The Coming of Org(2012): A Review

The Coming of Org (2012): A Review

By Nkrumah Lucien

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I walked early enough to hear some of the challenges faced by the producers of this film, the process of transforming story to screen play and the praises due to Davina Lee for having her film reach the Cannes Film Festival. I knew it was going to be a night of indiscriminate and superficial praise and celebration.  I came with the weight of a lot of musings about many things.

Just the week before, I was in a conversation about the way in which some of us have fixated what we have made in our minds to be “the folk” and the implications of that type of gaze. I have had long conversations, debates and discussions with myself and others about what is termed cultural industry, what is meant by it, what is being smuggled under such conversations and the larger issues around these discussions that remain silent. I have been thinking about the narrow stereotypical ideas that Africans and others have about other Africans in various parts of the world such as the cityless, technologyless superstitious continental Africa, the unreasonably violent Jamaican ghetto yout’ and African-American gangsta, the quaint, peaceful, honest rural “folk”. Finally, I have been thinking of the fairly recent initiative of persons like Ava Duvernay, founder of AFFRM(African-American Film Festival Release Movement) who both acknowledges the bias of the Hollywood film industry and faces up to it in their own way. So there! All of these were in my head when I sat down on the floor in a packed house at Alliance Française that Wednesday night? Many of these would have sent light charges in my brain all throughout the movie.

The Coming of Org weaves three stories together, not always as satisfactorily as I would have liked. The main narrative is centered around Tison, a young dreadlocks man who is not very sure of himself and who walks out of his girlfriend’s bed into a series of situations which brings him face to face with that pit of self, his deepest insecurities from which change can come. Maybe this is Org. On the other side of meeting Org Tison begins to pursue his ambitions as a dancehall/ Reggae artist under the name King. The second story which takes us to the elder man Charlo(played by McDonald Dixon) who has abandoned his musical ambitions which revisit him as King himself rises to his. Davina attempts with some success to reflect through various shots and effects, the most striking being that when Tison meets Org and that when Dixon stares into the mirror at his former self. The former clearly was more powerful, creative than the latter. The third story hangs very loosely and raises a number of issues for me as I will elaborate on later. This is the story of a violent boyfriend whose girlfriend (who is a friend of King) eventually attempts to kill him while he fight king and ironically kills King’s protégé “Medicine Man”. So the apparent aim of the film is to portrayed three very different situations where persons meet a crossroads.

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There are many things in this film which fall short because of the lack of depth of the stories and their interconnections and the incorporation of various elements with rather superficial effect. I would like to start with the third story first. This one deeply troubled me for reasons which I have articulated above. The boyfriend Terrance(played by Ian Mitchell) seemed to me unreasonably violent in part due to the lack of background, depth and nuance to his character. He seemed to be shouting down his girlfriend(played by Garnell Smith) at every turn and I really could not understand why. I have difficulties with these kind of flat portrayals for reasons other than aesthetics. These sort of stereotypical decontextualized portrayals of African males is given to us in more than adequate supply by white mediated film and music anyway so I have kinda had my fill of that. The robbery scene reminded me so much of Bishop (played by Tupac Shakur) in the movie “Juice” yet with Bishop I was able to understand Bishop to be a bit mentally deranged. With Terrance I was just given a stereotype fullstop.

The two other stories presented greater potential and characters with greater subtlety but still with room for even more. Having read the title story, I understand the bounds of the story but I would have really liked to have a greater feel for Tisons relationship with his father, sister, girlfriend. I could have related to Charlo even better with deeper flashback.

I had mixed feelings about the opening scene even if it was part of the original story. It appeared to me, when I watched it, (I read the story after) as something just put in there, as one would do with a piece of madras or the Pitons to give an outsider the recognizable exotic images to lure him/her here to the contrived image of the place in his mind. Indeed, the movie appears to be set in part in a rural area. However like some other areas of the film the connection between this and the rest of the film seems not very deep and appears to me cosmetic. As I have found with various instances where the so called “folk” are inserted into various works of art of persons outside of these traditions there is a flatness of the presentation of these forms and therefore subtlety is a challenge. They give one little more than a superficial understanding of and interaction with them. I think the film could have done without that scene and allowed the Coming of Org to speak for itself without having to be articulated by any character. Had I come into the film late and missed that scene, I would still have understood the relationship between the images in the film and the title.

This cosmetic use of images and cues also nudged at me when I listened to the predominant use of Kwéyòl in the film. As I was not able to put the film in a definite time period outside of the flashing lights etc. I would remain in indecision about it. I could not decide who should believably be speaking Kwéyòl, to what extent and why. What may have subconsciously drawn my attention to the language was the poor execution by some of the actors. The Kwéyòl seemed to stumble clumsily or crawl off their mouths in some instances and in some of the language it appeared to me a poor translation to Kwéyòl. I would leave that to one who is much more competent than I am in these things. However like in the case of images used I think subtlety is missed where a lack of deep engagement exists and I felt that way with the language. Infact the staging earlier this year of “An Kwi Douvan Jou” showed strengths in both in these areas: execution and competent and subtle use of the language.

While in other areas Sifflet’s acting was convincing, in the scene with the young boys when he was toasting, I could not help thinking this was Jason doing his impression of a reggae dancehall artists as opposed to being that artist himself. Perhaps it was as it was desired by the writers and producers, an unchiseled not-yet-there artist, but that’s not what came to me. Charlo too was in form although I didn’t get that extremely long pause at the domino table when he heard King’s song on radio. I think I was more tired of it than the fellas at the table.

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I think there is much that can be learned from this effort by Davina Lee, her first attempt at film that she and others can learn from. One cannot fail to acknowledge the courage of Lee and ones who have similar attempts before (which too deserve their review) such as Ribbons of Blue (By Mathurine Emmmanuel) among others. It is indeed important for us to tell more of our own stories, too reflect adequately on ourselves not to reproduce images of ourselves tailored by others and to steer away from cliché and the narrow uncritical Hollywood stereotypes. I guess time and future efforts will tell how many films will be made for St. Lucian film to truly meet Org, lay the worst elements of our image of ourselves at her feet and forward with the best. This may have to happen many times for many filmmakers to come in different ways.

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THE BEGINNING

 http://shalasrabbithole.com/blog/?p=1360 – Link to title Story

http://comingoforg.blogspot.com/p/film.html -About the film

http://repeatingislands.com/2012/04/06/new-film-davina-lees-the-coming-of-org/

http://www.jakoproductions.com/main.asp?sID=14&page=ribbons_of_blue

Rights to photos used remain that of the owners. Jako Productions and Davina Lee

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~ by iandiyanola on June 10, 2012.

4 Responses to “The Coming of Org(2012): A Review”

  1. As someone said elsewhere, an honest review. I thank Nkrumah for making the effort to respond to the film. I agree that this gives us an opportunity to go back to the films of Matthurine Emmanuel to see what her achievements have been. Film-making is just being born here so we need competent film critics to help the process. But honest responses and reviews are very valuable and can help film writers and directors ansd actors to get a sense of how their work is perceived. As I think more about Nkrumah’s review I’ll add comments where useful.

  2. […] Lucien reviews Davina Lee's debut feature film The Coming of Org: ”It is indeed important for us to tell more of our own stories, too reflect adequately on […]

  3. Well done Nkrumah. I am yet to see the film but I am looking forward to it. Indeed it is time that we rewrite the script that has been written by others of black people.there is so much more to us than violence and entertainment and infinitely complex situations lead to the behavious we exhibit.

    • I regret that I was unable to attend the screening of this film.I would love to commend Davina for this great achievement.Film -making is time consuming , energy depleting and money absorbing.One can never complete a film without earnest passion and determination.
      Wish I had gotten such honest reviews after my films were produced. We need to have more people like you around Mr.Lucien.We do not need to hear what we want to hear but simply what we need to be told.This is what will enable us to be successful at the end of the journey.

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