CREATIVE SPACE #19 of 2020 (uploaded November 5th 2020)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. There are plans for its continued evolution across multiple media platforms. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, and freelancer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on November 4th 2020 in the Daily Observer: Wendy article
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.
If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the jhohadli.wordpress.com online edition of CREATIVE SPACE, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
CREATIVE SPACE: “LET ME TELL YOU A STORY”
I watched ‘Wendy’ recently.
I hadn’t read or watched any previous adaptations of the Peter Pan lore. Not the J. M. Barrie play or novel nor the numerous adaptations. But I know the bullet points – the titular boy who would never grow up, his adventures in Neverland, the big bad Hook, Wendy, her brothers, the fairy Tinkerbell, etc.; hard to exist in a world of Disney (with its popular 1953 animated Peter Pan) and Hollywood (which enjoys revisiting Neverland in films like Hook) and not be.
I had the feeling the 2019 adaptation, ‘Wendy’, would be different though. For one thing, it was shot partly here in Antigua-Barbuda, partly in Montserrat – which is the source of my interest in it at all; for another, Peter Pan is a Black Rasta boy.
Even without seeing the previous versions, I’d venture that’s different.
I guessed that it was meant to be Wendy’s take on the tale and knew it was directed by Behn Zeitlin, who had proven his fantasy drama chops and skill at pulling natural performances from children with acclaimed Beasts of the Southern Wild. The reviews for Wendy, though, haven’t been great – 38% on Rotten Tomatoes/54% on MetaCritic. I tend to agree with the middling reviews. But there were things I liked.
Like the choice to enter the story through sound (beginning with the train that ultimately takes the children away); the sound cues point to where to direct our attention and suggest the inner world of the characters.
Like the score which has a jaunty, adventurous quality or a bit of bounce.
Like Sweet Heavy, a small role but one of the more natural and charismatic children in the movie. He impressed on me in his first scene; the way he introduces himself, and the way his eyes slide to the side in response to rustling in the bushes, a beat before we see what he’s responding to.
Like the bits of us that snuck in; for instance, the Antigua-accented “Hmph” Peter threw at Wendy before walking away, only to turn back in an authentically childlike way to demand “you coming”.
Like the necessary exposition in the first act being delivered primarily through in-story narrative in the child’s voice as she tells the story to herself, re-reading her favourite self-drawn book – it speaks to the power of the imagination which is a motif of the film. “Let me tell you a story,” she says and also in this act the children – she and her rambunctious brothers – demand a story from their hard working waitress mother, and it is one of dreaming and the imagination, of the self she let go in order to be the person she is in the moment, a bleak commentary on growing up. This theme was perhaps the most interesting to me – and I can’t say how loyal it was to the original text but exchanges like “the more you grow up, the less you get to do the things that you want to” and at Wendy’s reaction “geez, Wendy, I was just explaining life” and her “not my life” in response, was the meat the movie gave me to chew on, that was its philosophy right there – does growing up mean letting go of everything magical, innocent, and adventurous within yourself. This suggests to me that much as it’s populated by swashbuckling youngsters, this isn’t really a movie for children who have yet to contemplate the idea that “your life will go by and nothing will ever happen”, a dark, and sobering idea. Lines like “nobody’ll talk to you anymore; that’s how you’ll know you’re old” are a gut punch as the movie in its bleakest moments (and that whole section with the others, the aged and discarded, dreaming of stealing back their youth, in the ashy grey of the exclusion zone is truly bleak) contemplates not only growing up but aging. Or so it seems to me. Wendy’s innocent entreaty to her brother, the future Hook, “you can’t lose hope, that’s what’s making you old” offers an attempt at a life’s map…maybe.
Like the setting which included Hell’s Gate Island off Antigua, Barbuda’s frigate bird sanctuary and caves, and, yes, recognizing the setting does steal some of the fantasy, but for the film’s true audience, it’s a fresh backdrop for an old tale.
Speaking of, I’m not sure of the plans but films being made here can potentially evolve the filmmaking resources on island beyond being a backdrop to the global film industry. That young talent (including Yashua Mack as Peter) starred, much like Anna Paquin did when ‘The Piano’ filmed in her native New Zealand, is promising. We will hopefully see pathways to telling our own stories open up.
‘Twelve Years a Slave’ director Steve McQueen, an award winning UK director with Caribbean roots, recently said, “There are so many stories from the Caribbean that need to be illuminated. They are like treasures buried deep below sand. It is wonderful that Shabier is bringing such stories to light.” He’s speaking of Shabier Kirchner, the Antiguan filmmaker recently mentioned in ‘CREATIVE SPACE: It’s not all about Netflix’ for his short film ‘Dadli’. Shabier will be making his feature directorial debut on the adaptation of Jamaican writer Kei Miller’s ‘Augustown’, produced by McQueen. Promise blooms.
Michael Rosser reported in an October 28th 2020 article in screendaily.com headlined ‘Potboiler, Rathaus, BBC Film, Steve McQueen join forces for ‘Augustown’ adaptation (exclusive)’, “Steve McQueen and BBC Film are to executive produce Potboiler Productions and Rathaus Films’ feature adaptation of Augustown, the acclaimed 2016 novel by Jamaican writer Kei Miller. It will mark the feature directorial debut of Shabier Kirchner, who was director of photography on McQueen’s anthology series Small Axe. The novel will be adapted by author and playwright Courttia Newland, who co-wrote two of the Small Axe films – Lovers Rock and Red, White And Blue – with McQueen. Newland was recently named a Screen Star of Tomorrow. Producers are Rachel Dargavel of the UK’s Potboiler Productions and Madeleine Askwith of US-based Rathaus Films. Set in 1980s Jamaica, Augustown begins when a teacher cuts off the dreadlocks of Kaia, a violation of his family’s Rastafari beliefs and an action that will impact the entire community. It causes his blind great-aunt, Ma Taffy, to recall stories from her youth including the legend of a flying preacher man and his ties to the history of Jamaican oppression and resistance. McQueen, who will executive produce under his production company Lammas Park, said: “There are so many stories from the Caribbean that need to be illuminated. They are like treasures buried deep below sand. It is wonderful that Shabier is bringing such stories to light.” …Antigua-born Kirchner previously directed 2018 short Dadli and was cinematographer on Harry Wootliff’s Only You, produced by Potboiler’s Dargavel. “I have always wanted to break down the way we’ve been taught to tell stories,” said Shabier. “The Caribbean is so full of untold narratives, I would love to share as many as I can with the world, so Augustown is the perfect place to start.””
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