Monday Night At The Movies - Caribbean Tales Film Festival Continues In Toronto

Haiti, Guyana and America - Three Films, Three Views on Political People in The 
Caribbean - by Kevin Relyea

Caribbean Tales International Film Festival 

Films shown on Day 5 of the Festival at the Royal Theatre, Toronto

The Royal, home of Caribbean Tales International Film Festival- Relyea

Showing at the Royal Theatre as part of the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival, Political People is a trio of films that detail the domestic problems of a less than thought of region that deserves western attention. The three films are related thematically but are all drastically different in their  message, approach and style.

The Caribbean Tales International Film Festival is a celebration of Caribbean art and culture that will excite any casual movie-goer or anyone with a political background. The films shown are more than just entertainment as they can be educational as well featuring history and politics of the region.  Now in its ninth year the festival and related events have taken place in Toronto, New York, and Barbados.

The Joy of Reading
2014 | Haiti |   Kreyol with English subtitles | 14 minutes
Director: Dominique Telemaque

The Joy of Reading is a short film that tells the tale of a Hatian boy named Lolo who is kicked out of school after he loses a book and his subsequent attempts to find the money in order to buy a replacement. In just fourteen minutes this film is filled with ups and downs and ends off on a somber note with Lolo making a plea for parents to invest in children’s educations so they can better their lives.

The film is very well shot and edited to provide a very succinct yet deep in its emotion and colourful cinematography.

Rebecca’s Story

2014 | Guyana/USA | English | 12 minutes
Director: Alysia S Christiani

Rebecca’s story is much like the first film. It tells the story of a Rebecca, a young Guyanese girl who is forced to live with her abusive grandmother after he parents are killed in a tragic car accident. This film has the same message of the importance of literacy but also has a theme of personal freedom being essential to people advancing in life as well as advancing society as a whole.

This film features comparison shots of a jungle serving as a great tool for the narrator’s metaphorical dialogue and the internal shots and cinematography give the impression of a person who is living in a cage. Great care was given to ensure that this short feature’s visuals fit the tone.

Thunder in Guyana

2003 | USA | English | 50 minutes
Director: Suzanne Wasserman

If you are a history buff then Thunder in Guyana is a hidden gem among political documentaries.  The film covers the lives of the late Janet Rosenberg Jagen and Cheddi Jagen and their   fifty year stuggle to free Guyana from the influence of British Imperialism and an American backed rightwing dictatorship. 

The film shows off the early life of Janet Rosenburg. Growing up in Chicago, intellectual adventurous free spirited woman with a tendency to push the boundaries set by society. She ran off to Guyana with her husband Cheddi and never looked back. 
Cheddi being the first peasant worker to gain an education returned to Guyana and dedicated his life to improving his impoverished country to gain independence from Britain and put an end to racial violence between the Indian and African population. His efforts over the course of four decades are sabotaged by British military intervention, and CIA covert ops due to his unabashed Marxist-Socialist beliefs. The film focuses heavily on the progressive leadership and unprecedented actions and unorthodox lives of this beautiful couple.

Thunder in Guyana features a great depth of footage and pictures that elegantly portrays the lives of these revolutionary political figures in stunning depth.  The interviews glean a further understanding of their personal character, motivations, and the overall political climate over the course of five decades. This film does a fantastic job of blending history of a nation and personal biography. What I loved about this film is that Guyana is not a country you would learn about in a history class as it is simply not taught. This film shows just how important Guyanna is in terms of political and racial turmoil Guyana suffered combined with the personal struggle of Janet and Cheddi Jagan whose actions could be compared to Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. 

When the lights come on you begin to wonder if their actions set Guyana on a better path or these two people were foglights in a haze of corruption. What is truly unique about the documentary is that the production of the film as well as its content displays a bond between the Caribbean and Jewish community. Perhaps this is the reason why all those Caribbean people kept asking me where the manischewitz wine was when I worked for the LCBO

Political People enlightens the audience as to a basic plight of Caribean people such as literacy, something that we take for granted and the political reasons as to why the people of these nations still suffer. The overall message this group of films displays is the need for society to be flexible and progressive for development to occur as holding on to political and social tradition invariably is a recipe for human suffering and stagnation of society.

I whole heartedly recommend this trio of films although Thunder in Guyana is the clear frontrunner due to its content and length and is definitely something you might want to better educate your friends and family with or just something worthwhile for yourself. At the very least it might help you one day beat the Jeopardy contestants in the comfort of your living room. 


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