It must be considered extraordinary in the life of a country when editorial writers are compelled to call on two of its highest public officials to account for the expenditure of public funds in the space of a few weeks.
So much is coming off the rails at the same time. I do not wish to add more fuel to the fire.
However, before I return to the positive and pleasing annual Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, I should like to suggest that it is because we have gone overboard providing weapons of self aggrandisement that so many of our public officials believe that they are the masters of our small island universe.
To be preceded everywhere by fanfares and flags, to maintain parades that give no value for money, which are relics of the colonial past, and to be conveyed in blue lighted Prado entourages is heady stuff.
That and other stuff is so heady that many of our public officials self-destruct under the weight of a belief in themselves that is akin to the ancient belief in the Divine Right of Kings.
As far as my recent professional engagement by the Prime Minster to provide an opinion on the constitutional boundaries of interaction between the President and the Prime Minister or members of Cabinet, I hope that the former Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and her well-known satellites now railing against my engagement will remind themselves of the opinion that I delivered in May 2011 at the request of her Government.
The subject was her stay by grace and favour in a house in Tunapuna when she was newly elected as Prime Minister in 2010. She might also recall the free presentation I made in Tobago in 2010, at her Attorney General’s request, to her new Cabinet and the Peoples Partnership Parliamentarians at its first retreat. Reginald Dumas was the other presenter.
For decades, I have had the reputation and standing to be sought out for independent professional advice by Governments from both sides of the political divide. That independence and reputation for fairness is my brand and I am proud to have accomplished that standing.
The reason that I return to the Film Festival is that I have been able to see creative products born out of a combination of sponsorship and personal/commercial investment carrying business risk.
The films are not made exclusively with “Gobernment” money with the assurance of getting more money even if the product is not satisfactory. There are no initiative sapping and backbone softening free trips and other freeness at State expense, regardless of performance, productivity and accountability.
Moreover these products do not conform to some judges’ formula for content and arrangement that inhibits experiment and change in art form.
This year, the films from Trinidad and Tobago filmmakers have been particularly strong not just in dramatic content but as exciting travel adverts for what is left of the physical beauty of our twin islands.
In Cutlass, the forested areas of Trinidad, emblazoned with the red of the Immortelle, was vividly captured by the use of drones—a progressive use of contemporary technology so completely in contrast to the dated sound technology and lighting still inflicted on our precious steel orchestral music.
Cutlass is a movie about a kidnapping in Toco, on the north-east coast of Trinidad, based on the true event of just such a kidnapping. So what is good about Cutlass?
To answer that I must refer to two other films of a different genre. These are the documentaries: In a Perfect World and The Absentee, which deal with growing up without a father present. In both films the issue is explored through the testimonies of the children/young adults.
In the full-length film, In a Perfect World, there is the considerable insight of the parenting challenge provided by the maker of the film, Daphne McWilliams, herself a single mother, from Trini roots but resident in New York. From this base she presents stimulus to think deeply about the problem of absentee fathers.
The common thread in these films is that they contain the sociology of Trinidad and Tobago and its diaspora.
This sociology of an absent father is also referenced in Cutlass. The makers of Cutlass drew the character of the kidnapper of the white girl by reference to his knowing no father, getting licks and being subordinate to his older and reportedly domineering brother.
The kidnapper’s background is juxtaposed against that of his victim, namely a two-parent family headed by a dogged father who goes into the field to seek and recover his daughter.
These moviemakers chose to make a key social statement about the dysfunctional inequalities of our small island country. Glencoe social structure is pitted against the product of the looser moorings of a disadvantaged community.
The 2016 Film Festival provided credible material through which to see the fault lines of our confused society.