September 3, 2008

CARIFESTA X screening, Guyana, August 25th 2008

Alissa Trotz, the discussant for the evening, responded to On the Map by saying that Guyana exports the most people in the world and that there are quiet migrations taking place intra-regionally. She felt that the film was poignant because it spoke to the difficulty of Guyanese in Barbados and made reference to the vitriol in the press and on the blogs.

She felt that we needed to look at the larger context of labour movement and globalisation and speak to the wider experiences that Caribbean people face, for example, Haitian sugar workers in the Bahamas, or the 1937 massacre of thousands of Haitians under the Trujillo regime. She noted that in the post-Emancipation period, the Barbadian government looked at passing a law to restrict the movement of Barbadians away from Barbados! She spoke about how immigrants are the 'scaffolding' of the economy and we need to remember that the Caribbean is defined by the movement of people and labour, and not by borders. She said that CARICOM needs to become wider and deeper, to cross the linguistic divisions which are constructions of the state and that we need to recognise women as sustainers of the economy...that it was women who made the Caribbean a single economic space first. She ended by asking the question: what does it mean to say I am Caribbean?

The audience was invited to respond. Jocelyn Dow stated that the beauty of the film denied the brutality and that the footage of the performance at the Bourda Cricket grounds was too playful. She said the film denied the deep rage Guyanese feel about this issue. An elderly lady responded by saying that the film was useful for starting the dialogue. Another person said that he did not see the film raise the touchy subject of race analysed, and that we tend to gloss over race.

Andaiye of Red Thread Women's Group, said that this whole issue is one of enormous grief to Guyanese. She pointed to the difference between popular reality, or on the ground experience and academic responses. She said academics write about transnational families which denies a dangerous reality, which is how the state deals with the destruction of the family, and that the state is actively complicit in the destruction of the family unit.

Karen de Souza, also from Red Thread, said she disagreed with Jocelyn's comment about the beauty in the film. She noted that you cannot shoot the Caribbean in colour and it not be beautiful. She said that the macro discussion in the film with statistics is what stood out versus the stories from the migrants, which she would have liked to have seen more of.

Vanda Radzik said it would be useful to find a way to include all of the discussions that take place at all of the screenings.

Simone Mangal, the moderator asked the question... "how much has literature constructed the myth of a one Caribbean?" And that in reality, the Caribbean has offered better trade incentives to Canada, the USA and Europe than it has to Caribbean counterparts.

Denuta Radzik of the Women's Help & Shelter asked why I had not interviewed any CARICOM leaders or CSME officials and noted that they are subverting the CSME.

The discussion was lively and continued afterwards at a bar until late in the night...

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