First movie

What a surprise! At that time, 1 had already written several plays including DooDoo — which won the first prize as the best one-act play in the Arts Festival playwriting competition and also King Cobo — the first prize as the best full-length play in the PNM tenth anniversary literary competition in 1966. To crown it all, the Oilfields Workers Trade Union had commissioned me to write the three hours and a half long play — God and Uriah Butler — to celebrate their 30th anniversary in 1967. At the meeting, held at his home in Bayshore, Mr Kumar handed me about 16 foolscap pages of his story. He reiterated that my job was to find names for some of the characters and give them dialogue. As I flicked through the pages, I realised he wrote about a brutal slave master hanging Indians and Africans who worked side by side on his plantation.When I told him that part of the story was historically inaccurate, he simply shrugged it off saying something like, “Freddie, the movie is just a story. It is to express unity of the races in all things — even revolution. If people want history, let them read a history book. You can’t look for historical facts in creative writing.” At that time, the Ministry of Education had seconded me to the Division of Culture as Acting Drama Officer and I was conducting courses for teachers in six teachers’ training colleges including the Catholic Women Teachers’ College under Sr Aloysius. Also my theatre company, the Strolling Players, was as busy as ever. Yet, I turned night into day and wrote the screen play.

On Friday June 19, 1970, history was created when the first full-length feature film ever made in Trinidad — The Right and the Wrong — was premiered in Port-of-Spain. Hundreds of high profile persons were invited and I was pleased to be part of the celebration as 41 members of the Strolling Players had participated in the movie. To act in a film is an actor’s dream. The first week in March 2008, nine television stations held a TV Film Festival mainly to feature locally made films. IE-TV — Cable Channel 1 — showed six full-length movies — Jealousy, Innocent Adultery, Fire Down Below, Secrets of the Shells, The Mystic Masseur and The Right and the Wrong. Looking at it again was a real pleasure. Sometimes it was difficult to recognise members of my own group as they have changed so much over the 38 years. A feeling of sadness struck me when I saw on the screen Rita Ashby-Kerr, Daniel Warner, William Harrypaulsingh, Desmond Simmons and Lynda Renwick who have all gone to the great beyond. It was so funny seeing Mr Anthony Maharaj, the big boss at IE-TV, as a skinny teenager in a dhoti making a move with a woman twice his age and three times his size. Those scenes added comic relief to all the adultery, rape, maltreatment, mayhem and murder. “Everywhere I went in Trinidad, some clown would shout out, ‘Look Jasse McDonald! The bare-bottom man!’ At first I used to laugh it off but after a time, I got fed up with all the fatigue,” Jasse said to me in Canada in 1973. When he was given a lead role in the film, he was already a popular radio announcer and disc jockey. In the movie, he was caught with the massa’s wife in the bedroom and he bolted from the bungalow, running through bushes in his birthday suit. Once a film producer, asked his director to hire a certain writer to adapt a novel for the screen. The director told him the writer was too caustic. The producer replied, “I don’t care what he costs, get him to write it.”


"First movie"

More in this section