The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr expressed it, “I have a dream” and it is felt by many a Caribbean-based family who uproots their family to the ‘land of opportunity’ as we understand it. But what happens in the ‘land of opportunity’ as parent and child enjoy their ‘illegal alien’ status, and a child declares, “Mom, I want to be an artist.” If life were all orderly like the movies, surely that child would be speaking of becoming a doctor, lawyer, educator, or even trying out for the X Factor; but, an artist!
Although life might reflect drama; drama has not been as quick to reflect such realities for the Caribbean-Diaspora and its impact upon future parent-child relations. Reelworld Film Festival recognized the opportunity though, to feature a film that explores such life dramas on Sunday, October 14th, 2018 at Toronto’s 2018 Reelworld Film Festival when Richard Young’s Maternal was featured.
Especially in the Caribbean with our matrifocal focus in the family, we appreciate the idea of maternal instinct. Mama protects her child. It is that simple. So, what of a career in the arts? What would a Caribbean Diaspora mom be so afraid of? In his film Maternal, Young brings to life the parent’s dilemma of direct the dream versus devour the dream. We meet a mother who sacrificed for this dream but with that practical Caribbean personality, the mother must help the child understand, dream here is the one you hold while awake. In this film, mama must surely feel her need to awaken her daughter out of her dream state. Mother must awaken her daughter to help her recognize she is an ‘illegal alien’. In the ‘land of opportunity’ yes, but surely not on par in terms of accessibility to resources and revenues.
Thus, this idea of the artist touring the World and becoming rich is surely not for her daughter. Those dreams are for the privileged. Those dreams are not for the hard-working people who migrated so their children could make something of themselves. Honestly, after all, what sought of job security is there for an artist? Who writes about an artist so that the articles could be shared with family and friends of the great success? Purposeful Poverty, that is what this mother foretells in her mind for her daughter, and as that strong Caribbean personality mother, she would not have it.
The film Maternal is a commentary on diversity and privilege in the Arts. It tells the story of this young Canadian-born daughter awaiting acceptance into her dream arts program. As elated as the girl might be, her Caribbean mother feels she must save her child from making a horrible mistake.
Our protagonist, this daughter though, could well be a son, and the dream might not be the arts, but simply a non-traditional career path. What is one phrase our Caribbean children hear a lot, “be careful”. An expression of our desire to have all go well with them. How much more than would parents experience anxiety and angst to think of this great risk their child is taking in this great big land of opportunity where they are little known. At least, per person per capita, not as known as they might have been on regional soil. Thus Maternal is a film for the future risk takers in our children who dare the non-traditional.
Young emphasized, “I hope this film shows them that their parents do love them and care about them, and the reason the parents try to dissuade them is because they don’t want their children to suffer.” Maternal is to help the parent filled with both wonder and woeful worry to be soothed. Maternal is for the empowerment of the mindset of the Caribbean Diaspora to go forth and make their mark in fields far and wide. Young himself explained, “If the marginalized can’t make art, when are their voices heard? How will the rest of the population empathize with them?”
For those unfamiliar with this playwright, Richard Young, he is a South Asian-Canadian screenwriter/actor and an alumnus of both the Writers’ Guild of Canada Bell Media Diverse Screenwriting Program and the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) Kid’s TV Writing Bootcamp. He has written for the television cartoon 16 Hudson (TVO), co-created/wrote the digital series Sudden Master (OMNI/Rogers) and created the digital sketch series Off2Kali which screened at ReelWorld. Recently, his original television pilot script that he wrote with Vas Saranga placed as a Quarter-Finalist in the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest. Richard’s acting credits include the feature The History Of Love (acting opposite Sir Derek Jacobi), Taken (NBC), My Secret Valentine (Hallmark), Kim’s Convenience (CBC), Incorporated (SyFy) and The Strain (FX). Additionally, Richard serves as the ACTRA Toronto Treasurer.
Maternal highlights diversity in worldviews and understandings. In the Caribbean, we understand work as well, work, meaning, hard work. However, there is this notion in these ‘lands of opportunity’ of work being fun. While as an idea it might be okay, it is quite another thing if a Caribbean ancestry parent is told their child wants to be a gamer on YouTube or any other job that sounds like anything but work. Young shared in an interview, the understanding of the Diaspora is, “hard work isn’t supposed to be fun, and there are only a couple of routes to success.” This film seeks to open our understanding to create opportunities for change. This Young felt would best be done as the Diaspora finds ways to celebrate those who have already selected unconventional careers. This he notes as opposed to reinforcing the view of it being an odd happening with phrases like, “he or she can probably afford to do that” or “he or she is just lucky”. Also, using our natural Caribbean tendencies to share stories, “heard, Ms. X son/daughter …” Young suggested building a mentor/mentee programme of non-conventional jobs/occupations/fields. In this way, the ‘dream’ would begin to create space for the unconventional, and mama can feel less of a need to protect her child.
As many people in the Caribbean Diaspora thrive and work among others, Maternal makes a tough examination regarding nuances (complex aspects) about life for those destined to not just have a dream but live it.
By Kerriann Toby
Kerriann Toby holds a Master of Counselling and Bachelor of Psychology. She is a dynamic therapist, trained mediator, and educator since 2000. In addition to being a trained educator, mediator, and therapist, she is a certified Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Professional. Kerriann has also trained in cyber counseling and holds clinical registration with Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) & Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).
In mid-October 2015 she initiated operations of KarryOn geared toward the provision of a variety of enhancement and developmental services for the individual, groups and the organization; e-Coaching/Counseling, Mediation, EAP Services and the creative presentation of psycho-social information. She can be reached at email@example.com.