THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY
NINE YEARS AGO, as a run-up to the sixth TT Film Festival, I listed my top ten Caribbean films. With this year’s festival happening within Carifesta this weekend, I’m revisiting – and substantially changing – that list.
10. Men of Gray I & II. G Anthony Joseph’s graduate film school feature and its sequel feature a smoking Sean Bartholomew soundtrack, great stunt and fight choreography and Tricia Lee Kelshall in spandex brandishing an automatic pistol; II remains the only local film I’ve ever seen on American cable.
9. Pothound/Fish/Pashan of the Froot. My new number nine (replacing two feature-length documentaries, Fire in Babylon and ’70: A Revolution Remembered) comprises three excellent short films by Trinidadian filmmakers Christopher Guinness, Shaun Escayg and Nadissa Haynes.
Pothound, first runner-up in the international Vimeo Short Film of the Year 2012, took as its subject the most Trinidadian of creatures, the pothound dog.
Fish, a “proof of concept,” has not yet become a feature – but it is a fine template for local gangster films; and Pashan is a flawless mockumentary about a wannabe soca star.
8. Welcome to Warlock (replacing Chico Y Rita). Made by Jeffrey “D General without a Crew” Alleyne, self-styled as “TT’s Most Discriminated Filmmaker,” this genuine cutting-edge film, imitated by many, with no one coming close to D General’s “gun and run” film, could have inspired my number seven choice.
7. God Loves the Fighter (replacing Rue Cases Negres). Trinidad-born American director Damian Marcano’s film may be the most important local one shot so far this century. Hard-edged, if low-budgeted, my only disappointment in it is that they used, in their promo material, one of my best lines – If this is guerilla cinema, Marcano is Trinidad’s most promising Che Guevara – without attribution.
6. Bim/The Harder They Come/Payday. A cheat to work in the best TT, Jamaica and Barbados films I know. Still the best local film made so far, Bim’s strong Raoul Pantin script is masterfully directed by Hugh A Robertson and has an Andre Tanker soundtrack.
Perry Henzell’s famous film relied entirely on ourselves alone to make itself and its point and has a Jimmy Cliff soundtrack.
Selwyn Browne and Shakirah Bourne’s buddy comedy is wonderfully, unapologetically Bajan and far more important than people who stop at mocking the Bajan accent will appreciate – and it has a flying centipede.
5. Man from Africa, Girl from India. I’d have dismissed this Harbance “Mickey” Kumar melodrama but for David Rudder’s story about the Zimbabwean musician who, hearing he was from Trinidad, said, at once, “Man from Africa, Girl from India!” Until Mickey’s movie, black people in Zimbabwe had never seen a black man in a lead role. This “throwaway” film allowed people to dream; that’s the power of cinema.
4. Conducta. Ernesto Daranas’ 2014 drama might be the best film ever made with child actors in the lead roles. A nearly-perfect screenplay, immaculately directed, tells a universal story about growing up in Cuba. Flawless, touching, powerful – few films are this sound, all round.
3. The Emerald Forest. John “Deliverance” Boorman’s definitive Caribbean/New World story of a young white boy “rescued” by a rainforest tribe and raised as one of their own. It is rightly classed as “adventure” but its philosophy makes you reconsider how you live your own life.
2. Amores Perros/Curacao. Another cheat. Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s great work avers that all our stories intersect and we choose whether in tragedy or triumph.
Curacao is an astonishing documentary that lays bare the Caribbean challenge: how do we become more like “them” – which we need to do – while holding on to the essence of ourselves? Its importance can be measured by how few people in power will ever see it, far less accept its philosophy.
1. Aguirre, the Wrath of God. No West Indian should be given any position of responsibility anywhere unless he or she understands that this film sets out the Caribbean condition with stunning clarity in its opening five minutes, in which a group of black and brown people are led, in what might properly be called Indian file, down a precarious path by a crazy white man, who is as insane as he is sure he is right.
Aguirre’s descent into open madness becomes inevitable because he is unable to relinquish the vision he has brought to the New World of himself as the enforcer of the Old World. Hopeless, tragic, rudderless, deluded and misled, his expedition heads towards doom, dreaming of richness measured by someone else’s yardstick, and blind to the wealth by which it is surrounded.
If you want a better illustration of Trinidad’s plight than that, you have to look at a PNM manifesto.
BC Pires is a Bajan conquistador rerun. Read an expanded version of this column on Saturday at www.BCPires.com