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Sisters hope for hit with This Love movie

Published: 
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Chike Pilgrim, left, and Elisha Efua Bartels are the stars of This Love movie.

This Love is a romance comedy that could easily imagine Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds as the leads. The plot revolves around two distant loves, one determined to win her back, the other demanding, amidst all her protests and rejections, that he proves his love to her. 

It is a gushy, funny love story like all the others before them. But what makes This Love unique are the people who wrote the script, sisters Dalia and Asha King, born and raised in T&T, who want to show that T&T can write and produce its own love story. The movie was inspired by a disappointment in the US fare of romance films.

“The 2013 Christmas crop on the Lifetime channel were extremely poor, very silly,” Dalia said. “I am sure we could do this,” said Asha in response to her sister’s critique. 

They both believed that T&T could connect to this, adding cultural nuances that form the backdrop to the romance. They also believed that while other filmmakers and producers opted to capture the dark side of life here, or as previous local soap operas interrogated race relations, community life, social structure, This Love can be simply be about a happy ending. 

The story revolves around two childhood neighbours Kareem (played by Chike Pilgrim) and Nikki (played by Elisha Efua Bartels) who separated after studying at Mona, Jamaica. Ten years later, Kareem, now a successful architect, returns to Trinidad during Christmas to get Nikki back. The subplot is the sinister ploy of real estate mogul Mitchell Braithwaite (played by Conrad Parris) to purchase the properties in Kareem and Nikki’s neighbourhood. 

Dalia, the elder sister, is the romantic buff, a University graduate in English Literature and the scriptwriter. Asha is the director and producer, an Honours graduate in film and TV production from New York University. Their sister Zakiya is the photographer on the set as well as the content manager for the movie’s social media promotions. 

This Love is Asha’s first production after graduating from NYU, but her third effort overall. She started early, then a student at Bishop Anstey High School when she submitted That Bishop’s Girl for the Secondary School Film Festival and received fourth place. 

“What inspired me to do film was reading Moon Over a Rainbow Shawl (by Errol John). I started writing scripts and I would do the plays during lunchtime. Then I decided to enter the school festival. That film flipped the adjectives—aggressive, independent—that stereotype a Bishop’s student,” Asha explained. 

While at Chapman’s University in California, where she did her first two years of study in the US, Asha produced Pierrot Granade for the T&T film festival in 2011. That film, she explained, in another quest of identity. It spotlighted the Pierrot Grenade living at Lord Harris Square debating whether to accept herself as a dialect speaker or as an orator who has the full command of the Queen’s English. 

This time around, This Love does not evoke questions of self. It’s simply an offering of love. Boxing Day of 2013, the sisters began writing—with Dalia focused on one scene, Asha on another until they completed the script one month later. While it seemed a quick finish, Dalia felt the challenge. 

“As a Literature student, I always questioned why the books we studied always ended in death…perhaps it was the easiest way to end a story and not worry about what happens next to the main characters. But writing a romance comedy is hard, though. It’s about the timing,” she said. 

With 56 roles cast and rehearsals complete, shooting began last month with the intention of local distribution by December to Caribbean Cinemas 8 and Movie Towne and then international exposure. The tight timeline is a reflection of the belief that it is possible to have it accomplished. Also marked in that timeline around the same time as shooting is the sponsorship phase, targeting the corporate community to support this production. 

Dalia and Asha’s voices chime in with other local film producers who continue to lobby for support of the T&T effort. After all, film is an industry and the sisters, too, want to make their film profitable through the ideal financial model. 

“If we need to reach the stage of Nollywood and Bollywood, there must be investment,” Asha said.

• Check out This Love on Facebook for further information.