Films for a Better Place Review: Changing the Way You Feel About Being Green

Green Screen Closing night from l-r: Miguel Galofre, Rhonda Chan Soo, founder and director of green Screen Carver Bacchus, Edward Inglefield & Maya Cross-Lovelace.

With an uncannily crisp weather, and a cool gale wafting over the San Fernando Hill, the crux of local environmental shorts were on exhibit at the final night of Green Screen The Environmental Film Festival 2016. That sense of calm in the atmosphere that evening was a perfect accent to the event. Films for a Better Place, was this year’s feature project at Green Screen.

Coming on the trail of last year’s in-house contribution, ‘A Better Place’, this project was designed to be a spin off of the former, a feature, and an extension of its philosophical underpinnings. The idea was simple. SustainTT would empower a few interested, budding filmmakers with the mission to make conscious, thought-provoking films on sustainable or environmental themes and treat them to a short workshop aimed at either introducing novices to tools and techniques of the craft or refreshing the skills of those with prior training.

The participants would then be paired with mentors to sustain their training, who would shepherd them into the field with a chosen subject to create. Finally, these filmmakers would then return with pieces that encourage a dialogue that is change-effecting, pro-sustainability, geared toward shedding light on previously cloaked issues and even more importantly, local and licensable. After all, Green Screen is a Film Festival. The initiative would have been laudable at the least, but aims to inspire long-term action. Mentorship was a key to this project.

The filmmakers’ mentors would be ardent patrons and return partners of the festival. This inaugural run saw Christopher Aaron and Miquel Galofré, both active practitioners in the field of documentary filmmaking, being the chaperones for the younger talent. The cohort included a fresh mix of graduates, industry intermediates and novice enthusiasts. Each came with a distinct perspective on their chosen subject.

Lone duo, Rhonda Chan Soo & Edward Inglefield presented a tale of determined small-group social & environmental insurrection with Quiet Revolution. Ozzy Merrique, gave a voice to a heretic craftsman in his short, Horse. Maya Cross-Lovelace, unraveled the conditions of self-inflicted environmental decay, at a national level in the trouble with plastic. The package also included an offering from Miquel Galofré himself, with Green & Yellow, his profile of two destitutes whom roam the streets of Port of Spain, as well as one by a latent contributor (who made sure to regularly emphasize his non-competitive status) Carver Bacchus, Director Sustain T&T & Founder of Green Screen, The Environmental Film Festival.

Quiet Revolution, Directed by Rhonda Chan Soo & Edward Inglefield Jury Award: Strongest Documentary Centred on a unique environmental movement, described as permaculture, this film explores the practice of self-reliance by members an agricultural commune, deep past the rolling plains of Freeport, Central Trinidad. At a farm named Wa Samaki, founded by Erle Noronha, Permaculturists have found their Valhalla in a converted citrus estate. Permaculture, which is a not so new revival of sustainable design in agricultural ecosystems, encourages us to be mindful of the practices we employ in growing and producing food. Chan Soo & Inglefield’s Documentary is a near-ethnographic introduction to the way of life of the members of this estate. We are made privy to their values, supposedly radical beliefs and aspirations for a much more conscientious society. Through the study, we’re also made to share their scrutiny towards a broad range of behaviours, like the chemical dependency of post-agrarian capitalistic society, mankind’s inability to be mindful in modernity and the question of their members’ perceived socio-economic privilege.

Horse, Directed by Ozzy Merrique Jr. Horse is, by all means, a stylistically dazzling short, that does its best to emulate its subject. Layered with a visceral soundtrack, that resembles progressive offshoots of jazz, rapso and other calypso derived urban music, it follows the movements of Damien Agostini as he goes about his very odd interest in harvesting scraps of wood and converting them into custom art pieces usually resembling animals. He then stacks these pieces along the paved path of the Queen’s Park Savannah with the hope of having them purchased by curious onlookers. It’s an unorthodox approach, but an example of how environmental sensibilities can be employed in any social strata. Horse takes us from Damien’s Queen’s Park West Gallery, throughout Port of Spain as he explains his process. We learn about his humanity (the film actually opens on him lamenting on the death of his son), share in his laughable peculiarities and are compelled by him to see the world differently. He’s clearly an eccentric with a proud disposition. This hip, untamed and yet somewhat fresh doc really illustrates the old adage, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The Trouble with Plastic, Directed by Maya Cross-Lovelace Jury Award: Guardian of the Environment Seventeen years ago, a bill went to Parliament to petition regulation and enforce the recycling of materials used to contain beverages. It’s 2016, and that Bill still hasn’t been passed. The Trouble with Plastic is a hard-hitting piece about the unsustainable practices of unregulated consumption and disposal of plastics in the T&T. Maya Cross-Lovelace’s film is a jarring buff to the nation for it’s ridiculously apathetic attitude towards the plastic crisis. Acknowledging the merits of efforts to otherwise buffer the situation by non-governmental, corporate, individual and state appointed interests (such as the EMA), the film, from most sides, explores the issue, which has more or less been allowed to proliferate with a culture of societal neglect and changes in administration. Cross-Lovelace focuses on the effort of a partnership between one conglomerate, Massy Stores, and a non-governmental, Plasti-Keep as they claim their responsibility in the fight against plastic waste. The film also makes another salient point in an effort to make it more immediate to the audience. That is, that even if we were all responsible in dumping our plastic properly, there's still the issue of landfills to be considered, as our landfills are also a major environmental hazard. Local experts put forward curbside recycling as a better model at this current stage of decay. The film ends with simple advice; Consumption will never make us happy. Taking care of our surroundings and inwardly, ourselves is what will make us happier. 

Teach A Man, Directed by Carver Bacchus Somewhere in Gulf of Paria, a man ‘dances’ with sharks. This film is the account of a spear fisher named Jason James. He begins speaking, and with the most passion, describes the euphoria he experiences conducting his life’s work. In idyllic glory, he affirms his place in space and time. Teach a Man is the kind of film that makes one feel good about humanity, that there could be such conscious people around, without guise or superficial airs about them. Jason shares his concerns about the world he knows above and below the choppy waves of the Coffee, as he calls it, on the La Brea coast. He talks about how life has changed since his youth, how a recent oil spill has affected his trade as a fisherman and how livelihood has become more challenging in general. He also discusses with us the ironic nature of development to see-saw the quality of life, especially in rural communities like his own, where young men, who would’ve learned to live off of the earth like himself, turn to the black market to make their way of life. Teach a Man is a beautifully shot conversation with a passionate man.

Green and Yellow, Directed by Miquel Galofré Street dwellers are very often characters that don’t get featured. As if, by some social consensus we all disregard that they exist as human beings, with dreams, aspirations, talents, wishes, hopes, needs, or even a history, who came from families and communities very much like any other of us. Miquel Galofré’s Green and Yellow is a feature of two street dwellers, Sheldon Abardeen, better known by most in the Mucurapo area as Sketch and a man named Sean, better known as Yankee, a former expatriate, also living on the streets of Port of Spain. These men each share their histories, one being more comprehensible than the other. They give us an insight into their eerily similar declines as a result of drug abuse, their respective admiration for their fathers (who weren’t necessary the best examples) and their common wish to overcome addiction and make right with their families. We are rightfully not made to form opinions on these men, but rather to go just a step further than accepting that they exist. We are made to see them as human beings. In all, reactions from the audience at the successive Q&A made it clear that the package of films left a significant indent, in not only the minds of those watching, but in their hearts and validated that film is highly effective as an agent to change ways of thinking and perceiving. FilmTT is proud to be a sponsor of this Festival and the Films for a Better Place initiative in particular. Top: Maya Cross-Lovelace receiving Guardian of the Environment Award Bottom: Rhonda Chan Soo & Edward Inglefield receiving Jury award for best use of documentary technique

Top: Maya Cross-Lovelace receiving Guardian of the Environment Award
Bottom: Rhonda Chan Soo & Edward Inglefield receiving Jury award for best use of documentary technique