Friday, 15 August 2014

DANGER AND DESIRE: Ring Di Alarm anthology compellingly explores the rigours of island life

LIFE FORCE: Visual power abounds in this terrific seven-piece film collection.

A couple's reunion takes a tragic turn. A young woman channels her inner heroine after witnessing the robbery of vacationing American couple. A fleet-footed career criminal seeks refuge inside a church with cops and angry residents nipping at his heels.

The New Caribbean Cinema short-film anthology Ring Di Alarm is the kind of rousing cinematic experience that is equal parts thrilling and thought-provoking, enlightening and vigorously entertaining. It offers brisk narratives that capture slices of island life steeped in modern-day realities. The experiences chronicled here are all the more remarkable because they are so true-to-life, particularly when one considers the prominent themes of danger and desire.

Easily the most captivating of the seven mini productions is Ras Tingle's Parish Bull, a riotously funny cautionary tale about the price of lust. Chris Hutchinson seems ideally cast as Michael, a twentysomething who will "tackle" anything in a skirt. He meets his comeuppance when a chance encounter with a mysterious young woman along a lonely stretch of road touches off a sequence of events culminating with Michael taking the bath of a lifetime. Ras Tingle's sly sense of humour and subversive take on human nature - not to mention Hutchinson's pitch-perfect performance opposite Sheldon Shepherd (as his co-worker) and Volier Johnson (as the boss) - makes this a timeless life lesson for young people of both genders.

The scourge of crime is explored in both Kyle Chin's wrenching drama Sunday, where Winston Bell and Karen Harriott play a pastor and wife who find themselves caught in the crosshairs between an on-the-lam gangster and the cops in hot pursuit, while in Joel Burke's dialogue-deficient (perhaps deliberately so) My Vote, Oneil Peart battles conscience and a boisterous crowd with a thirst for vengeance.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, or so discovers the conflicted couple at the centre of Storm Saulter's Watching Him Kiss Her, inspired and driven by a spoken-word piece by Racquel Jones. And Michelle Serieux's hallucinatory Missed, full of dreamy atmospherics, starts Roger Guenver Smith and Sharea Samuels as a pair of lovers whose reunion in a misty Eden-like spot in upper St. Andrew takes an unexpectedly sad twist.

Nile Saulter, meantime, reveals a gift for capturing lush, vivid imagery (photogenic landscapes especially) with his pair of shorts The Young Sea (starring Ivah Wilmot and his roving video camera filming all the pretty girls) and the more compelling Coast, which is centred on a young female hustler who stumbles upon a white couple getting robbed, heeds her instincts and responds with heroic selflessness. You might need to check your pulse if you don't find yourself cheering her courageous act.

Overall, Ring Di Alarm is by no means a masterpiece; a few of the pieces end before you fully connect to the story. But, as it stands, its a vibrant, gorgeously filmed anthology with multi-dimensional characters, visual power and intriguing storylines that remind us that island life may be many things but easy isn't one of them. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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