La Diablesse at Montserrat Film Festival

According to the folklore of Trinidad and Tobago, La Diablesse is a woman whose poise, figure and dress make her appear to be beautiful; her hideous face is hidden by a large brimmed hat. Her long dress hides the fact that she has one human foot and one cow's hoof, also she walks with one foot on the road and her cow's hoof in the grass at the side of the road. She can cast spells on her unsuspecting male victims whom she leads into the forest with promises of sexual favours. When in the forest, she disappears and the man, confused, lost and scared, runs around the forest until he falls into a ravine or river and dies…(Courtesy The Heritage Library)

During the recent Film Festival here in Montserrat, several interesting and imaginative films were shown and discussed, including four films from HAMA Productions in Antigua. These films were produced and directed by Howard and Mitzi Allen, an enterprising and innovative Antiguan couple who are leading the way in film production in the Eastern Caribbean. 

Among these films was “La Diablesse” (Jablesse), a modern twist to a Caribbean legend. We learnt that a planter’s daughter fell in love with a slave whose mother was an obeah woman, and they ran away to get married. But the planter found out and killed the bridegroom, whose mother put a curse on the bride, giving her a donkey’s foot and compelling her to search for another bridegroom forever more. 

Switching to the present day, as the Diablesse is driving her car along a country road she picks up a young man who is asking for a lift. As she drives she sings, and the young man compliments her on her singing, to which she replies that “I could sing when I was alive!” at which the young man jumps from the car and runs.
Later on she gets involved with another young man, by offering him a lift when his car won’t start, after a late night at a bar. He has fallen out with his fiancée, but when she realizes he’s missing she and a friend go to look for him, helped by the bar owner who knows where the Diablesse lives. Eventually they find him there, tied to a bed while the Diablesse puts on a wedding dress to force him to marry her. 
Apparently all’s well that ends well, and with the help of holy water and other means the Diablesse is either chased away or destroyed. The film ends with the original young man still running, perhaps eventually running into the sea. 
This film is full of atmosphere, helped by music, visuals and facial expressions, giving a mysterious feel to the story as it develops, and when it ends one is still not quite sure what the ending really is. Impressively, the acting was all done by cinema students from Ithaca College who had returned to Antigua for the holidays – a great experience for them and also for the audience.
The other films by HAMA Productions are “The Sweetest Mango”, a romantic comedy; “No Seed”, a drama full of political intrigue; and “The Skin”, a supernatural mystery based on Caribbean folklore. Howard and Mitzi Allen have done a wonderful job producing and directing these films, all of which were shown at the Film Festival. 
Congratulations to Gracelyn Cassell of the UWI Open Campus for conceiving and organizing the Film Festival. Sadly it was poorly attended, perhaps due to clashing events, and those who didn’t come missed out on a really enriching experience.
Source: Caribbean News Now Film review: La Diablesse at Montserrat Film Festival
Published on December 13, 2012

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