art in all its forms

art in all its forms


FILM REVIEW: Moving parts

Valerie Tian in Moving Parts

Moving Parts tells a story not often told. It seeks to give audiences a glimpse of life from the perspective of persons who are smuggled into Trinidad and Tobago as well as persons who fall prey to human trafficking. That focus on these invisible groups is laudable, especially at a time when the world is alight with debate over the role of immigrants.

The film follows Zhenzhen (Valerie Tian) and her brother Wei (Jay Wong) who are both grieving the death of their father. Zhenzhen is smuggled into the country then soon finds herself captive to handlers who promptly take away her passport. After a few days of having her do menial work in a restaurant, they enlist her into a prostitution ring. As time passes and it becomes clear neither brother nor sister can free themselves of a vicious cycle of subservience, there are tragic consequences.

Refreshingly, the film jettisons the tourist brochure approach to local filmmaking and presents Trinidad in an unvarnished way, making great use of downtown Port-of-Spain locations in particular. Some thought and effort clearly went into the visual strategy of the film, with Nancy Schreiber's hand-held cinematography underlining the gritty realities of the story as well as conveying the rich mood and textures of the capital.

Sections of the film bring to mind Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros with its interlocking narratives and brooding mood. The minimal score also leaves room for mesmerizing sequences that rely on the ambient sounds of the capital. For instance, there are two memorable scenes in which Multisymptom's 'Sonita' becomes a haunting counterpoint to the action. Director Emilie Upczak shows verve in her management of all these elements.

Because of what the film is about, however, it will inevitably invoke comparisons to films like Taken and Trade. These comparisons will not be justified. This is not a film about action. Nor is it a tearjerker. Which is problematic. Despite achieving strength in some of its quieter moments, the movie - which is only 77 minutes long - is too languid given the menace of its subject matter.

Moving Parts

Directed by: Emilie Upczak
Written by: Emilie Upczak, Nicholas Emery, Jay White
Produced by: John Otterbacher, Emilie Upczak
Co-Producers: Rhonda Chan Soo, Annabelle Mullen
Executive Producers: Melanie Archer, Bonnie Kennedy, Jud Valeski
Cinematographer: Nancy Schreiber
Production Designer: Shannon Alonzo
Editing: Gabriel Coss, Jonathan Gollner
Production Sound: Cedric Smart
Sound Design: Kris Franzen
Score: Rafael Attias

Opens today at MovieTowne, Port of Spain. 


Paint the town blue

LIKE THE words in this sentence, the objects in Shane Mohammed's collages build on one another. Individually, each object has performed some function and carries an archive of associations. Yet, exhausted of their use and repurposed they hint at secret narratives. But must there be narrative in art? Even the lack of story is a story. Everything here functions like the words in a poem or the pieces of a stained-glass window.

In a statement accompanying Block and Blue (the title of the show does not do it justice), Mohammed gives us an account of his process:
I collect objects and in admiration use them to tell stories of past and present experiences. They reside in our homes, on our top shelves and below the kitchen sink, in our glass-cased cabinets and among the landfills. 
The objects range from the everyday plastic bottle to the inner workings of an antique clock and everything in between. They are accumulated by the cycle of working, living and satisfying but in this collection they are returned to the cycle as a fuel to the cycle itself. The objects are collected and stored whilst influenced by the process of painting, personal restrictions, ideas of colour and relationships to individual objects.
All of it is beautiful, as if Yves Klein or a jab jab went around Port of Spain picking out things from dustbins. The room is filled with shades of blue, making everything have impact en masse. Individual pieces, as pleasing as they are, feel less audacious. But, as the artist suggests, each piece is destined to be re-constituted as object d'art, in the process opening into an infinite process of creation through collection.

We come away feeling like we've been given access to a person's private hoarding: as though her thoughts were made manifest and laid bare on a circuit board. Block and Blue nobly asks us to question and interrogate the most common things in our lives. It reminds us of the magic that happens when objects no longer have a time and place, when they transcend context. And it makes us wonder about the distinction between animate and inanimate, functional and decorative, bodily and sculptural, between horcruxes and that which they contain.

Block and Blue is on at The Frame Shop, Carlos Street, Woodbrook. Call (868) 628-7508. Show runs until May 12. Saturday opening hours 9am-2pm.


'Listen, I am writing for the people'

Poet Laureate Paul Keens-Douglas

Those were the days of Black Power and that’s when The Last Poets and the black poets were all streaming and then again I was influenced by that. That’s the first time you are hearing this type of poetry and from Canada I went to Jamaica and there I heard Louise Bennett now doing her dialect and pushing this nation language and it was right there on campus, that I decided that I should try my hand after hearing Louise, try my hand at writing dialect poetry and I wrote that first piece: 'The Band Passing' and since that time I have never gone back to writing Standard English. I mean I still write Standard English. But when I discovered the power of the poetry, when I saw how it moved people in the audience, the local poetry particularly, the response blew me. I thought, you know, this is wonderful because you became a pioneer then, in those days, because there was nobody else to follow. You wrote your poem and you want to sing, you just sing, you want to dance, you dance your poem, you want to put it upside down, you put it upside down. You were in charge of your poem. There was no structure that you had to follow, whereas in the Literature Department you had all these Literary Terms and what is Literature and what is Poetry. Did away with all of that and said listen I am writing for the people. Let them be my audience.

- Poet Laureate Paul Keens-Douglas recalls how he started writing poetry in the inaugural Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago podcast posted over at the Circle of Poets website. LISTEN here