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The importance of documenting

​Erline Andrews
Published: 
Sunday, August 24, 2014
A still from Bruce Paddington’s documentary Forward Ever: The Killing of Revolution, showing the place where Maurice Bishop and his colleagues were executed. Photo courtesy Bruce Paddington

The Militant, a socialist weekly published in the US and distributed throughout the world, set up a booth at Brooklyn’s annual Grenada Day Festival in July to share its ideas and sell subscriptions and related literature. Allison Mathlin, who—according to an article in the magazine—is a founding member of Grenada’s revolutionary party New Jewel Movement (NJM), stopped by and bought a book collection of Maurice Bishop’s speeches and interviews called Maurice Bishop Speaks and an issue of the New International that contained the essay The Second Assassination of Maurice Bishop, by Steve Clark. 

Both were published in 1980s, not long after Bishop, the Grenadian prime minister and leader of the NJM, was killed and the country invaded by US forces, ending the 1979 revolution that brought Bishop to power. “In Grenada you can’t find books of Maurice in the bookstores, only in the museums,” Mathlin said, a stunning declaration, considering the impact the coup, the subsequent People’s Revolutionary Government and its bloody demise had and continues to have on the small country. When the film Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution—the first to document the coup and its aftermath—premiered at the UWI Film Building last September it was to a standing-room only audience. Grenadians in attendance thanked director Bruce Paddington for what was for many their first experience hearing details of the events. “We’ve never really had the opportunity to be exposed to the truth of what really happened,” said one young woman.

Paddington recently showed the film—a half hour shorter than the premier’s running time of two and a half hours—during the launch of the DVD at the National Commission for Unesco in St Clair. It had been raining heavily but yet again the room was packed. “Every time I show it, it’s packed out audiences,” said Paddington, who’s taken the film to 15 countries since its premiere in T&T. “Today there’s floods in town and it’s pouring rain, and there is not an empty seat available.” Caribbean people, especially those abroad, have “a fantastic desire . . . to see records, films, stories about the region,” said Paddington. “And this is one of the most horrific things that happened in the region—killing a prime minister and his colleagues in cold blood,” he added. “The history really hasn’t been written, especially not from a Caribbean point of view.”

Paddington knows only too well the challenges of making a documentary film. After 40 years in the business, Forward Ever is only his second feature-length film. He’s worked on hundreds of shorter films and television productions. Within the past few years the film industry has been given a boost with the introduction of film degrees at UWI, the offering of grants by the Film Company and the availability of cheaper, more accessible digital technology. Nevertheless, challenges—particularly for big projects—remain. “A proper documentary can cost a lot of money—we’re talking maybe US$300,000,” he said. “While a lot of good things have been done, we would like the government to invest even more money into this very important sector.”

Forward Ever was sponsored by the Film Company and UWI. Paddington said he’s hoping to get local TV stations to buy the rights to air it, as opposed to his giving it to them for free. The film has been acquired by a distribution company in the US and one in Europe. He expects interest in the topic to mean DVD sales will do well. “It’s very hard to make money [from documentary filmmaking], but I’m trying to at least cover my costs on this film,” he said. “And may be if there is any money [left] over it will go towards the next film.” He sees possibilities in the efforts of other local filmmakers. The premier showing of Pan! Our Musical Odyssey will next month open the annual T&T Film Festival, which Paddington founded.

Pan’s producers used crowd-funding to raise money online to help market the film. It’s also a cross-national effort—the writer is Trinidadian, the producers and directors are French—which opened opportunities in Europe, including a well-received showing at Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, France. Such co-productions may be one way forward, said Paddington. “I think what we need to do is develop more links with international producers who would be excited to work with us on Caribbean films,” he said. 

CONTACT: grenadamarket.com, ttfilmfestival.com, facebook.com/forwardeverfilm