Roslin Khan, Ph D
Post-Colonial Literary Scholar/Film Reviewer
“The Coming of Org Stories,” by St. Lucian film writer, director and producer, Davina Lee, is an excellent screen adaptation of three stories written by her father, John Robert Lee. It truly deserves the honor of being selected to be screened at the 2012 Cannes Short Film Corner and also deserves the distinction of receiving honorable mention for the best short feature at the 2013 People’s Film Festival.
Steeped in the African folk traditions of St Lucia, the three stories featured in the film have resulted from the folklore promoteing the belief that it is inevitable for every human being to meet with his/her “org” (interpreted in this review as one’s fate/destiny/self-realization or acceptance), and that the advent of this encounter should be taken seriously, especially since one’s “org” could appear in the form of a human being or as a beast, and that a person (man, woman or child), could, as a result of such an encounter, either come face to face with his or her own true self, disappear or die, or, as is evidenced in the last story, continue living in spite of however evil he or she proves to be.
In keeping with Caribbean/African story-telling practices – stories being told on moonlit nights, the film opens with villagers having lots of fun by dancing to the sound of the drum, while a Caribbean delicacy known by different names (johnny cakes, bakes, muffins, among others) is being prepared. In typical “ole story time” fashion, a village elder get everyone’s attention and invites them to gather around in a circle. After commending them on the drumming and the dancing, he prepares them for the serious stories about to unfold by telling them about the inevitable encounter with one’s “org.” As expected, there are skeptics, since there is no rational or logical explanation for such a meeting; however, he assures them that “org” exists and encourages them to take his warning seriously.
In the film, Davina Lee very skillfully and effectively uses screen captions as a story-telling device to signal the start of each of the stories, revealing the unexplainable connections in the lives of the featured characters through the rich repertoire of musical selections and French Creole. She also engages her viewers in their critical self-analysis by the use of the caption, “Our Story” and by ending the film with the question, “Have you met your org yet?” One of the most poignant examples demonstrating the unexplainable connection, is the performance of the song “Tjebe” by Tison (who achieves recognition on the airwaves as “The King”), and Chalo, the accomplished violinist (who accepts his failure in not pursuing his dream).
In the large cast, most of the actors, especially those playing the major roles, not only understood the personalities of the characters they were portraying but interpreted them extremely well. Tison, for example, is easily recognizable as a true “Don Juan” figure at the start of his story, is totally convincing while hallucinating after smoking the marijuana spliff in his horrifying encounter with his “org,” and in his transformed personality subsequently, as he cultivates his more positive, caring, and nurturing instincts. Chalo is very convincing in the way he tolerates the disrespect of the young for the elderly in today’s society, by refusing to be confrontational in responding to his young disrespectful boss, and in his inability to not be intrigued by his next door neighbor. Not surprisingly such intrigue leads to his encounter with his “org,” and while the actors playing Jennifer and Mario are also convincing, the exaggerated actions of Chalo’s young boss may be seen as an attempt to highlight the total lack of respect for the elderly. Such lack of respect is further demonstrated in the actions of the actor playing Terrance, who not only represents all that is evil in today’s society, but is proof of the fact that evil will always be a part of our existence and a reminder that there will be times when it will overcome good.
Watch the Trailer:
Cinematographically, Davina Lee has achieved a high level of success through the effective use of lighting and sound effects to portray both the darkness that accompanies some encounters with the “org” in the form of a beast at night or through evil acts with the more positive encounters as in the realization of selfhood. The sinister portrayal of the city by night is further enhanced by the branchless tree with white masks, the appropriate intrusion and heightening of eerie sounds, and the appearance of the black and white cat with the beady eyes that brings to mind so many tales of horror. However, in this film (as in the movie “Cat woman”), the animal is used to preserve human existence.
In stark contrast, are the scenes that present so much of the natural mountainous beauty of St. Lucia, the modest homes of the people, their love for music in the remarkable soundtrack with excellent lyrics, and the different forms of social interaction among the young and the elderly. Equally significant is the fact that the drummer (the transmitter and preserver of the African heritage) is appropriately decked out in his African garb as he leads the night’s festivities with the beat of his drum at the start of the film. On the other hand, Terrance, in his first appearance, is wearing a T-Shirt with the image of a skull – a clear signal of his dark role.
Yet another appeal of this film is how Davina Lee successfully employs the use of sub-titles in English while the actors speak and the singers perform sing some of their songs in their native dialect – French Creole. The use of sub-titles definitely enables viewers from various cultures to get a glimpse of St. Lucian folklore as well as the opportunity to compare it with their own. It also allows us as viewers to recognize the universal appeal of the age-old struggle of good against evil and our inability as human beings to determine our own fate or destiny. In no uncertain terms, our fate or destiny is not ours to control. However, the message of hope is definitely conveyed in the lyrics of the song, Tjebe” assert (in translation):
The day opens … we see clearly
All the land has colour
You don’t have to fear … when sunlight kills darkness
In our hearts it is the same
Sometimes it’s bright … sometimes it’s bad
We have to balance
Hold on … let go
Nothing is ever easy
Stay … go …
You cannot decide
Pray, cry, … say thank you God
Let go … hold on
The sun can set
We need to learn
In time you’ll understand even if you die,
…even if it’s over
You cannot lose the spirit
Sometimes for you to for you to get up, you need to fall down
don’t ever forget
Hold on, … let go
Nothing is ever easy …