By Michael Lashley
When the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival 2016 was launched last week, the full-length film featured on the opening night -“Diary of a Badman” – was a lot more than an action-packed thriller in which a badass policewoman goes undercover to nab a notorious drug dealer.
The power of this film lies in the artifice of luring the audience into a seemingly straightforward duel between the undercover agent and the gangster (the badman, in Jamaican lingo).
After keeping the unsuspecting audience cozy in what appears to be a regular story, the film ends with a not so subtle surprise, an unusual and skillfully set up sting-in-the-tail.
In the slyly manipulated plot, the undercover policewoman does succeed in busting the drug dealer. In the process, she does fall victim to his charms, his humane side and his political activism.
And yet, there is no simple climax in which she is torn between her love for him and her duty to hand him over to her colleagues in the police sting operation. Instead, she finds herself in an unexpectedly “lucky” situation in which her love for him remains a truly meaningful part of her life.
Yes, this is a film with all the excitement of the strong woman leading the action. She is the predator. The supposedly macho-man gangster is her prey.
Though both she and the leading male character are Black, her masterly portrayal of the badass Black woman wins over her audience. She moves seamlessly from undercover agent to lover, and then to a fragile combination of both roles.
But that is only my opinion, and my interpretation of the audience’s reaction. I am a Caribbean person and so were the majority of the members of the audience on opening night. It is not surprising that we should have such a favourable reaction to this depiction of life in a Jamaican community (the “yard”) in the USA.
Therefore, I ask myself some critical questions.
How would wider global audiences react to the film?
Do the credibility of the actors’ performance and the artistic techniques of the director give the film the degree of authenticity that attracts broader international acclaim?
Let’s take one specific example. How will wider audiences judge the display of evolving emotions by the lead character Simone Williams as she transitions from the undercover policewoman to Munchy, the gangster’s lover who almost compromises her police assignment?
Will those wider audiences see that transition as superficial, merely an example of steely treachery? Or will they see a tortured soul torn between her career ambition and her deep attachment to her new-found love?
For my part, I take my hat off to lead actress Jacinth Sutphin, her male counterpart Douglas A. Robs and especially to the film’s director Diemiruaya Deniran.
My enthusiasm was shared at the opening night viewing of the film by a full house with no standing room.
Before the film was screened, the audience was addressed by CaribbeanTales Founder and CEO Frances Ann Solomon, Denise Herrera-Jackson on behalf of the Board of Directors, the multi-talented Nicole Brookes (actress, director, producer and singer) and Ms. Cherrone Mokund of the Consulate General of .Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Keith Nurse, a senior executive in CaribbeanTales’ international marketing company was also in attendance.
A badass female predator and a ruthless but suave badman opened this 2016 festival with a bang!