel than Sir Gary riding in like the cavalry on his white high horse.
BC Pires is actually the president of the Well-intentioned Idealist Clown Posse recently joined by Police Commissioner Garry Griffith. Happy Bir’day Kai