‘Flims’ Fuh Days [Part 2]

I promised a follow up on my Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival post a week or two ago and now that the festival is over I have some time to do a comprehensive review of the films I was able to see.

Taboo Yardies was a film I’d marked off the first day I got the schedule. I’m a sucker for documentaries, even more so for documentaries about minority groups. Add to that the fact that it was shot in Jamaica and I’m all in. There are very few things in this world that get me as irate as homophobia and hate crime and it’s long been a lament of mine that the Caribbean suffers so widely from this bigotry and violent attitude towards the homosexual community. I don’t really care who disagrees with me because as far as I’m concerned you cannot argue anything based on religion and since that seems to be the only rationale most people have for hating homosexuals then there’s no real debate to be had. Anyway! Here’s the trailer:

The film is able to give us access to a homosexual and transgender community in Jamaica that we otherwise would not have. You can’t be openly gay in Jamaica…well you can, but you do so at great personal risk. All of the LGBT interviewees based in Jamaica opted to have their faces blurred and voices distorted for obvious reasons. One lesbian spoke of the ‘corrective rape’ she suffered and the subsequent failure of the Jamaican police to do anything but say ‘Yuh look fuh it’. One gentleman, who has since been granted asylum in the United States of America, spoke of the time his house was set on fire, and showed a scar he bore across his forehead because a man thought he looked like a ‘battyman’. There are some incredibly revealing, almost comical interviews with the then Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Bruce Golding, who likened marriage between homosexuals to marriage between man and goat. I knew there was prejudice in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands but to see the victims and hear their stories brought it home. During a Q&A with the director after the show, I asked what plans she had for the documentary assuming it had been made with some greater purpose in mind. The film has already been shown in several European countries, including Denmark or Sweden I believe, and the international response has been, so far, one of incredulity and outrage. Apparently the international LGBT community had no idea of the extent of suffering the homosexual and transgender community in Jamaica is enduring. Maybe this means boycotts? Maybe it means appeals to the UN and other international organizations with whom Jamaica has callously (one can assume) signed treaties to protect human rights. I don’t know exactly what it means, particularly since the film has faced serious challenges being screened in the place that needs to see it most: Jamaica. Unless it can be viewed amongst policy-makers who are interested in discourse and for whom this film would be a staggering look in the mirror, it won’t be able to make the impact it needs to. I could go on for a long long long time about this but I won’t because the internet is no place for reading.

Instead, I’ll move on to the next film I saw, a fantastic and revealing documentary by Mariel Brown on the life of Dr. Eric Williams, the father of this nation. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Inward Hunger. I’ve become so disillusioned with this country’s political condition of late that I suppose the idea of exploring any kind of political figure left me apprehensive, at best. What I got however, has to be one of the most insightful and epiphanic moments of my year. Big statement, but it’s true. For the first time in a very long time, some of Trinidad & Tobago made sense. I don’t know if Williams knew what he was doing when he began his crusade but the man made a significant impact on the way we operate, both in terms of our cultural identity and our political sensibilities. This screening was parts 2 and 3 of a three part documentary that Mariel developed for television and those parts dealt mainly with Williams’ political life.

This is not a propaganda film. Thank God. It is an even-handed, honest exploration of the man that was and in many ways…still is Dr. Eric Williams. His legacy is pervasive and now I know why. This is the kind of content they should be sharing in Social Studies classes in Standards 4, 5 and Form 1. If Social Studies means you begin to understand your society then our syllabus is all out of whack. To see Trinidad and Tobago engage in meaningful protest…it was a sight for sore eyes – granted the global political climate in the 1960s and 1970s facilitated this kind of civic engagement. Find a way to see this film, to show your children this film when they are old enough to understand the concept of national identity and society. Do it before they become too entrenched in the passive culture most young people seem to be a part of as far as politics is concerned. As an aside, this film won the Jury Award for Best Local Feature in the T&T Film Festival. You can see all the award winners here.

These were probably my two favourite films from the festival but I still have two more films to discuss (well more than two because the rest were narrative shorts) but that will be left for a Part 3 when the mind is less saturated.

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