TTFF 17 Review


Moko Jumbie (Trinidad 2017)

“Asha flies in from England to visit her old family home. But there’s trouble in paradise. Her aunt Mary doesn’t like her associating with their Afro-Trinidadian neighbours. Then Asha begins to realise this abandoned seaside coconut estate is not as tranquil as it looks. Trinidadian-American director Anderson’s striking imagery mingles memory and imagining, the mundane and the supernatural, in examining family, race, class, and the quest for home.”

Written and directed by Vashti Anderson, Moko Jumbie stars Vanna Girod in the title role of Asha. Those are the things I know for sure about this movie, the rest is a bit of speculation. I say that because, honestly, I’m not 100% sure what happened in this movie. It plays out very Terrence Malick esk, where it’s extremely visual, and they are good visuals, but sometimes those visuals, and the narrative don’t over lap. This movie is also about decision making, especially on the part of the film makers here, as many of the creative decisions, didn’t fit what I was seeing. A large component of this film is folk lore, and the myths and legends that came over to Trinidad and Tobago on boasts so long ago. Vanna does a great job of doing what I imagine she was directed to do, and she manages to keep a level a nuance to her performance, especially in the more quiet moments of the film. The problem is when things happen in this movie, they seem to happen almost inexplicably. One moment we have this going on, the next minute there is literally a coup. This decision making, this maybe resolution of style over substance can be a bit jarring, and makes things feel very disjointed. And while this could simply be labeled as more “experimental”, that alone can’t be a crutch to lean on. I feel like Moko Jumbie, as a script or as an idea, was something subtle, something nuanced, but the execution and final product, is muddied and murky. Moko Jumbie stands tallest on the performed of its lead and its visuals, but is let down by its creative decision making, and lack of coherence.

Review Score : 5 out of 10

Visibly Me (Short/Trinidad 2017)

“Visibly me tells the story of a 47 year old woman with no partner and no children who finds herself invisible and feels she has no choice but to find the antidote.”

Visibly Me is listed as a documentary short, but it plays out like a narrative, and I feel like a narrative is what this short really wants to be. It uses mostly voice over to tell the authors story, and to give meaning to what we see on screen. The idea of being invisible is a real big theme here, and it’s shown in the visuals, and the way this short is shot. Most of the angles and compositions have to do with the idea of being right there, but still not being scene, and it that regard they are successful. Where I think there are issues are when these concepts conflict, which I why I say this should have been an actual story, something we could identify with. If this short was made only to appeal to a very specific audience then that’s fine, but I feel like it’s meant to spread a message, over being a closed loop. Even at 13 minutes long, this short feels much longer, as it often seemed to wander seemingly aimlessly very often. All in all I think what we have here is a clash, a clash of styles, a clash of ideas, and a clash of methodology.

Review Score : 4 out of 10

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Review : The Cutlass

The-cutlass-poster

“Inspired by true events, THE CUTLASS is a dramatic thriller set in the tropical wilderness of Trinidad and tells the story of a young woman who falls into the grasp of a dangerous sociopath. She finds herself isolated and musters the courage to emotionally battle the unsettled mind of her abductor.”

As the summary implies, this movie both takes place and was made by and in Trinidad and Tobago (so if you’re not from or in the Caribbean you might not be able to see this one). Its written by Teneille Newallo, and directed by Darisha Beresford, and it boasts a genuinely diverse cast across all levels. The movie itself is definitely more good than bad, but first, the good. Arnold Goindhan who plays the antagonist here, has the meatiest role, and the most heavy lifting, acting wise to do here, and he does a pretty good job. He does come across as sincere in his more vulnerable moments, and when he keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines. He does this across from Lisa-Bel Hirschmann, who definitely keeps her acting as subtle as possible, but for the most part doesn’t have as much to play against. Her most emotional scene however, is done really well, and she does tug on the heart strings with her performance there. I do think some of the cinematography does lack a bit of imagination, as I think it would have allowed for some more powerful scenes with some better framing. I also did have some problems with the sound, not in that it was bad, or not done properly, there just were a few times when I felt in either the ADR, or straight audio mixing of the audio, that some dialogue didn’t feel like it was happening in the situation, but sounded more like a voice over. The score I also wasn’t too impressed with, for the most part it was very subdued and subtle, and thats fine, but I felt like when it really needed to swell and help impart some emotion or suspense, it came off a bit lack luster. And lack luster is how I would define the ending of this movie, for most of it, everything in the movie is building towards to a head, towards some kind of resolution, and you just never get it. There is an ending here, and there are definite resolutions in the script, but things don’t feel resolved, they feel like what we invested in before, was fully paid off. I know I probably sound like I really don’t like this film, but I did like it, the things that it did well, it genuinely did. There are some problems here yes, like any movie really, but this movie definitely shows the raising levels of Caribbean film making. Production wise this is one of the best local (local meaning Trinidadian) films I’ve seen. All in all, I do encourage anyone who has the opportunity to check this movie out to do so, supporting local industries is important for growth, and there is definitely enjoyment to be had in this movie.

Review Score : 7 out of 10