the politicians were ranting in all corners of Trinidad – creating fear
in the minds of brain washed people – a small band of people, artists,
songwriters, journalists, writers and musicians, were paying tribute to
Horace Ove, “a master Caribbean Filmmaker.”
to the jam-packed room at 17 Rust Street, St Clair, at the launch of the
Kiskadee Ringbellion Caribbean Film Club, gesticulating towards Ove, a
young man reminded us of our first flowering as a country led by writers,
filmmakers, artists, intellectuals – Sam Selvon, VS Naipaul, CLR James;
people who mirrored our sapling country in the New World and allowed us to
say with certainty, “This is where we came from, this is what we left
behind, these are the people we met here with whom we share past, present
and future, this is how we shaped one another and finally, this is who we
as a Trinidadian, captures the continents of his country’s many veined
origins – Europe, Africa, India – with his films. He uses his heritage
to stretch himself endlessly, taking his rightful place as a citizen of
the world. Because our Indian, African, European, Asian, Middle Eastern
and Chinese threads are interwoven, we can collectively say: “Yes we
came from all over to become what we are.”
Belmont-born filmmaker, who started out as an extra as a slave in the film
Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, is listed
in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first Caribbean director of a
feature film (Pressure), which deals with three generations of West
Indians living in England. He has been the recipient of many awards,
coping the Best Drama and Best Director award at the Indian Academy Awards
in 1996, for the film Equaliser on the 1919 Amritsar massacre in colonial
is a prolific and much-lauded film and documentary maker who is well known
question I put to Ove is, how did this country produce men with the
enormous range and depth of our two Nobel Prize winners, and a slew of
brilliant, expansive, articulate minds from CLR James to Selvon?
grew up in Belmont in the 50s and 60s, where black, brown, white, yellow
and blue lived together. In our home we spoke Patois, heard smatterings of
different languages. You never saw anything as ‘mix-up’ as the boys
playing football in the Savannah.
also mixed with the droves of foreigners who passed through our islands
– German, French, English, Spanish – and because we were as eager to
learn about them, as they about us, got used to expanding our minds, found
new ways of understanding ourselves, got curious about the world, saw
ourselves in a social and political context.
would create a theatre in one another’s homes. I learned to paint in a
room at the back of White Hall, in a class conducted by a foreigner and
was fascinated when an Englishman produced one of Shakespeare’s plays in
the Botanical Gardens.
projectionist in the cinema, ‘No–Teeth Harry’ we called him, was in
a sense my first real film teacher. We would talk with him during and
after films about its storyline, acting, content. I am convinced it was
because of No-Teeth Harry I, as the sole West Indian boy in a prestigious
London film school that I attended, later was able to hold my own.”
and when did we become a tribal people obsessed with race and petty
politics, insular and inward looking?” I asked.
used to pride ourselves for being the most mix up country in the world.
What these politicians are doing now is criminal. Dividing people like
that.. it leads to war. Not only are they setting people against one
another, but also they are depriving people of the opportunity to develop
their natural talents, which is abundant but which comes to a dead end
because it is not nurtured.
boy who plays pan is applauded during Carnival and then ignored. No one
says this boy is a musician, ‘Let’s give him a scholarship and nurture
that’. Everything creative is cut dead, so you get this stagnant,
repetitive, race obsessed country.
politician grasps the idea that people get their information from
television – that square box can be used through locally made
documentaries (rather than that American trash that feeds materialism,
discontent in our young people) to help us understand the issues that we
grapple with in Trinidad – crime, race, the cycle of domestic violence.
have no sense of balance – because we have removed a sense of asthetics
from our lives – pelting plastic bottles, paper on the streets –
replacing our graceful gingerbread Art deco, 30’s and 40’s homes, with
ugly commercial places.
you remove that, people’s spirit shrinks into the mundane, into narrow
places, into fear of the unknown, fear of other places, other people.
Instead of recognising that it all belongs to us – that the world in a
sense is part of our heritage – we retreat into holes.”
what are we? I asked Horace Ove, “the master filmmaker.”
are rats falling into politicians’ traps: Traps of fear, traps of our
can decide not to be rats anymore. It’s a start anyhow.