ACTORS, cinemas and theaters bring plays, films and movies to life before our very eyes; and they can touch us as deeply as those that caused The Lennon Sisters to wax the record hit ‘Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry’ in 1961.
Later (in the mid-to-late 60s), I was old-enough to wager (tax) 25 cents (a ‘shilling’) off my mum’s weekly $10 Saturday shopping-money to pay for a ‘morning matinee’ ticket at Clarke’s or Gaiety Cinema in Castries.
Back then, if you paid less you couldn’t complain about dress or hygiene, sight being ‘blocked’ or feeling ‘squeezed’.
Fast-forward five decades to Caribbean Cinemas on Sunday August 27, 2023, for my first time to see a purely-local movie — at a 21st Century air-conditioned cinema with everything — and one price for all… I’d gone to see ‘Shantaye’s World’, produced for and by Iyanola Pictures, the latest of five films by Mathurine Emmanuel’s trademark company.
Considered by many as Saint Lucia’s most-versatile writer and author for stage and screen — a script-writer, producer and director who also acts in her movies — she’d already produced ‘Tears in the Valley’, Ribbons of Blue’, ‘Troubled Waters’, ‘Nana’s Paradise’, but none on the Big Screen.
Having missed two previous screenings, I would not have given Mathurine a chance to tell me she’d counted the ‘number of stones’ I’d given her, or how it was ‘enough to build a castle…’
Before entering, I bought an autographed copy of the hard copy of the Shantaye’s World book and a DVD of ‘Troubled Waters’.
The movie I saw?
It was a gripping and enchanting presentation of history, art and culture, transcending Saint Lucia and the Caribbean, taking the viewer to every corner of Shantaye’s wide world — from a full ‘Home Sweet Home’ to less-than-half of a new and freezing ‘Home Away From Home’…
She navigates an imbalance of broken hearts and lifelong experiences with lessons that every Caribbean man, woman and child can — and should — get an opportunity to see, understand and relate to.
Why? Because Shantaye (according to Mathurine) means: ‘Bold, enchanted, determined, spiritually intense, creative and independent…’.
Shantaye’s world is spelt out in the 272-page book through a screened story that starts with ‘Welcomes and Goodbyes’ during ‘Happy School Days’ and ‘Bad Blood’ too, featuring the innocence of ‘Little Women’ growing into puberty and enjoying ‘Special Christmases’ until growing-up to having to personally confront ‘Inflection Points’ that also taught them that ‘When it rains, it pours…’
Growing-up to be the ever-stubborn but always-determined person she always was, Shantaye’s mid-life world saw the ‘Death of Her Family’s Matriarch’ and forced her to listen to ‘When the Heart Speaks’, to decide whether ‘To Love, or Not to Love’ — and to see and feel the ‘Broken Cords…’
Then came the ‘Sad Awakening’ and ‘Secret Encounters’ that led to her forced ‘Farewell’ on a dreaded ‘Ship-Ahoy’ trip she almost absconded from, but took to pursue a ‘Medical Practice’ as a nurse – only to have to nurse the unsettling thought of being treated or considered ‘Out of Sight and Out of Mind’ by the other resident half of her inner world.
But the 19-chapter screenplay story would end with ‘A Promise Kept’ and what Shantaye lived happily-ever-after to enjoy as ‘The Last Farewell…’
Shantaye’s story is one of the many versions of the experience of the ‘Windrush Generation’ of Caribbean souls who migrated to the colonial motherland in search of the Green-and-Lily-White Fields’ in fabled imperial ‘Lands of Milk and Honey’, only to end-up being rejected – and just for looking different.
The film is a love story about two individuals from different worlds, but crossing races and classes, town and country, land and sea, reflecting the different cultures and common biases that existed during and after slavery, through the remnants of plantation life imbedded in minds and communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
That Sunday afternoon, I saw the real Mathurine at work, multi-tasking on both floor and screen, acting and managing, producing and directing the marketing, promotions and sales aspects of the fifth venture of her continuing adventure, in fulfilment of a mission from a vision that still happily haunts her.
Mathurine says of the loyal British West Indian subjects dissed by ungrateful Britons after they built back Britain from World War II devastation: ‘Beyond understanding the many reasons why these people still reflect on their struggles, we must also appreciate all that they achieved under the conditions that they encountered.’
For her, ‘It was a delight to discover their journey’ and to ‘feel privileged to capture their experience with this story…’
But she simply couldn’t have told Shantaye’s whole story without the quiet and silent, but hard, long and sustained, productive work and support of the people behind the screen – the local actors, the production team at All Biz and the sponsors at Saint Lu Metals.
The still-hot hard-cover classic was ‘Printed in Poland by Amazon Fulfilment’, but the story told and seen was yet another exhibition of why Mathurine had been honoured for the mastery of her work — from as far back as winning the ‘Best Documentary Feature’ award at the New York International Film and Video Festival in 2004 with ‘Ribbons of Blue’, also selected as ‘Best Picture’ at the M&C Fine Arts Awards Festival in 2006.
Mathurine’s latest film continues her winning ways two decades later, Shantaye’s story attracting rave reviews at international screenings in London, New York and Toronto, including an honourary doctorate from a UK University – all in 2023.
‘Indeed,’ the writer in her says: ‘We Are Shantaye — bold, proud, creative and intelligent…
‘We are Caribbean People — the most resilient people in the world!’
Genii always find ways to bring genies out of bottles and ‘Shantaye’s World’ is the latest example of a local genius behind that eternal truth — and (hopefully), with much-more to come…