art in all its forms

art in all its forms

9/19/11

Inward Hunger


A NEW documentary series, exploring the life of Dr Eric Williams and depicting him as, among other things, a tragic figure and a prime minister who turned a blind eye to corruption in his Cabinet, was launched last Wednesday night by the director Mariel Brown.
Brown said she has a strong belief that an audience will be interested in, “a fuller picture of the man we know as the father of the nation.”

“A few years ago I was talking with my father Wayne Brown,” she told the audience gathered for a private screening of Inward Hunger: The Story of Eric Williams at the Central Bank Auditorium, Port-of-Spain. “He said he thought that in the end Williams life was a tragic one.” Brown said of her series, which airs at
1 pm on Saturday (Republic Day) on Government Information Services Limited Channel 4, aims to depict the country’s first prime minister “as a human being rather than a politician.”

“He was deified and despised. He was imperious and intellectually arrogant,” she said of Williams in an address before the screening of part-one of the series.

“As he grew older, he became increasingly paranoid and withdrawn until he became a virtual recluse.

He was a man who cared little for wealth and material possessions. Yet, he was known to turn a blind eye to corruption running rampant in his Cabinet.”

“Many saw Williams as a kind of messiah: a man who could save them. Yet some argue that this has led to an entrenchment of a culture of dependancy in our society,” Brown, the director of The Solitary Alchemist, said. “He was a fearless man. He believed in celebration, he believed in Caribbean integration and unity: he was a man of many contradictions.”

The documentary series, which was initially approved under the GISL under the PNM but also later endorsed under the new management of the company, was also funded through support from the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company Limited and First Citizens Bank.

Speaking at the launch, GISL chairman Andy Johnson noted that Williams was a figure who provoked extreme reactions, but few could remain indifferent to him. The documentary series is divided into three parts.

Episode 1: “Great Expectations” follows Williams from his birth in 1911, and covers his parents and childhood days, his difficulties at Oxford, his first two marriages and then his entry into politics.

Brown effectively uses photographs, archive and file footage to build an impression of the times.

There are interviews with historians and academics, as well as Williams’ daughter, Erica Williams-Connell.

An actor — Albert Laveau in a bravura performance — renders the voice of Williams, breathing life into some of his speeches and letters.

The script, written and researched by Alake Pilgrim, has a literary sensibility: making profound observations in understated ways. There is also a powerfully haunting score by Francesco Emmanuel which fuses different local musical traditions into a somber and potent mix. 

Even with this gathering of material, however, the sense of who Williams actually was remains elusive as it must; a few bits of information are also, deliberately, not clarified.  There are hints of the influence of key figures such as CLR James on Williams, but the first 55-minute episode ends by asking the question: did we really know Eric Williams? This is a question which strikes at the heart of the ambition of the series.

Episode 2: “Movement of the People,” deals with Williams and the PNM’s emergence and the events that led to independence.  This is a complex examination of Williams race politics and suggests far-reaching repercussions to some of his more controversial moves amidst an all-emcompassing search for national identity.

Episode 3: “Power” deals with the interaction between Williams’ public and private life and the dramatic circumstances surrounding his death.

Inward Hunger airs on Saturday at 1pm on Channel 4.

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