By Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Not many Indian parents in India and the Indian Diaspora are inclined to encourage their children to study the Arts, the Humanities, and Social Sciences. They prefer, instead, to influence their children to study Medicine, Law, and Engineering as a career.
The result is that there are proportionately few visual artists, stage performers, comedians, spoken-word poets, filmmakers, directors, and actors.
A ZOOM public meeting was held recently (10/1/21) on the topic “Films on Indo-Caribbean identity, culture, and heritage.” The Pan-Caribbean meeting was hosted by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICC). It was chaired by Dr. Kirte Algoo of Suriname and moderated by Bindu Deokinath-Maharaj of Trinidad.
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The following are EXCERPTS of a ZOOM public meeting held recently (10/01/21) on the topic “Films on Indo-Caribbean identity, culture, and heritage.” The Pan-Caribbean meeting was hosted by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICC). It was chaired by Dr. Kirtie Algoe of Suriname and moderated by Bindu Deokinath -Maharaj of Trinidad.
The speakers were DR. PERRY POLAR (Trinidad), a film co-producer and project coordinator at The Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management (CNULM); IVAN TAI-APIN (Suriname), the director, a screenplay writer, and producer of the film Wiren, featured on Netflix, and now in the race for an Oscar Academy Award; and MAHADEO SHIVRAJ (Guyana), an actor, director, and producer of plays and films; appearing in American mainstream television shows and cinematic movies.
The highlight of the meeting was the screening of the trailer Wiren directed and co-produced by part-Indian/Hindustani, Tai-Apin. The main character is Wiren Jagessar who portrays the real-life story of the deaf-mute Wiren Meghoe of Suriname. Wiren’s mother is played by Kavita Ramphal.
PERRY POLAR said:
The film Ganga Dhaara: Sacred Spaces documents the origins and survival of the Ganga dhaara festival, a one-day Hindu pilgrimage at the Marianne River along the north coast of Trinidad, which began 27 years ago.
It is also a biography of its founder Ravindradath Maharaj, also known as Raviji. The film was co-produced by me, Dr. Perry Polar, and Dr. Sharda Mahabir, with contributions by Dr. Kumar Mahabir who conceived the idea.
The first part of the documentary notes that Ganga dhaara was inspired by Ganga Dussehra, a Hindu festival in India which commemorates the descent of the Ganges River from the Heavens to Earth.
One scene of the documentary describes a defining action that speaks to Raviji’s character. He noted that the Orisha organization, Ile Eko Sango Osun Mil’Osa (IESOM), also had a river festival. He invited them to take part in the Ganga dhaara festival and they continue to participate to this day.
Importantly, his trepidation that the Hindus would not accept the presence of an Orisha group at the Ganga dharra festival never materialized. This relationship allowed for a greater understanding of each other’s religious practice and some parallels in how each religion engages with sacred spaces were noted in the film.
The last part of the documentary sees Raviji speaking about being steadfast in having multiple identities (Hindu, Indian, Trini) in a multicultural society.
IVAN TAI-APIN said:
I would like to thank Dr. Mahabir and the ICC (Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre) for making me a part of the virtual public meeting entitled “Films on Indo-Caribbean identity, culture, and heritage.”.
This public meeting has introduced me to other filmmakers and people who want to help develop the Caribbean film industry. I think there should be more cooperation between Caribbean countries in the entertainment industry. In this way, we can create a world that can receive structured knowledge and financial support from governments, international organizations, and the business sector.
The Caribbean can then create its own film market that can compete with other film markets worldwide.
MAHADEO SHIVRAJ said:
My entry into filmmaking was not because I wanted to make films, but more because I wanted to act in films since I was a kid, but the opportunity in Guyana was absent.
The dream of seeing a budding film industry in Guyana when I left high school was absent. The ambition of making a career in film acting was nowhere in sight.
Filmmaking opportunities in Guyana occurred about three and four times by the time I was 53 years old. After waiting that long for something to happen and getting older, I decided to do it myself.
After producing these films, I had a bigger problem. Where do I screen the movies? Because piracy had caused the closure of all the movie theatres in Guyana. So for my four released films, I did not make a penny on the sale of even one DVD in Guyana, but many many people were making their livelihoods on my sweat, so to speak.
The two governments did nothing to stamp out piracy. They made no attempt to look at the laws on copyright infringement, so piracy is open and free for all.