Play the devil: Daly plugs new local film on sexuality, morality and socio economic power

Abigail Hadeed, the photographer and filmmaker, is my cousin.  To be more precise, as her beloved grandfather and my uncle constantly reminded us, Abigail is my first cousin once removed. That is because her mother, who was born Daly, is my first cousin.

I mention these relationships as a form of declaring my interest because I am writing this week about a film made by Abigail together with Maria Govan entitled Play the Devil. This film was featured on the opening night of the eleventh Annual Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival on Tuesday last.

Photo: A Jab Jab masquerader. (Copyright Phenderson Djeli Clark)
Photo: A Jab Jab masquerader.
(Copyright Phenderson Djeli Clark)

Take a bow Bruce Paddington, founder of the film festival, and your team. As I commented before, the film festival is a seminal contribution providing material that permits us to see the region and ourselves, skilfully and stimulatingly interpreted by our own people.

Play the Devil is precisely such an experience. On one level it is a movie about gay behaviour, but a key aspect of the film is the link made between moral dilemmas (bail money is involved) and the devil. Locating the story in Paramin and its blue devil tradition graphically makes the presence of the devil symbolic as well as representational.

A major theme in the movie is the use of socio economic power to attract the attention and the emotions of a mother, and sons not similarly empowered. Watching this movie was particularly difficult for me because a part of it mirrored the importuning of Akiel Chambers.

But for the age of Gregory, who is older than Akiel when importuned, there was equivalence between the luxury of the East Coast beach house and of the Maraval swimming pool as the lure that sets in train tragic events. Interestingly the importuning older man was named Mr Young.

This is a must see movie as is Sweet Bottom—name of a village—from Barbados, which deals with deportation, internal dislocation and destruction of community.

Photo: Blue Devils prance during the 2013 Carnival season.
Photo: Blue Devils prance during the 2013 Carnival season.

It is invaluable to see these subjects, depicted by film creators who understand and feel the regional context.

At the end of Play the Devil, my sadness for Akiel was balanced by a personal joy that the movie gave me. That joy is this: Two of the brilliant actors in the movie are Che Rodriguez and Nicolai Salcedeo.

A year ago I had the opportunity to play a part in a stage play in which Che and Nicolai had the lead roles. I still pinch myself that they accepted me while the astute director, Rawle Gibbons, nurtured me to the best of my capacity. I told them at the conclusion of the performance on Tuesday what a privilege it was for me to tread the same boards in relationship with them.

I suppose the reason why I never seek anything from the establishment is that I take my pleasure in the relationships that I enjoy way outside of the narrow parameters of the establishment and my profession.

It is by reason of the satisfaction of experiences such as these that I do not lust for any freeness or indicia and trappings of VVIPhood.

I come next to the equally brilliant performance of Gareth Jenkins and Petrice Jones in the lead roles in Play the Devil. They are both straight men, who have related in interviews some of the risks they took in accepting their roles in Play the Devil in a society that contains deep pockets of narrow mindedness.

Photo: An image from local movie "Trafficked." (Courtesy Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival)
Photo: An image from local movie “Trafficked.”
(Courtesy Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival)

Again, without any suggestion that I could ever match them, I identified with them because my role in Hatuey required the delivery of racist remarks. A senior engineer friend sent me a message, which says it all: “Martin, we enjoyed Hatuey last night.  The performances were all good and I admired your bravery in playing the part you did more so in sensitive T&T”.

This column is not usually a vehicle for relationship sentiment but taking a role in a stage play evolved from my regular “liming”, which has compelled me to be an advocate for the better appreciation of our performing arts with which I keep close contact.

Despite the manipulation of the dependency syndrome, I follow those arts, which keep Trinidad and Tobago relevant as a civilisation and undermine the devils of manipulation.

As Dr Hollis Liverpool—better known by his sobriquet, Chalkdust—pointed out at the opening of the law term, many lawyers are culturally insensitive.  Sadly, sometimes the legal profession promotes only the narrow parameters of the establishment.

I am still in shock at some of the remarks of the Chief Justice. I have to digest these carefully because I try not to drink my tea too hot.

Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

In the interim, may I say on behalf of commentators, constructive critics and all citizens demanding accountability that perhaps chickens keep their heads and are not downright disrespectful of public opinion because chickens are not ensconced in the higher, thinner air inhabited by eagles flying by means of State resources.

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  1. Brilliant brilliant piece Martin Daly!! Thank you.

  2. Daly’s biographer, after roundly praising him as one of our best Presidents, restoring decorum, dignity and constitutional charm and so on to the Office of the President, will spare several paragraphs on Daly’s evolution on gay rights. After the obscure contretemp in the Clico COE , the above article will serve as a pivot on Former President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Martin Daly S.C; ORTT. views on homosexuality. Fortunately, there will be no exchanges between the biographer and interested parties as happened in the pages of the New York Review of Books that occured after the review of Naipaul’s biograpphy by Ian Buruma.

    • Excerpt from Express story on CLICO COE:

      THANKI: The problem is, you said in your witness statement that the auditors’ report you were talking about was dated December 2007. That is wrong, isn’t it, the figures which were analysed were as at December 2007 but the report was dated January 2009 after the on-site inspection, after all the follow-up work, after the relevant off-site work was completed.

      ASSAM: I disagree totally. It was an attempt by the inspector of financial institutions to cover up his inefficiencies and the members of his staff for not supplying the copies of the on-site examination immediately after inspection of December 2007.

      THANKI: I’m sorry, Mr Assam, but I have to suggest to you that is nonsense.

      ASSAM: You are one of the first persons to have ever told me I spoke nonsense.

      THANKI: Well there is a first time for everything.

      Senior Counsel Russell Martineau, lead counsel for PricewaterhouseCoopers, cross-examined Assam next.

      MARTINEAU: Mr Assam, I represent PricewaterhouseCoopers, your friendly auditors.

      ASSAM: I am not hostile with anyone.

      MARTINEAU: I know you are never hostile.

      ASSAM: Not at all, I hope you do not use the word “nonsense” to me.

      Stuart Young, the legal representative for Ernst and Young, cross-examined Assam next without any aggression.

      The tussles, however, climaxed when Daly cross-examined Assam.

      Daly accused Assam of maligning Monteil’s integrity with second-hand information gathered.

      DALY: Yes, it is always tell, tell, tell. Everybody here is slandered on the basis of tell, tell, tell.

      ASSAM: And you are no different.

      DALY: Thank you very much. I was wondering if I should pull the dirt on you but I won’t.

      ASSAM: It is all right, I have no cocoa in the sun, so you could pull any dirt you wish. I am Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, without reproach.

      DALY: Are you a bisexual? At what level are the insults going to stop before the commissioner steps in. You tried it with Mr Thanki and you have tried it with me.

      ASSAM: I have been very respectful to all the counsel who have been cross-examining me. You are the ones using language that is rather uncivilised.

      “Mr Assam, calm down. Mr Daly, are there any more questions that are relevant?” Sir Anthony Colman, lone commissioner to the enquiry, yesterday intervened.

      Queen’s Counsel Peter Carter, lead counsel to the enquiry, then re-examined Assam.

      After Carter’s cross-examination Assam and Daly buried the hatchet.

      ASSAM: Before I finish I want to make it absolutely clear to this commission of enquiry, I did not come here to slander Mr Monteil, Mr (Richard) Trotman (former president of CIB) and Mr (Lennox) Archer (Trotman’s predecessor as CIB president).

      I came here on the invitation of the commission to assist it in trying to unravel what took place at CIB. That is the only purpose I am here, not to slander anyone or to contradict anyone, just to tell you exactly how I saw it, how I experienced it and what I met when I got back there, that is all.

      DALY: Before Mr Assam is released, for the purposes of the record, we had a number of harsh exchanges but I think I want to make it absolutely clear that I, too, did not set out to cast any aspersions. Whatever I think about the quality of his evidence I did not intend to cast any aspersions on either his public or private conduct so I think I should make that absolutely plain in view of the harsh exchanges we had, it is only right I should do so.

      COLMAN: So it was in the context of the forensic cut and thrust?

      ASSAM: I have nothing against Mr Daly, he is just merely doing his job.

      As Assam left the witness stand he shook Daly’s hand en route to the enquiry’s public gallery.

    • My interpretation is not that Daly was indulging in gay bashing. But rather he was trying to find a comeback to Assam’s suggestion that he was Caesar’s wife.
      Maybe it fell short of the top standards of picong. But, taken in context, I don’t see that as homophobic by a long way.

    • To borrow Mandy Rice-Davies famousr retort to a denial by Lord Astor in a scandal that brought Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillan, in the summer of 1963, and eventually his successor, Lord Home…” “Well, he would, wouldn’t he? And “Well, You would, wouldn’t you.

    • Hahaha. Christopher, your comments are always sharp. But we would disagree from time to time. I don’t think that cross-examination represented a call to arms for the LGBT community.
      That’s my opinion.

  3. Interested the know if people who’ve seen the film would frame it in this way (the other meanderings aside)…

  4. Excellent!! Keep championing the Arts and justice for Akiel Chambers! A stern reminder to those who soar high From the use of STATE resources!! The last statement is not aimed at armchair journalists!! To you all, keep on asking pertinent questions. Hopefully, one day we may get those answers via the Courts.

  5. “In the interim, may I say on behalf of commentators, constructive critics and all citizens demanding accountability that perhaps chickens keep their heads and are not downright disrespectful of public opinion because chickens are not ensconced in the higher, thinner air inhabited by eagles flying by means of State resources.”

    That’s not a barb, Martin, it’s a broadside! Only a man who does “not lust for any freeness or indicia and trappings of VVIPhood” would dare write those words in a public space “in (hyper)sensitive T&T.”

    I’m saving my breath to cool my tea some more.

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