St. Lucian poet and writer, John Robert Lee – one of the Caribbean’s literary icons – is admired both for his poetry collections and his short stories. Several of them have been published in international journals and anthologies. His two most recent poetry collections, Elemental: new and Selected Poems and Canticles are published by Peepal Tree Press.
Now, thanks to Davina Lee, a film producer and director, and Robert’s Lee’s daughter, two of his short stories have been adapted for the big screen. The 35-minute movie, The Coming of Org, named after a short story by the same name, is a production of Lee Productions Inc, a creation of Davina Lee and her sister Esther Lee Leach, also a professional TV and film producer.
The movie comprises of three separate segments and revolves around three characters – a popular radio DJ named Tison who grew up in a village where he was weaned on ancient local folklore handed down over generations (the main character); Charlo, an old man with a deep fondness for folk music, and Tison’s neighbour; and Tison’s long-time friend, Jennifer.
Tison lives his life as a carefree womanizer, until the day his ingrained cultural sensibilities clash with his modern lifestyle, forcing him to “meet his Org.” Later, on a quest to achieve his dream of becoming a successful musician, his path intersects with Charlo’s, causing the old man to relive the good old days and assuage his yearning for folk music vicariously, by observing Tison’s growth as a musician.
In the third and final segment of the movie, Tison returns home after achieving international success, only to discover that he’s coming back to a community wracked by gun violence and crime. He encounters his old friend Jennifer, around whom this segment revolves, throwing into stark relief her heart-wrenching ordeals as she struggles to cope with a life of domestic abuse. Ultimately, all three characters come face to face with their inner demons.
By deftly weaving St Lucian folklore and traditional music into the movie’s plot and storyline, Davina and her crew manage to craft a unique psychological thriller that is both captivating and authentic. Much of the dialogue is in Kwéyòl (French Creole).
Davina began filming in December 2011 and completed the movie in March. In April she entered it at the 3rd Annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Barbados where it reportedly received rave reviews. It was subsequently accepted into the Short Film Corner at this year’s Festival de Cannes and is currently being submitted to other film festivals around the world.
The Coming of Org was officially unveiled in St Lucia June 1 at the Alliance Francaise to an enthusiastic audience, including the French and Brazilian ambassadors to St Lucia, former Prime Minister Stephenson King, legendary music composer Charles Cadet whose music is featured in the film, various government officials and many of Davina Lee’s fans. Robert Lee introduced the movie. He said he’s pleased with it and satisfied with the way it captures the integrity of his work.
“The film is based on three stories, two of which I wrote, The Coming of Org,”the title story – it’s my story – and another story called, The King, a Bob Marley type story,” Lee explained. “What Davina did was she took one character out of Coming of Org and created a third story, and then she made her film …The screenplay, and the film of course, is a new work, just using the original stories. I think she did a good job with it,” Lee added.
Local actors, musicians, dancers and other artistes form the cast, including journalist, Jason Sifflet (Tison), St Lucian author, McDonald Dixon, music composer Charles Cadet and Robert Lee himself.
Commenting on the film’s entry into the Cannes Film Festival, Davina said. ‘Being at the Marche du Film (Film Market) in Cannes was such a rewarding experience. It was fantastic to represent Saint Lucia at the festival in the Short Film Corner. While there, my producer Esther Lee Leach and I met with funding agencies, film institutes, distributors and producers from all parts of the world. We met one-on-one with representatives from the British Film Institute and a film development consultant from Austria to discuss our new feature film that we are now working on. We also had discussions with Tony Coco-Viloin, the film commissioner of Guadeloupe.”
Alliance Francaise gave its full support to the St Lucia launch. Director General of Alliance Francaise in St Lucia, Claud Gonin said, “We are committed to promoting art, cultural diversity and exposing Saint Lucian culture, not only locally but internationally as well. We want to be instrumental in promoting Davina’s first film and her talent as a young director. At the event, the audience responded very well to the film; it was a little piece of the Cannes ambiance reproduced here.”