Last year local filmmaker Sean Hodgkinson reached a milestone when his first film, A Story About Wendy, got accepted into the prestigious Zanzibar International Film Festival. This year he was equally gratified when the sequel, A Story About Wendy 2, was welcomed at the same festival in July.
Hodgkinson said last year in Zanzibar the film was screened in a small hotel room, but was so popular, an additional screening had to be scheduled. This year, 800 people viewed the premiere of the sequel, which was shown along with part one at the historical Old Fort in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. He described the experience as surreal and magical.
"Watching a film you made with friends under a starlit sky, halfway across the world. What more can you ask for?"
The Quirky Films CEO said he also received rave reviews from the audience there, which included locals, tourists and expats.
"Some of them expressed their contentment with the film. They also pointed out that it captured the issue of feminism in the workplace and I think what was particularly most flattering was when one audience member said A Story About Wendy was like the Caribbean's version of David Lynch's Twin Peaks," said a gleeful Hodgkinson.
He also spoke about T&T's film industry on several television programmes while he was in Zanibar.
A Story About Wendy 2 made its Caribbean premiere at the T&T Film Festival in September, where it won the People's Choice Award.
"I was really shocked. Winning that was insane because I had no expectation on that level. I mean I knew the film was getting some current, but I did not expect this."
He said the achievement was just a reflection of the hard work that went into making both films.
Hodgkinson said he found audiences in T&T have become more supportive of local films but some more appreciation and encouragement would go a long way.
"People don't understand how long it takes to make and complete a film and the effort that goes into it. Instead they just criticise. Do you know how cool it is to walk into Digicel Imax and see your film's poster next to Dracula and Pan?"
Hodgkinson, who is currently shooting his third film, Traffic, which highlights the drug trade between T&T and the Americas, also believes the fact that A Story About Wendy 2 was backed by more sponsors this time around, shows corporate T&T is willing to support and invest in local productions.
Asked what movie lovers could look forward to in a Story About Wendy 2, Hodgkinson said: "I will not give too much away. All I can say is those who saw A Story About Wendy part one can look forward to a more interesting story line and a stronger cast."
I write what I know
While Hodgkinson is extremely happy about the largely positive reception to the film, the Diego Martin resident also acknowledges some unfavourable criticism. One critic he took to task was T&T Guardian columnist Raymond Ramcharitar, whose review of A Story About Wendy 2 on October 29 was scathing.
Ramcharitar described the film as "naive" and took issue with what he saw as stereotyping in the movie. "The matter-of-fact transmission of the filmmaker's worldview, his conception of the society, seems to be completely unconscious, and quite disturbing," Ramcharitar wrote. "That world is arranged with the 'white' people on top, black on the bottom, little else discernible in between."
But Hodgkinson defended his movie by saying he was writing about a reality that he understood.
"I am bringing to the screen what I know. I cannot write about what I have no clue about," he said. "Furthermore, this is a fun movie. And why must we act like stereotypes don't exist? Why can't we make fun of it and just laugh at ourselves?
"We live in society that outrightly practices classism and all of us can attest to these stereotypes existing right here.
"A Story About Wendy is really based on my real-life experience at a place where I worked. So it's not even about picking somebody and just saying, 'This role is for you.' It is about casting the people who could best bring to life the characters that I really encountered."
Hodgkinson said it all boiled down to taste. "Some people like Sex and The City, others like Transformers. If you are looking for 63 minutes to pass the time and enjoy some good Trini humour, then A Story About Wendy 2 is for you. If you like it, you like it and if you don't, then you dont's.
Where to see it, who's in it
A Story About Wendy 2 will premiere at Digicel Imax tomorrow at 5.30 pm, along with another local production, Pan! Our Music Odyssey, a feature-length docudrama about the contemporary steelband movement and its origins written by pan historian Dr Kim Johnson.
A Story about Wendy 2 stars Heidi Walcott as Wendy and Catherine Emmanuel as the the evil protagonist Simone Davies.
Also starring are Ayanna Cezanne, Karisse Montano, Marcia Henville, Garth Voisin, Caroline Taylor, Brent Bengochea, Halcian Pierre, Laura Dowrich-Phillips and Gina Paris.