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.
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.
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.
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.
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.