Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Adventures at the TT Film Festival 08, Part 1-Invisible and Almost Heaven

The first day I attended the 2008 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival was to see fellow blogger (the blog NowisWowToo), known multimedia artist and soon becoming friend, Elspeth Duncan's short documentary, Invisible. Elspeth had blogged about it and the activities it had inspired in the past on her blog which I follow so I was eager to see it and she even sent a group of us on facebook ...facebook invites! So it was a big event for me to get there on Sat 20 Sept 2008 trying to get there in good time to see also 'the dance' which as you read on you will hear more about. It costed TT$20 for a ticket and I tried to get in to be seated by 7:45PM as Elspeth had stated but the movie attendants kept saying ...'No...that the theatre hall was not ready as yet...and no they didn't know anything about no dance?!' Eventually they did let me in just around a few mins before 8 PM, the actual start time of the film. And yep from the looks of it, it seemed that the dance was indeed going to be on! I happened to be seated next to a white, I think American man...or at least a North American...cause to be honest I'm not one of those who can tell the difference between accents from Canada and the US, or India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and that whole subcontinent really for that matter, or between New Zealanders and Australians! But the man was a white man, short and stout and this was when I was eating raw so I looked at him with his tray of assorted junk food and for once in my life felt superior health consciousness wise...oh these superiority complexes we have! But the man either officially attending the film festival or attending on his own was being told a bit about the film festival by a local man. And something bout the man just seemed amusing to me...he seemed to be so stereotypically American I found (yes we do so stereotype as well!) but he somehow made me feel he could so easily be Roger Ebert of Siskel and Ebert fame although I knew he wasn't... but he looked something like him to give you a visual (luckily he did not look like Siskel who has passed on to the great beyond...and so would have been making a ghostly appearance had it been him!) Anyway the American man or so I call him was asking the Trini man about the dance...he seemed to find it interesting that there was going to have a dance...but no so the other foreign man who walked into the cinema late and almost bumped into one of the dancers of the dance! But I guess we can't all think outside the box and I did get the distinct feeling that some in the theatre hall were a bit perplexed to realize the dance was being performed in the movie hall after all it was a film festival!

Of course the dance itself was very lovely! It was adapted so it could be done in the small space just in front of the movie screen and definitely gave you a feel for what the film was about-a lady called Veronica who was living with HIV and had two young kids, one with HIV also and one without. The dance is named after the film and was done based on inspiration from the film which was shown before and the film is on Youtube for all to see. So its called Invisible (the dance) and was performed by a few dancers and choreographed by Sonja Dumas. It was a well choreographed and performed dance.

Then the film followed...Invisible (the short documentary). The film was just over 10 mins long and actually done by Elspeth Duncan (Happy Hippy Productions) for TTCRC (Trinidad and Tobago Coalition for the Convention on the Rights of the Child)who funded the project. The documentary was really lovely touching...because Elspeth wasn't allowed to show the faces of the individuals she focused on Veronica's hands a lot and her fingers and on the legs, feet and hands of the children. To me that was such a genius and touching approach because it so humanized them although they were faceless. And you could see the warmth and human connection shared by all the family members by how Elspeth shot the film even though no faces! Amazing work really! An ankle wrapped around one here, hands interwoven there...a child on a mothers lap right over there! And the voice of Veronica ringing through with such emotion! The whole thing was shot to the backdrop of music created by Elspeth herself and later on by inquiring from Elspeth I found out the artwork being shown throughout the film was by Elspeth's nephew. I really like that idea too the childlike drawings used along the story! Really well done work Elspeth...genius!The film is on youtube for all to see as below:

And what's even more amazing is Elspeth's not done production of the documentary Veronica lost her home and her child with HIV was thrown out of her school. Elspeth decided to help Veronica to get a home and eventually Habitat for Humanity came on board! You can read more about that drive by searching on Elspeth's blog here NowisWowToo And hopefully this authour should be making it down to the house site next weekend to assist a bit too possibly with some friends...although not very skilled at labour! But as Elspeth said to me, "Every little bit of help counts!" Now that's truly art in action!

Now I'm accustomed to things at the particular movie house hosting the festival being well, lets just say not very affordable to all! However I have to hand it to the organizers of the festival for keeping prices for tickets within the reach of the average Joe Bloggs! Cause I thought well the TT$20 I paid was just for Elspeth's documentary but realized with mixed feelings that no, the show continued on with 'Almost Heaven' which was a full length film. I had mixed feelings cause 1)I didn't plan my time to stay there so long although I did not have anything urgent to do and 2)I thought I was about to see a Jamaican, dance hall, gangsta film! Can there be more torture for one as me? For over an hour! But I decided to give it a whirl...

And I guess that journey I went on was similar to the German woman in the film who ends up in Jamaica by entering the wrong gate and getting on a plane to Kingston, Jamaica instead of Nashville, Tennessee! The German lady in the film is dying and her German husband who owns a bowling alley in Germany wants her to spend her last days in confinement with him looking after her. However she wants to spend her remaining time, living out as much as possible her dream of one day becoming a country and western star! She is aided by a Russian attendant at the alley and is off to Nashville to sing at this club that to me in my perception of the film is like you know 'Off Nashville' as in the equivalent of 'Off Broadway'! She has an invite to sing at a place there. This lady is a real Country and Western freak with the clothes and the guitar and the music on her lips! But she ends up in Jamaica! She gets schemed, scared and almost down and out...but like in all good films, things eventually turn around and there is a happy ending at least for the time. Cause of course she is going to still die but she finds her 'Almost Heaven'(the film's title) and helps the Jamaican co-star find her way too as the film closes with the German lady singing 'Almost Heaven' (John Denver's tune....Almost Heaven West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountain...Country Roads take me home to the place I belong...West Virgina.) to a Jamaican reggae beat mixed in, where the 'West Virgina' is substituted for 'West Jamaica' and the 'Blue Ridge Mountain' for 'Blue Mountain' on a beach in Jamaica where the Jamaican lady sets up a little club sort of and is trying to go on the straight and narrow and earn an income. Also the German lady's husband walks in and is finally at peace with her spending her dying days following her heart which is now simply singing music wherever it may be and among friends...West Jamaica or Nashville, Tennessee! It was a lovely little film and I really enjoyed was such a pleasant surprise! Hey and you know something?... That American man next to me left 3/4 way through that lovely little film! Maybe he had too many chips, popcorn and his sugar levels were just too high from the soda! (as if I'm some health buff! :) but perhaps it was my calm of eating raw at the time that helped me give this lovely film a chance!) The film's official details as published on the film festival's official site:

Almost Heaven

Running Time : 95 minutes
Origin : Jamaica/Germany
Year : 2005
Director : Ed Herzog

Helen has always dreamt of singing at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe. She may not have the greatest voice in town, but that isn’t her biggest problem. Helen only has a few weeks left to live. Since it’s now or never, she wants to give it a try (against the wishes of her narrow-minded husband who feels she should spend her last weeks in more dignified surroundings). Decked out in a cowboy hat and boots, she sets off for Nashville but lands instead in Jamaica—wrong plane, wrong place, wrong music! Helen soon ends up in the calculating hands of Rosie, a saucy local whose morals are as skimpy as her skirts. With Rosie’s help, Helen makes it to Montego Bay, but soon has no money left to leave the island. She has no better luck singing for her supper: a German woman crooning country ballads isn’t what American tourists want to hear in Jamaica. With time running out, Helen begins to let go of her dream and her life, but finds an unlikely life raft in Rosie. A sweet, poignant tale that shows what happens when good friends and great vibes are all you’ve got.

I look fwd. to having your eyes and ears again soon as I discuss part 2 of My Adventures at the film festival when I talk about The Strange Luck of V.S. Naipaul, my discussions with the film's director and ask you to guess what brought Naipaul to tears!?!

But like the German lady in 'Almost Heaven' I myself love John Denver's music and lyrics and he was indeed Bodhisattva in nature if I do say so myself! So I leave you with Almost Heaven (Country Roads Take Me Home)...and OK I can't help myself so I'm throwing in Rocky Mountain High for good measure too! See you soon!

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