By Stephen Weir
When the Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF) opens in a couple weeks, the first film of the annual flickfest will have the audience thinking they have snakes on the brain when the theatre lights come back on. Rattlesnakes is a full- length feature that has rattlers not just in the personalities of the principal actors but literally on camera too.
The Canadian debut takes place September 4th, right on College Street in Toronto’s Little Italy. The film will be feted at the festival’s early evening 2019 kick-off and street party, followed by an 8pm VIP filled screening across the street at the Royal Cinema!
This is probably going to be the first movie an audience will ever see where they will see the names of three snakes in the final credits! Slash and Strike don’t get much screen time or any lines to speak, but they do rattle audiences when they hiss and shake their tails at a key point in the flick. The third snake, Delilah was a snake stand-in, whose best scenes were probably shed by the movie’s editor!
The film is adapted from a stage play penned by red-hot UK author and playwright Graham Ronald Farrow. Julius Amedume, the film’s Ghanaian-British director worked with Farrow to come up with a tight 85-minute story. Rattlesnakes received its World Premier at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles earlier this year and snapped up the Audience Award for Best Movie.
“The movie is at one level close to the original British play,” Haitian-French-American actor and producer Jimmy Jean-Louis told the Caribbean Camera. “I am not white; in the movie I am kidnapped by three business men who are. In the original play everyone is white and the kidnappers are regular Joes, one is a plumber. We have changed that and it makes a significant difference (in the nuance of the story)”
It is being called a neo-noir thriller, where nothing, except the rattlesnake, is exactly what it seems. Jean-Louis plays a New Age guru, or, is he a sex therapist bedding the unhappy wives of the kidnappers in a swank Santa Barbara retreat?
Fast paced, the film opens with the three husbands digging a grave for the therapist. They are enraged after a private eye shows them damning pictures of what sort of therapy Jean-Louis delivers to their unhappy wives (which they are paying for). They have agreed amongst themselves to break into the California love nest and teach the guru a lesson he probably isn’t going to survive!
The therapist is bound and beaten with a knuckle-breaking hammer. And, before the torture ends, the kidnappers rip open his fly to see if their wives might have been attracted to him because of the size of his penis!
“We never mention colour,” continues Jean-Louis. “It’s the unspoken word in the room, but it is an issues which the movie really hangs on. IT really divides how audiences interpret Rattlesnakes.”
According to the movie’s director and star, husbands and wives can have many different interpretations on what is all really about and who exactly the real bad people are in the film.
Even though his hands and feed are tied the therapist does get his licks in telling each of the kidnappers how flawed their marriages really are and how they are to blame. It is a masterful performance by a Caribbean actor who hasn’t had much exposure in Canada.
The once homeless actor is best known for his role as “the Haitian” on the NBC television series Heroes and now has a starring role on the television show Claws.
“I have worked on films in three Canadian cities: Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. I do know the country’s big cities,” said Jean-Louis. “This time though I will get a good chance to explore Toronto. I will be up with you for 8-days around the Festival.”
“Love the idea of the CTFF,” he continued. “I am going to take part in their Incubator programme. I want to pitch my next movie, it is also written by Julius Amedume. It is a feature length psychological horror thriller that will be shot in my country of origin, Haiti.”
“The film is called Mother Water and is fictional film, based on the African Caribbean folk tale/ mythology of what some of you might know as Mami Wata,” he said. “Mami Wata is a half-human, half-fish like deity that comes from the sea to dwell on land in human form, often to detrimental effect, depending on who she interacts with or what she wants.”