Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
On March 31st I had the privilege of attending the Red Carpet and Opening Night of the fifth edition of the Film and Folklore Festival, an event festival in Trinidad and Tobago that invites persons to experience a unique and interactive experience in folklore storytelling comprised of music, spoken word, art, language, food and film.
I saw two Trinidad and Tobago films on the opening night, Fantastic Friday and James, and with this article I will be reviewing the latter.
Plot: James is a quiet young man and talented hip hop dancer who struggles with self-confidence, bullies and an alcoholic mother. And his only friend is his pet cat.
Review: From the above synopsis, it would be easy to assume that James is just like a hundred similarly themed coming-of-age dramas (except for maybe the cat thing). But director Kenderson Noray does enough here to make the film stand out among the crowd.
James is a dance drama and it succeeds when judged on both metrics. Star Dominic Nuñez Davis is a dancer/choreographer and as James features in multiple dance sequences. He is quite the gifted dancer, and his exuberant, frenetic and flexible moves were quite mesmerising, especially when paired with some trippy, rapid-fire editing. We do get some dancing from other characters, including by fellow dancer Rachel Questelles, but it is mostly the titular protagonist taking centre stage.
On the drama aspect, Nuñez Davis is solid and emotive, even bringing some humour in the scenes with his pet cat. Omar Jarra (Chee$e, The Fire Queen) also brings his usual commendable acting quality as the head of the dance crew. But the best performance of the film is easily Simone Jacelon as James’ alcoholic mother. Known as a Caribbean fine artist, here Jacelon the actress sculpts a smart, witty, acerbic and ultimately tragic character. The relationship between mother and son is the heart of the film, and it goes in a direction which I enjoyed (though I will not spoil).
With an abundance of style and a surprising amount of heart, James does not reinvent the coming-of-age drama nor the dance drama, but everything it does it does well. And it may inspire you to invest in a crop trop and bust out your own funkadelic moves. Es posible.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more on the Film and Folklore Festival you can check out their Facebook page. And you can check out more Trini film reviews below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.