Tuesday, June 30, 2015

European Film Festival Recap 2015 : Gone Too Far

Every year I look forward to the annual European Film Festival here in Trinidad with great anticipation. The festival showcases films from Europe and is organized by the EU Member States with diplomatic missions in Trinidad and Tobago. It's an opportunity to see lots of movies which might not otherwise come here. Many of these are not the mainstream ones that tend to come to Trinidad as very, very few movies in limited release elsewhere ever reach this country.

They are often quirky, strange, confusing or disturbing and almost all are extremely memorable. This year I think I enjoyed all of the four movies I saw to a certain degree which doesn't always happen. I'll do a recap of each of them over a series of posts starting with....

Gone Too Far

There's something I like about movies which condense all of the story within a short period of time.
Something about the fact that so much happens and changes in such a short while tends to delight me. Gone Too Far takes place over a Saturday afternoon when British teenager Yemi sets out to buy ochroes for his mother with his brother Ikudaysi . Yemi's family is from Nigeria, and his brother has only just arrived - hardly stepped out of the taxi from the airport in fact - before their adventures begin. 

Yemi is understandably preoccupied with being a British high school student, rapping to his favourite music, pursuing the beautiful, shallow, obnoxious, brash Armani and being accepted by his peers. His brother appears and seems considerably older and is unapologetically Nigerian. From the moment Yemi sees him with his feet ensconced in sandals and socks coming out of the taxi, he is appalled, and truly his brother is a force of destruction to a young man's self esteem. As they wander around what their South London neighbourhood, they encounter Armani, her on again/off again/on again boyfriend who wants Yemi to stay away from her and is willing to use violence to make sure he gets the message and various other neighbourhood characters. There are also stinging nettles, vicious dogs and obnoxious little children. The quest for the ochroes becomes secondary despite the frequent calls from their mother trying to find out what is taking so long. 

Everyone crosses each other's paths over and over again, so when I discovered that this is adapted from a play I was not surprised as it has the feel of characters appearing and disappearing from the stage as their scenes come up.

In the background of all the conflict is the contempt many of the young people have for African people and their often hilarious ignorance of African culture. Yemi and his brother clash because of his distress and embarrassment while Ikudaysi is shocked and saddened that his brother seems to be ashamed of who he is. By nightfall by the time the wanderers find their way home, there are revelations all around. 

This movie was fun and funny. It's also very well directed by a woman, Destiny Ekaragha, who is apparently only the third black female director to have directed a feature length film that was given theatrical distribution in the UK, so well done to her! I am sure anyone who is familiar with this type of neighbourhood in London would recognize the mix of cultures, and they'd probably appreciate it more than some of the characters do.I found it a fascinating look into a community I am not familiar with. There is a very Caribbean feel to the area and the family life as well which I am sure would appeal very much to our local audience. Oh and beware if you're not familiar with the accents of young people in London because it will sometimes require a lot of attention to decipher what they're saying before you get used to the rhythms of it. It's well worth it though, so see this if you can, wherever you're from. 

Check out the trailer for the film here. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

An Extraordinarily Good Tale about An Ordinary Boy

I suppose I should make a confession from early on about a shameful omission in my reading list past. Let's not have any dark secrets. Let's bring it out in the open: I have not read a lot of books by Caribbean authors! There I said it.

In recent years I've promised myself that I would try and change that, but I can't say I have made much progress. However life seems to have been putting more opportunities in my lap to make a move for change. I have a bit more free time these days for one. Our next book club discussion* will be on the infamous V.S. Naipaul. I keep hearing mention of various books by Caribbean authors at meetings for the Writer's Union of Trinidad and Tobago ** as well. (If anyone has recommendations of good Caribbean authors, let us know.) On top of that at a recent meeting Mrs Marsha Gomes, Director/Founder of the Caribbean Books Foundation handed me a copy of a free copy of the YA novel All Over Again by Jamaican author A-dziko Simba Gegele and asked me to write a review. I could never say no to a free book of course, and the description on the back of the slim volume caught my eye, so I was happy to take a look. 

While I've read so few books by Caribbean authors, I can guarantee you that I've read even fewer YA books by Caribbean authors. If this is a sample of the type of YA book which comes out of the region, I think we are progressing nicely in the genre. All Over Again is a fun coming of age story about a young boy growing up in Jamaica with his mother, father, grandfather and troublesome younger sister Mary Janga. He is the most ordinary of ordinary boys preoccupied with his television shows, football, his friends and the unfairness of life where you have to deal with your annoying little sister. It is this simple landscape which makes the narrator so relatable. The magic is added with the lyrical language which makes you feel as if you're reading a poem with the use of imagery and word repetition which invokes perfect mental pictures like this passage where the narrator frets about having to attend his grandfather's birthday party. 

"So what kind of party will this be?A old party. A old, old party for old, old peopleA old people party with old, old people sitting on chairs in their good clothes listening to your father's old, old 45s"

Who among us can claim to not know exactly what he is talking about? It is Gegele's ability to draw the reader into the feelings of the main character which brings the our complete sympathy to this narrative about an ordinary boy. We are right there with him through his hilarious adventures (like when his scary opponent in an arm wrestling competition seems to have grown to monstrous proportions in a few hours) and his poignant ones (when his favourite cousin moves away). 

The resulting tale is one that can appeal to adults and young people alike, and one which I highly recommend as an enjoyable and satisfying read. 

(Now I'm on a roll of discovering Caribbean authors, I want to keep going. If anyone has any recommendations of good ones, please let me know in the comments.)

Disclaimer: I was given this book by Caribbean Books Foundation in exchange for an honest review. 

*I've helped start a book club! I hope to incorporate it in my blog posts sometime soon.
** I've started attending Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago meetings as well! I hope they will help motivate my writing