Sunday, 29 August 2010

STORM SAULTER: The ascendant filmmaker talks about positioning his forthcoming new feature ‘Better Mus’ Come’ for massive impact

THROUGH HIS LENS: "I hope viewers are clued in to what Jamaican filmmakers are capable of," says Saulter.

With his keenly anticipated new film Better Mus’ Come, Storm Saulter is poised to emerge from the wings as a Jamaican director of note with a burgeoning career set to take him places. Set in the politically turbulent 1970’s Jamaica, the film explores complex human relationships, strife, struggle and hope, and delivers performances from a solid ensemble, led by Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Creary, Roger Guenver Smith and Karl Williams. As the countdown to the Jamaican premiere deepens, Saulter discusses preparations, expectations – and piracy.

After such an extravagant waiting period, your buzzworthy feature film Better Mus’ Come is slated to finally arrive in local cinemas October 13, amidst Jamaica’s annual celebration of our national heroes. Is there any significance behind releasing the film around Heroes’ Day?

Things have come together like that for different reasons, so the timeline happens to be very significant. The film is making big statements about where we have been as a people and also our present. It’s a period piece as well, dealing with gangs and politics. It’s a film that will make you think.

What has the editing process been like?

Basically, I share editing credit with another filmmaker, Paul Bucknor. What we have done is make some cuts and watch with producers and some test audiences in Jamaica, Trinidad and all over. We want to make sure [the film] has universal appeal.

What do you hope audiences take away after seeing the final cut of Better Mus’ Come?

I hope they are clued in to what Jamaican storytellers are capable of and feel empowered to support the Caribbean film movement – and also question the society in which we live.

Seeing that, for filmmakers, it is a nightmare as old as technology itself, are you worried about piracy?

Piracy is definitely a factor, and we have to take all precautions against it. But we have to show the film to people and for them to pay to see it. Piracy doesn’t help.

What’s next?

Well, for now, I’m focused on the next phase of Better Mus’ Come, and seeing what works. I’m also producing a new series called New Caribbean Cinema and trying to help foster a real movement. I’m also working on some new features. There’s more to come, but I can’t talk about those right now. Right now, I want to spread the word about Better Mus’ Come so that we can sustain the buzz.

Related Posts:

* Award-winning actress Nadia Khan is learning as she goes

* Artist Spotlight: The new Jerry Benzwick gets candid…

Artist Spotlight: The new JERRY BENZWICK gets candid – and tells why he now wants it all

NO LIMITS: "I am back in that place, and I am enjoying myself," shares Benzwick.

After years of just doing enough to get by, actor Jerry Benzwick is ready to flip the script and bring it like never before – and his lead role in the drama revival Against His Will, which is already courting award buzz, might be the perfect vehicle to launch his rebirth. TALLAWAH talks to the actor about how he’s finally throwing himself into his work, gelling with co-stars and working with kids.

Everyone is talking about your appearance in Against His Will, in which you deliver an intense, emotional performance as ‘rape’ victim Danny Bryan. While gearing up for the part, did you have any doubts about whether you could pull it off?

No. In fact, I was excited to play the role because I knew it would provide a nice challenge. [Director] Douglas Prout also helped to draw me out because he told me that he didn’t want the usual thing from me; he wanted the real deal. And I think the motivation paid off.

In the play, your character accuses his female boss of sexual assault, and is largely ridiculed by society when the story makes headlines. What would be your advice to a man who finds himself in such a situation in real life?

Get counselling. And that [advice] is based on work that I have done at Ward 21 at the University Hospital. Those kinds of situations shouldn’t be taken lightly because they can be very traumatic, not just for a man but for women also.

You’ve shared stage time opposite actress Sakina before. What was the chemistry like this time around?

It was even better. The chemistry kicked in from day one. The vibe in the camp on a whole is good. We have gelled and it feels good. And I am glad that the product is good too. I am enjoying working with the people I am working with now – more than ever.

Despite appearing in numerous award-winning productions, you have largely been under the radar in local theatre for years. Do you believe you are underrated among your peers?

No, I don’t feel underrated. I just feel that I have not allowed myself to excel because I made myself too comfortable with where I was. It’s been like that all my life. But now that I’ve started [anew] I can’t stop. The industry is also a funny place, but I’ve learned that people will appreciate you for the good work that you do.

Indeed. So, career-wise, how do you plan to top this outing in Against His Will?

Well, the next thing I want to do is get into directing and producing. I’m really, really putting my brain into it. I’m reading about it. I also want to stop short-changing myself with roles. I’m finally beginning to feel like I did in drama school. I’m back in that place, and I am enjoying myself.

Random question: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what essentials would help you survive?

If there are no coconuts, then I would need some water, fruits and a nice girl (Laughs).

Any hobbies or secret obsessions?

Hobbies: I play rugby. I love that. Secret obsession? I can’t tell you that at all. But I like children. I like working with kids. Two times a year, I direct drama productions up at Hillel Academy. It’s great working with them.

Speaking of youngsters, when you were a teen what did the future seem like?

I had no clue; I never had a vision of what my future would be. Early on I wanted to be a pilot, but I soon realised that I didn’t have the aptitude for it. It was in my 20s that acting finally found me. But that’s a long story that would take over an hour (Laughs).

Related Posts:

* Award-winning actress Nadia Khan is learning as she goes

* Storm Saulter: The emerging filmmaker talks about new feature ‘Better Mus Come’

IN THE MIX: USAIN BOLT to sign books in London + Bolt’s girl MILAN DA DIVA cops another pageant title + ROMAIN VIRGO gets real with Fader magazine

A MAN IN THE MAKING: Still riding the wave of acclaim that has come with his well-received debut album, crooner Romain Virgo opens up to FADER magazine for their August-September 2010 issue about his fast-rising career and his approach to music. Not one to turn his back on his roots, Virgo tells the magazine that his intention is to write and perform music that celebrates his humble beginnings. “I write songs that can help people through their struggles. I always want to represent poor people – to show the world how we as Jamaicans live,” he says. And when it comes to maintaining a wholesome image, the 20-year-old explains: “You have to be cautious of the things you put on record. That’s why I take a positive step.”

To read the full text of Romain Virgo’s FADER Magazine feature, click HERE.

GIRL ON TOP: Adding another crown to her expanding stash, beauty queen and Usain Bolt’s rumoured squeeze Lesa-Gayle Wee Tom (bka Milan Da Diva) walked away with the top prize at the recently staged Miss Jamzone International pageant in Guyana. A day after her victory, she tweeted: “Taking my 1st walk as the newly crowned Miss Jamzone International… Also received 10k towards my charity :)”

Must be nice. No word on whether Bolt flew in to lend support. Among Wee Tom’s numerous past pageant wins is the Miss Florida Caribbean 2009 title.

LIFE STORY: And speaking of Usain Bolt, in less than a week, (Thursday, September 2, to be exact) the superstar athlete’s long-awaited self-penned book, Usain Bolt: 9.58, will hit shelves in Europe before being shipped to other parts of the world. Bolt, who is reportedly set to become the wealthiest athlete in the history of athletics, is expected to fly to London on Thursday to sign copies of the book and treat fans to photo ops at Waterstone’s Piccadilly.

In the meantime, I am so looking forward to getting my copy when it arrives in bookstores on this side of the planet. On that note, is a Jamaican launch for the book in the works?

*Update: Usain Bolt's publicist Carole Beckford has revealed to TALLAWAH that a Jamaican launch is scheduled for sometime in October.

Related Posts:

* Culture Chatterbox: Bob Marley + Konshens + Chino + Nadine Sutherland

* Culture Chatterbox: Yendi Phillipps + Fae Ellington + Kei Miller

THEATRE SPOTLIGHT: Highlights from ‘Run Di Track’ @ Dennis Scott Theatre, Edna Manley College

TALENT ON TRACK: The Independent Actors’ Movement (IAM) recently staged Run Di Track, a moderately involving dramatic production that takes viewers behind the scenes of a televised talent competition (à la Digicel Rising Stars) – and into the assorted lives of its contestants and crew. Notable standouts in the cast included Tesfa Edwards, who demonstrates he can be good at being bad (as the roguish show producer), and writer Sabrena McDonald as determined stardom hopeful, Kayla, who must grapple with personal and professional matters. While the play boasts frequent compelling, entertaining moments, the writing lacks the requisite heft to flesh out concepts and themes introduced. Consequently, despite the intermittent thrills, many expectations aren’t realized. Tyrone’s Verdict: C+

Related Posts:

* Notes on a Scandal: Review of ‘Against His Will’

* Piercing family drama ‘Second Chance’ proves its worth

Saturday, 28 August 2010

JAMAICA HOUSE SPOTLIGHT: Highlights of PM Bruce Golding and team at work

Prime Minister Bruce Golding; Head of delegation of the European Union, Ambassador Marco Mazzocchi Alemanni; and Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw at the August 26 handing-over ceremony of J$4 billion of grant funding from the EU to support the fiscal budget and also the sugar industry at Jamaica House.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding exchanges a few words with Head of Delegation of the European Union, Ambassador Marco Mazzocchi Alemanni, at the handing over ceremony of J$4 billion of grant funding from the EU to support the fiscal budget and also the sugar industry at Jamaica House on August 26. Jamaica qualified for the grant following successful management of macroeconomic policies.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding was assured by Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, that funding necessary for schools to open on time, ready to receive students was already dispatched. Secondary schools have received 50% of their annual funding, and nutrition grants to primary schools have already been dispatched. They were participating in the Prime Minister’s radio programme Jamaica House Live on August 25.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding received a courtesy call from visiting members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at Jamaica House on August 26. Head of Regional Delegation Zoran Jovanovic (left) complimented the Jamaica Red Cross as being a very strong and independent organisation within the international affiliation. At centre is Vice President of the International Federation of the Red Cross and President of the Jamaica Red Cross, Jaslin Salmon.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding received a courtesy call from visiting members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at Jamaica House on August 26. From left: Vice President of the International Federation of the Red Cross and President of the Jamaica Red Cross, Jaslin Salmon; and Head of Regional Delegation Zoran Jovanovic.

(Photo creds: Communitcations Unit, Office of the Prime Minister)

Friday, 27 August 2010

FILM REVIEW: Julia Roberts and director Ryan Murphy deliver a lengthy, yet heart-warming big-screen adaptation of Liz Gilbert’s 'Eat Pray Love'

LIFE JOURNEY: Julia Roberts and James Franco have a brief fling in the new film adaptation of Eat Pray Love.

“Ruin is a gift; it is the road to transformation… and we must be prepared for it,” muses Liz Gilbert, in the warm and touching Eat Pray Love, in which Oscar winner Julia Roberts fills Gilbert’s shoes for the Ryan Murphy-directed big-screen adaptation of the bestselling memoir.

Indeed, Gilbert knows all about “ruin.” She bails on her marriage after 8 years and uproots her perfectly normal New York life to travel the world to find herself. According to Gilbert, she craves change, desperate to refresh her appetite for living and experience a personal, emotional and spiritual cleansing. As the film progresses, however, Gilbert (as portrayed by Roberts) regularly comes across as a confused woman of privilege who complains incessantly and is finding it hard to decide what she truly wants out of life.

For some, Eat Pray Love (Sony Pictures) might be an exercise in shallowness, but the resultant film that Murphy delivers is a largely insightful, occasionally moving and gorgeously shot travelogue that allows viewers to piggy-back with Gilbert to such exotic locales as Rome, Italy (for the sumptuous culinary fare); India (for the soothing tranquillity and meditation); and Bali, Indonesia (to find inner peace and, perhaps, true love). As much as I believe scores of people find it hard to invest in Gilbert as a source of inspiration, it takes incredible courage – and plenty moolah – to pull off what she did.

Murphy’s eye for stunning imagery and Gilbert’s penchant for evocative writing aside, the fate of the film rests on the pert shoulders of Julia Roberts, whom I have increasingly admired as an actress since Closer. With solid support from co-stars James Franco, Viola Davis, Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem, Roberts gives a fine performance, essentially playing hostess as we travel the globe with her and, too, feel changed as we learn new things about humanity – and ourselves. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

NOTES ON A SCANDAL: Sex, lies and prejudice collide in David Heron’s sweeping triumph ‘Against His Will’

There’s no getting around it: people reject the unfamiliar and are ordinarily more inclined, than anything else, to ridicule it with gossip and laughter. Often forming the crux of things are issues revolving around sex and sexuality. Bringing this point into sharp focus is David Heron’s equally revelatory and provocative Against His Will (centred on a man who brings rape accusations against a woman, his boss), which is finding new life and thrilling audiences at the Theatre Place in New Kingston.

It’s a serious, groundbreaking piece of Jamaican theatre, and this new revival, guided by director Douglas Prout, is an exceptional rendering, prompted by committed performances from a cast of capable actors, who all handle their roles unflappably and with urgency, adding regular colourings of their own. Prout revisits Heron’s solid script with only minor updates, so the play remains in essence a powerful meditation on the justice system, gender relations, sex and family.

Danny Bryan (Jerry Benzwick) is a virile and happily married 32-year-old with a fulfilling job as a computer salesman and a glowing, pregnant wife (Sakina as Heather) at home. With a well-known history as a playboy, Danny is admittedly no angel but seems determined to put his past behind him to make his marriage thrive. But new trouble comes in the form of a “bitch on heels” – his boss, Jillian Forbes (Nadia Khan), a wealthy, attractive and very single woman, with a track record of being astonishingly forward and sexually aggressive with the men she favours. She greedily lusts after Danny, a productive employee, and makes her naughty intentions clear. She flirts and shamelessly pursues him around the office (see photo above) despite Danny’s repeated rejections and pleas for the cat-and-mouse game to end. (Sexual harassment with the roles reversed?!).

When the discomfort on the job begins to overwhelm him, Danny puts up even stronger resistance and demands professionalism in the workplace, but Jillian’s kickin’ sexual appetite is unrelenting. From what the audience gleans, during a drug and booze night at her place, where Danny is summoned one evening to fix a troublesome computer, one thing leads to another – and let’s just say that Jillian finally has her way. However, in the after, in the soughing of the wind, Danny claims to his outraged wife that the sex act was against his will; Jillian raped him. According to Jillian, however, it was a consensual affair.

Danny’s subsequent litigation against his employer sets a precedent for the Jamaican justice system as a charge of sexual assault had never before been brought against a woman (by a man), much less capture headlines and provide fodder for radio talk shows and the national suss machinery. And despite the incessant ridicule, Danny presses on, determined to have his justice, even as his home life enters shaky ground. This juncture in the script also introduces new characters -- Danny’s stoic, polished and fast-talking attorney Rachel Robinson (Nadean Rawlins) and Jillian’s legal defense Lincoln Jacobs (Jean-Paul Menou), a sharky, hyperactive and theatrical fellow -- as the stage is set for “Jamaica’s rape trial of the century.”

What Heron invites his audience to ponder is whether a woman can, in fact, sexually assault a man, when the man’s erection is said to imply consent. How will a jury arrive at a decision? Is it really an unwinnable case for the man? However it plays out, prejudice, societal hypocrisy and double standards will certainly characterise the proceedings. The setting is, after all, Jamaica – not to say that the playground and rules would necessarily be any different elsewhere. In any case, fear, occasional bouts of hopelessness and full-blown anxiety comprise the hallmarks of the proceedings from Danny’s side.

Though taking a time to firmly establish its footing, Against His Will increasingly grows in intensity and emotional heft. Plus, thankfully, the actors get it right. In the central male role, Benzwick’s performance is revelatory and speaks to his innate gifts as an actor as he imbues Danny with rich nuance and emotional transparency. Benzwick has never been better. Equally noteworthy is Rawlins, who after a less-than-stellar stint in House Arrest, is back in fine form, fully disappearing into Rachel Robinson. It’s a role Rawlins was born to play. Despite his frequent see-saw vocalizations, Menou nails the part of the sharky Jacobs. Sakina and Khan also offer some of their best work, particularly their courtroom stints, but the standout performances hardest to shake come from Benzwick and Rawlins (both in centre photo), who utterly give themselves over to their roles. Marguerite Newland appears as the presiding judge.

Meanwhile, I find the set design occasionally problematic, particularly when scenes cut from the Bryans’ living room to Jillian’s and Danny’s offices. Musically, the production goes for the too-obvious choices (Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”? Are you kidding me?). Still, the production makes use of ample stage space, employing simple, effective props and varied lighting as the play builds to a remarkable climax. The dramatic, intense courtroom scenes are really great stuff.

In short, this new revival of David Heron’s Against His Will, one of the best productions so far this year, boasts strong elements for a successful run: a proper blend of high drama and light humour, piercing performances from a cast that carries their weight and a bold, vivid exploration of a subject, however unfamiliar, that should have folks talking (and giggling) long after the lights go down. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

PIECES OF ME: How Tyrone overcame his fear of the depths and predilection for wet feet to finally catch a wave!

Cloaked in a spirit of adventure and armed with a reserve stash of courage, last Saturday I set out for Bull Bay in St. Andrew, destination Cable Hut Beach, the watery backyard of the Jamaica Surfing Association. Continuing the run of my most exploratory summer yet, the intent was to – finally! – get a lesson in surfing, that awe-inspiring activity that I always chalked up to being reserved for headstrong, rush-loving adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers. Cue the eye roll. As it turns out, I secretly envied them all along. It was time for me, too, to partake in the “swell life.” My tide had come in.

But first I would have to get over my deep-seated phobia of the sea’s infinity. So you can imagine my incredible relief when my instructor, pro surfer Icah Wilmot, said that for my beginner’s lesson, we would be starting out with the smaller waves closer to shore. (Duh, Tyrone. Who do you think you are? Surfer Dude?). The adventure, however, begins on dry land with Wilmot, whose shirtless appearance reveals a body more sublimely toned than mine, giving me a brief tutorial on the fundamentals of the ‘theory’ of surfing. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few techniques to master, which I took to with unforeseen relish and eagerness to learn. Wilmot, the unassuming son of Billy “CC” Wilmot, seems to possess a wealth of practice and knowledge on the subject of surfing that belies his 23 years.

On the beach, I repeatedly practise the basic three-step routine (as explained to me) that culminates in a standing, perfectly balanced position on the surfing board. First, you get into a push-up position while lying prostrate on the board, with the arms positioned strategically close to the chest. Next comes the leg fold; the leg you intend to put in front when you stand is bent to touch the other leg. And finally comes the fully erect standing pose, with the upper body and legs working in sync to help convey you across the water as you square off against the rollicking waves.

As I survey the ominous unendingness of the deep blue Caribbean Sea, I astutely realise that I am not going to learn everything about surfing in an hour, but if I had any lingering doubts on whether or not I learn quickly, I surprised myself that day. When finally I found myself being led out among the breaking waves, it dawned on me that showtime had indeed arrived. It was time to, um, test the waters. The first wave arrives: I get in position, all set to put my newfound surfing knowledge into practice. Upon standing, however, I lose all semblance of balance and go toppling into the water. Cho! But no damn wave is going to get the best of me.

So, ready again. I get back into position, more patiently this time, and as the wave approaches I slowly execute my three-step routine, and voila, I find myself RIDING THE WAVE!!! Is this really happening? Apparently so, because close to half-a-minute later, my board and I are deposited at the shore as the wave breaks and then slowly retreats. I did it! I had surfed my first wave. (And, fortunately, it was captured on camera for me by a kind young chap, who was visiting the beach with a busload of friends from Boston, Portland.)

To sum up the experience: Not bad at all. Not to toot my own horn, but I seriously never expected to achieve anything in surfing of all things so rapidly. Maybe surfing is not that hard after all. But, truth is, it can be alarmingly technical as hell. It clearly requires patience, dexterity, focus and quick thinking. So personally, to catch a wave (as surfing jargon puts it), to stand up on that surfboard and realise that you are in fact riding the wave is a completely surreal moment for a first-timer. In that moment, I had grasped something, something I had observed with equal spells of fascination and apathy for years. Now, with my story to tell, I am extremely proud of myself for at least mustering up the courage to get on that board.

As for the setting, Cable Hut Beach, it’s a transcendently beautiful, calming spot, made all the more appealing by the warm hospitality and quaintly alluring charm of the Wilmot clan. I can’t wait to go back.