A JOURNEY of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step and the journey of the film Mightier dan de Sun took ten years from story to final edit.
The supernatural thriller/drama is one of more than 120 in the 15th edition of the TT Film Festival and it is up for two awards.
The film is about an Indo-Trinidadian couple (Arnold Goindhan and Kala Neehall) who in one night, filled with copious amounts of alcohol, has to deal with dark secrets and supernatural forces. It is the directed by Trevon Jugmohan and is the first film by the theatre veteran of 16 years and under his production company First Instinct Productions.
Writer Anthony Blackburn completed the story a decade ago, Jugmohan told Newsday. He said though Blackburn is an English national he fell in love with Trinidad and was inspired by the poetry of how we speak.
"(The film) is not an 'Indian piece' but one with universal issues in mind."
He noted the rest of the team are all "100 per cent Trini" including Goindhan, who was the one who brought Jugmohan the script five years ago and was involved in a stage play version of the story at the University of the West Indies. Jugmohan saw the possibilities of the story as a film. He has been producer of Raymond Choo Kong productions for a number years and also worked with JSC Entertainment to stage various types of work including musicals The Sound of Music and Mahalia: A Gospel Musical. But he had not done drama often and he wanted some variety as a creative.
He said Mightier dan de Sun was a good script and he saw it as a "vessel" to inform people. He added the best way to inform them would be by entertaining them.
Neehall joined the project four years ago and two years ago they began rehearsing.
"It was really one domino in to the next."
The film was shot over four days at Chaguaramas and Patna Village, Diego Martin.
"If you listen to the sound scape it is actually the sea. A real Caribbean story, in the bush and in the sea."
The shoot was a gruelling one, starting about six in the evening and going until three or four am the next morning. The cast and crew had to take time off of their day jobs to be in the shoot.
"You can't live by being a creative alone."
Jugmohan said the script was worked on so much before the filming process he found there was very little they needed to touch. He added, however, that as actor and director they could play with interpretation.
He stressed the film was a team effort.
"If one of any of the components was different it would not be the same product at the end."
He likened the process to being an architect designing a building but being aware of the flaws and weak spots. And the "weak spots" was the constraint of the budget and with a bigger budget it would have been a week-long shoot in a much more luxurious shooting atmosphere.
"Just shoot and moving on. If we had more budget we would have had more time."
He recalled filmmaker Oliver Milne told him the first short film is a calling card.
"Don't overdo it, go over budget. Do it as best as you could."
Goindhan said he first read the story in Trinidad Theatre Workshop and he always wanted to do it as film but there was the issue of having the money.
"It took a while before we finally got enough. And then it was the bare minimum."
He recalled the film was shot over a weekend and it was fairly hectic.
"You had to get everything in a short space of time and there was no room for mistakes. Once you done film, that's it."
He explained having been involved with the project for such a long time he understood the directions and where he needed to go as an actor, and then Neehall came and added to the process. He said the film turned out well in light of all the "nitty-gritty" they went through to make it and the fact that it was not a million-dollar production.
He explained the most important aspect for him was the storytelling and getting the lines across.
"Not much being said with the dialogue but it is about what is being said underneath. The undercurrent the script had. And having people guessing what will happen next."
Goindhan has acted a number of films (The Cutlass, Moving Parts, Hit for Six) but this was the first film role for Neehall, a theatre actress.
"With theatre it is just fleeting moments as you go along. With film it is if forever. I felt the differences for sure," she said.
Neehall said the filming was four intense days "in the bush," they shot only at night time and they had to hike down to the set. She had to film into four in the morning in Diego Martin and then go home in South.
"It was non-stop. I would not have lasted if not for Trevon, Arnold and rest of crew."
He said while it was Jugmohan's first time directing he is an experienced theatre practitioner and has been in the business of acting for a long time.
"He is an actor's director. For him it is not just about the look and feel of the set and camera angles but he wanted it to be actor's piece. He wanted to get the best out of us."
Jugmohan said while this was his first time directing a film everyone is a fan of movies.
"We know what quality is, what storytelling is. You just have to translate to the Trinidadian version of telling a story. And that is very good (way). That is patriotism – appreciating what we have and looking at how to better what we have. It is not to change it.We don't knock down one of the Magnificent Seven; you refurbish it."
The film was released virtually Thursday and Jugmohan said the feedback so far has been wonderful.
"I am feeling like a bite-up shilling."
Neehall said she has received feedback from friends and family, which more often than not would be positive. She added the most objective critique would have been from late theatre icon Raymond Choo Kong.
Goindhan said everyone who saw the film fairly liked it though some do not know what to make of it.
"It is a bit of a dark horror comedy. The writing is very cryptic."
He expressed hope the project will highlight there are local scriptwriters, and some are pretty good, and there are good young actors doing work. He also said there was a positive with the streaming format as people could watch it at their time.
Jugmohan said the online platform, which the festival had to adapt to quickly following the second lockdown, was able to reach as far as TT and the English-speaking Caribbean goes as compared to a cinema with less than 400 people. He added a lot of older people, including senior theatre practitioners, who would not have left to house to see the film in cinema were able to view it.
"I hope it shows anything is possible. We need to keep going as far as the arts go. Local is important. You get to see yourself, your land and country."
He said if the team gets support and sponsorship they will send Mightier dan de Sun to foreign film festivals.
The film is up for awards in two categories – Best Medium Length Narrative Short and Best TT Film. The TT Film Festival ends Tuesday.