The story follows a young man’s journey as he navigates youthful love and the onset of strappings of adulthood, and has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations for the past 50 years. The novel has stood the test of time, given its universal themes that unravel in the familiar, wondrous rural landscape of Trinidad. For many fans of the book, Green Days reflects themes and struggles that citizens of our islands can identify with, even in 2017.
Dara E. Healy, who plays Ma Lammy in the film, mother of protagonist Shellie, is familiar with the power to be claimed in the telling of our indigenous stories. A dancer, actress, writer, and communications consultant, Dara heads local cultural organisation Idakeda Group and is the founder of ICAN (Indigenous Creative Arts Network).
“I had read Green Days before, so it was really a question of re-acquainting myself with the book,” Dara says of the preparation for her role. “It was an interesting challenge, having to locate myself in that time period, to understand Ma Lammy’s backstory, the historical setting, and the values that someone like her would have held.” To help with her characterisation, Dara called upon her relationship with her grandmother, Ida, who she saw in Ma Lammy.
She describes both the novel and film as a sensitive story of a teenage boy discovering himself, romantic relationships, and sexuality. “The book captures a sense of the era and the simplicity of village life,” she explains, adding that the film is ultimately about relationships, survival, and family.
Of the character she portrays in the film, Dara sees Ma Lammy as a strong and deeply spiritual woman, a resourceful breadwinner for her family who is full of love and fierce protective instinct for her husband and son. “I admire that she works hard and keeps a close watch on her son. I like the fact that she loves her husband and is deeply spiritual. I believe she has a great deal to teach women about the subtle skills involved in keeping a family together,” Dara says of the strong representation Ma Lammy brings to the story.
Dara expresses that the women in Green Days are all present and active participants in the story – not simply auxiliary stereotypes – and are real in their interactions with other characters. She believes this is a strong point of the film, with such overflowing and honest representations of women throughout the story. She also thinks Ma Lammy’s story is the story of many women in the region, on various levels; the character enjoys simple pleasures like Christmas and food, she is strong and focused, but also layered with multitudes.
She says another strength of the film adaptation is its portrayal of a time and feeling in our nation’s history that many may be unfamiliar with, and she applauds the relationship between Ma and Pa Lammy who are portrayed as a couple very much in love. She says this is topical in the face of the dysfunction of relationships today. In fact, Dara’s work with Idakeda focuses on facilitating cultural interventions in schools and communities, tackling issues such as domestic violence, incest, anger management, and self-esteem. In many ways, her work on Green Days intersects with her personal callings, reflecting on the humanity some say we have lost as a nation and society.
The Green Days film will be yet another national milestone of our stories, landscapes, and creators immortalising our island, people, and experiences on film. Dara says this is a powerful way of introducing a society to itself – through storytelling. “We need to find ways to use technology to reveal the TT experience … Capture information about who we are at a deeper level and use it to drown out the negativity that proliferates on social and other forms of media,” she says of the cathartic power telling our own stories can have on a society.
“Use technology to help give young people who may be attracted to crime a reason to love themselves, their country, and find their purpose.” Through her work with ICAN, she has mentored talented young people from San Juan South Secondary in Theatre, Movement and Dance.
“It is personally very satisfying to see how the Performance Arts motivates and inspires young people to overcome challenges and excel in every aspect of their life,” she says of her work with ICAN. “Through our work I’ve definitely found my purpose – that of serving as a catalyst to educate, inspire, and heal through my skills as an artist.” As for the representation of the film being true to the novel, Dara assures audiences that the producers took special care to transfer the ethos of the novel’s pages to film. “They made it a point to be very respectful of the legacy and presence of Michael Anthony; they treated him as an elder and took the time to create a film that would honour him as the author of the story being told.” She encourages everyone to go see the film upon its national release in support of the visual telling of our stories as a nation and region.
Ever the educator, she hopes schools and higher learning institutions include the film in curriculums as part of their educative processes, as well. She is firm that storytelling and respect of traditions and cultural pieces can rekindle positive attitudes in our future generations.
“We need to create more positive visual projects to boost our national identity and sense of who we are as a united Trinidad and Tobago.”