Review by: Roslin Khan, Ph.D, Literary Scholar
“I’ll be there,” has earned the distinction of not only being chosen to participate in the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, but also for focusing on one of the most difficult challenges facing our youths in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and college – bullying and its tragic consequences.
Written, directed, and filmed by three young men of Colombian, Grenadian, and Jamaican heritage, this cross-cultural collaboration in film is exactly the of the kind of collaborative literary scholarship from the Caribbean and South America has been seeking and promoting in the writings from these regions. Equally significant, is the fact that the main cinematographically unique feature of the film is the flashback technique, a technique Latin American short story writers and film critics, like Juan Carlos Onetti of Uruguay, were using and critiquing since the 1930s.
In choosing to focus on the theme of bullying, which results worldwide, in 1.3 million children being bullied, and in approximately twelve 8-10 year olds committing suicide annually, these young men are providing parents and our schools with another opportunity to encourage our children to become more outspoken, to join in the violence-free campaign against bullying, and to take preventative actions before it is too late.
Most students, especially those living in urban and disadvantaged neighborhoods, would easily relate to the constant taunting and snide remarks by those seeking to dominate others about the mothers of those they perceive to be weak. They would also empathize with the feelings of helplessness felt by those being bullied – feelings that lead to suicide, and also to tragic acts of revenge by loved ones left behind. At the same time, however, with the appropriate discussions, education could prove to be the best vehicle for bringing an end to this form of unnecessary tragedy.
Watch the Trailer here:
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At the start of the feature, some viewers might immediately think about unnecessary violence when the gun is given to Nathan by his relative who broke into the abandoned area near the train tracks, by the fleeting image of a young man’s hands being tied behind his back, and by the irony that comes to mind by the bright graffiti sign promoting love that is featured as they approach the tracks. However, the flashback technique is the means by which the viewer begins to arrive at an understanding of the strong bond of love shared by Nathan and his younger brother, Anthony, who is the one being bullied by two of his classmates.
The choice of the location for the taunting and the final act of violence against one of the bullies embodies the sense of abandonment and hopelessness experienced by Anthony, whose mother is in rehab and who is picked on because of his good looks and the fact his brother is usually there to protect him. It is also obvious Nathan is somewhat hesitant to use the gun, but in the five minutes he has before the train comes, he relives the numerous efforts he has made to be there for his brother – taking care of his injuries, ensuring that he feels good about himself, complaining to his teacher – and how hopeless he feels in knowing his efforts to protect Anthony not only made the persecution worse but led to suicide and now, leaves him no other choice but to deal with the matter himself.
The flashbacks that unfold Anthony’s worsening persecution are interspersed with fleeting images of the present. At the same time, this great choice of technique by the filmmakers, present all the reasons Nathan is contemplating taking his own action and allows them to mirror, on-screen, a common belief in the Caribbean, that in the few moments before he/she drowns, a drowning person’s entire life flashes through his/her mind. And though Nathan is not actually “drowning” at the present moment, the act he is about to commit, could lead to his demise. Skillfully, the final action is not executed, thereby making it possible for lots of positive discussion and solutions when addressing the idea of being there for those we love.
Want to see the film? Check it out here.