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Music meets environment in Galofre’s film A Better Place

Published: 
Thursday, November 5, 2015
One of the families featured in the film A Better Place.

BC Pires reviews

A Better Place, the lead film in Sustain T&T’s 2015

Green Screen programme

You’re not doing too shabbily, as a film-maker, if the strongest criticism of your film is that it should have been longer; and this is the truth of Miquel Galofre’s new documentary for the environmental non-profit organisation, Sustain T&T: A Better Place would itself probably have been better with another 20-30 minutes added to the runtime.

Within its single hour, A Better Place covers five separate environmental projects around T&T and showcases five different local musical acts, with the musical performances linking (and generally enhancing) each segment. 

A nitpicking reviewer might suggest that, good as the musical interludes are, the story would have benefitted from a talking head—possibly the articulate and photogenic producer, Carver Bacchus, head of Sustain T&T, or the naturally beautiful and naturally well-spoken singer, Gillian Moor, or the charismatically buoyant Galofre himself—addressing the camera directly to underline the common locally-centred and environmentally-beneficial connection. 

There ought not to have been any great challenge to add a few extra words to what would surely have remained a very tight script by Andre Bagoo; indeed, it is worth a visit to abetterplacefilm.com, the very well-designed website (by Patrick Rasonaivo of Culturego), to view the six-minute film, How We Made a Better Place, where Bacchus, Moor and Galofre do precisely what is suggested here. (Go after seeing the principal film, though.)

The strongest—in the sense of most vociferous—criticism of the existing film is likely to come from people who view the musical interludes as interruptive. The uncouth might suggest that A Better Place’s musical segments take the film to a worse place by bringing to mind the Farelly Bros films There’s Something About Mary and The Heartbreak Kid, in which weird-looking musicians appear out of nowhere for deliberately over-the-top performances of music purpose-designed to clash with the visual.

Such criticism, though, would be invalid, if only because the musicians in A Better Place are all good-looking. The aim of the film-makers—and it appears to have succeeded—was, in the words of producer Bacchus, “to merge music, film and sustainability into one artefact” and show “creative industries as a tool for diversification [and] longer-term economic sustainability”.

The five local acts given a showcase all represent something substantially different from one another and, far more importantly, from the T&T musical norm; for that idea alone, the film deserves commendation: there is a great deal more happening here, musically, than riddims and bad hip hop imitations.

The musicians selected—Black Loyalty, Gillian Moor with Shiva Mannick, Solman, Ruth Osman with Anders Kappel Øvre (the only non-national) and the show-ending (or at least show-stopping) Freetown Collective—reflect a wide range of musical styles, ranging from smooth jazz to rough folk, all unified by passionate performances. 

Regretfully, the edit of Solman’s song omits verses and thereby puts far too much pressure on a five-word chorus, “This could be Eden again” to carry the sustained visual (of teenage girls, who seem not to care one whit what he actually sings). 

The unquestionable high point of five strong performances, though, is the shining, shiver-inspiring song, I’ll Be Outside, by the Freetown Collective, whose front men, Muhammad Muwakil and Lou Lyons, individually and collectively redefine “cool”.

If the music is all praiseworthy, the five projects highlighted are even more so. Each could have merited a feature-length film in its own right. Three of them—the Guanapo aquaponics project in a dump, the National Centre for Persons with Disabilities paper recycling and the Nature Seekers Northeast Coast Sea Turtle by-catch alternative awareness—could have been pitched directly to Miquel Galofre’s huge gift for the compassionate cinematic treatment of human subjects never likely to appear on red carpets anywhere. 

The other two—Eric, the Environmental Research Institute at Charlotteville, and the Parvati Girls’ Hindu College climate change board game—though not as audience sympathy-friendly, also benefit from Galofre’s quite amazing ability to evoke on camera, from anyone, what seems to be their best.

A Better Place is largely funded by the Global Environment Fund’s Small Grants Programme, designed for projects that conserve and restore the environment while enhancing human well-being and livelihood.

• A Better Place opened formally on November 2 at the Digicel Imax theatre. It screens for the last time on Divali night, next Tuesday, at San Fernando Hill at 7.30 pm. All ticket sale proceeds go to the Green Screen project.

SCHEDULE FOR GREEN SCREEN

November 5

A Better Vibration featuring Black Loyalty, Freetown Collective, Gillian Moore, Ruth Osman and Solman 

VENUE: De Nu Pub

TIME: Doors open at 8 pm, 

Show starts promptly at 9 pm

Admission: Advance tickets $60 

To learn more about New Fire, call 271-1073,

492-7516 or 788 0966;

email [email protected] or join us on Facebook at New Fire World and Instagram at @newfirett

November 6

Cocktail Reception | Angel Azul 74 mins

VENUE: Medulla Art Gallery 

TIME: 7 pm; Admission: Free

November 7

Green Screen, Animae Caribe and T&T Film Festival co-screening 

Animated Shorts Package (25 mins)

Jonah (17 mins), The First Rasta (86 mins) 

VENUE: Medulla Art Gallery

TIME: 7 pm; Admission: Free

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