A wide shot of tourists relaxing on a sandy Caribbean beach is seen. Cut to a close up of lead actor Aleem Marcus Valentine as he charmingly approaches a tourist, “Excuse me do you want to go snorkeling?”
That is one recurring question any tourist can hear while vacationing in the Caribbean as well as in the upcomingshort film The Resort. Written and directed byJamaican-American director, Shadae Lamar Smith, The Resort tells an honest story from the Caribbean worker’s perspective. It is impossible to ignore thestriking themes of male hyper-sexuality, female invisibility and the monotony of physical labor amongst the film’s characters.
The Resort highlights and exposes some very real truths of the Caribbean work experienceand the privileges of its island’s visitors.Inspired by the Caribbean worker psychology, Smith says, “I was interested in exploring the correlation of sexual politics and work in the Caribbean as well as examining the mundane realities of women contrasted to the shocking and unseen realities of men in the tourism workplace.”
Our diverse team of filmmakers crafted this film on the southern most Caribbean island of Tobago, the sister island of Trinidad. For the past two weeks,our team consisted of forty-two international filmmakers, producers, actors, designers and technical personnel from New York, Los Angeles, Trinidad and Tobago. Led byUCLA Masters directing candidate, Shadae Lamar Smith, this film follows a group of beach boys and maids as they interact with visiting tourists on one unforgettable weekend.Shot on 16mm, principal photography occurred on location in Tobago at a private villa in Arnos Vale and at Pigeon Point Beach.
Director of photography, Dehanza Rogers brought her cinematography expertise to the film, capturing the island’s raw beauty.Supported by the UCLA Film School, The Tobago House of Assembly and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Commission, our production was met with tremendous support from local organizations and the larger Tobago community as the entire cast, excluding three actors, consisted of local Trinidadian and Tobagonian talent. In the short six-day shooting schedule, our team became an international family.
With every family, there are challenges, especially when making a movie.Our experience included: 5am call times, locking in locations in an unfamiliar country, transporting equipment between islands while maximizing our daily twelve hour shooting schedule. However, there were some unique treasures to the process: the Atlantic Ocean was our daily backdrop, the fresh bake and salt fish for breakfast, sleeping in hammocks, buildingbon fires on the beachand soca dance parties. Working in such a visually rich environment bonded our team together more so then any other film I have worked on. A few of our local lead actors even shared their own personalexperiences working as full time maids and cooks in hotels on the island.
"These conversations revealed to me the importance of the work we were creating and the many untold Caribbean stories that have yet to be disseminated out to the world."
In the past ten years, the Caribbean has been a popular site to shoot films. Smith respects the many filmmakers who have shot in the Caribbean but says, “I don’t necessarily seek to stand out from any of these films but more so to add my voice to the zeitgeist. I’m a young filmmaker and I’m trying to find my voice. I’m looking to tell an honest story from my perspective.” His commitment to exploring his own contribution to the international film industry is why he chose to shoot on location in Tobago.
The Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Community Development and Culture Secretary, Dr. Denise Tsoiaffat-Angus spoke highly of Smith and the production coming to Tobago, “When we were approached by the company to do the film, we saw it as an opportunity to invest in the development of our young filmmakers and actors on the island”. Smith plans to return back to Tobago in the summer of 2014 to offerfilm workshops to the community.
The Resort exposes the beauty, humor, pain and struggle that many Caribbean people face as workers in the tourism industry. As both co-producer and actress in the film, I anticipate a critical reaction from audiences that will foster dialogue about Smith as a rising director, the film’s in your face themes and the current state of Caribbean cinema.Our line producer, Sue-Ellen Chitunya echoedsimilar sentiments, “It’s very important for filmmakers of color to tell stories like The Resort. Being able to tell our stories through moving pictures preserves culture and heritage that otherwise could be easily overlooked.” I know this film will provoke conversation and perhaps make you think twice on how you interact with “the help” the next time you visit a Caribbean island.
By: Marjuan Canady
All Photos Courtesy of Marlon James
Marjuan Canady is an actress, writer, director and producer for both the stage and film. Her original plays have been supported by Harlem Stage and The DC Commission on the Arts. She is the author of the Caribbean children's book, "Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale” and the creative director of Sepia Works. She is a graduate the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Fordham University and New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. She currently resides in Los Angeles.www.marjuancanady.com.