IT was a five-year labour of love for a group of friends who came together to produce a two-part documentary which examines the impact of the 2014 oil crash on Venezuela and TT.
It is also hoped that the documentary, titled Don’t Compete. Create, will become the impetus behind diversification of TT’s economy.
The first instalment of the documentary premièred in June. The second instalment is in the making and is expected to be released in early 2021.
Don't Compete. Create was written, produced and directed by Javier Forrester and is narrated by Diane Katwaroo.
Aisha Ventour is its director of photography. The friends are all part of WIERA Film Company which is “100 per cent local” Forrester said in a recent interview with Newsday.
The 32-minute feature incorporates interviews from economist Dr Roger Hosein, former politician Nicole Dyer-Griffith, trade unionist David Abdulah among others who share their views on the topic highlighted in the documentary.
The long description of the documentary reads: A resilient people at the base of the Antillean island chain face a growing economic storm caused by the very resource that made them a force on the world market.
“During this time, a helping hand is reached out to the persevering people of neighbouring Venezuela who are in the midst of a socio-economic crisis caused by the collapse of the global oil market.
“In the backdrop of this are escalating tensions between two regional powerhouses in the form of the United States and Venezuela. As Prime Minister Rowley and his Cabinet continue to forge creative and positive ways for the nation to navigate the difficult economic waters, the twin-island Republic must at the same time walk a very fine line in order to preserve peace within its corner of the Americas.”
There are also scenes from Venezuela which were shot by the team during a visit to the South American country which, because of the collapse of its oil industry and economy, has left it in a humanitarian, institutional and political crisis.
The team was able to enter Venezuela with a faith-based group on a missionary trip.
“When you have a crisis like this in a country, it is only these types of groups that can get into the nooks and crannies of an area to really meet those who are suffering the most,” he said.
Forrester said WIERA – which stands for West Indies Era – Film Company aims to produce short documentaries with a “regional flavour to it” touching on issues relating to TT and the wider Caribbean.
He said they chose the great oil bust of 2014 – which was caused by a price collapse of crude oil prices and saw supplies chasing too little demand – because they wanted to “highlight the dangers of competing over this volatile resource and the need for creativity in economic diversification.”
“This crash led to a serious blow to our undiversified economy which depends heavily on oil and gas,” he said.
The documentary features protests from 2015, when Venezuelans living in TT protested the visit of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to Trinidad.
“We wanted to use something as a symbol and the protest was it,” Forrester said.
Forrester said the team hopes that the documentary will bolster those in power to put diversification on the front burner. “Put it there and leave it there. We cannot depend on non-renewable resources and Venezuela is a reminder of that,” he added.
“As a people we have become comfortable in the non-renewable sector,” he said. The documentary is a blue print of sorts for handling a recession and diversification.
It features the steelpan heavily throughout and Forrester said creativity was an important aspect of TT and one which can be tapped into.
“It is an example of our creativity as a people. We want for us to tap into this. We have been unable to diversify our economy and creative sector for decades.
“We want to show you can join the two concepts together. Creativity can be the answer to our diversification efforts,” he said.
He made it clear that the document was non-partisan and is aimed at all administrations, especially future ones.
Pointing to recent rumblings between Venezuela and the United States, Forrester said it is hoped that these could be sorted out soon.
“TT is caught in the middle of this battle and it is not good for the region. Trade stability and peace in the region is important,” Forrester, who is also an attorney, said.
“We applaud the Prime Minister and the Government for successfully steering us through two recessions. The contribution of past Governments, particularly in creating and continuing the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.
“We believe the government has done a lot to point us to diversification. We as a people rested comfortable for six decades but now we need to push towards diversification and making it a reality. We’ve had two recessions but collectively, all governments, past and present, put things in place for change to take place.
“But, we have been dilly-dallying for too long. We’ve enjoyed prosperity but now is the time to seriously put it on the front burner. Realise it and support it,” Forrester said.
“We could have been where Venezuela is now,” he bemoaned.
So far the feedback from the first instalment has been positive, Forrester said.
So far the team has advertised mainly on social media and Forrester said their main audience is young people. He was happy to hear from teenagers who remarked how balanced and non-political the documentary was.
‘We were told it broke down the complex issue,” he said.
“This is what we want. We want diversification to play a greater part of the national agenda. It is our call for change because our economy is, in a great way, still undiversified,” Forrester said.
The team funded the first part of the documentary out of their own pockets and hopes to get corporate sponsorship so they can complete the second part.