In 2009, the TT Film Festival (TTFF) presented the People's Choice Award to Professor Patricia Mohammed for the best local short film for Coolie Pink and Green. In 2010, another short film produced by Professor Mohammed, but co-directed alongside 25-year-old filmmaker Michael Mooleedhar, will be featured at the festival. The film is aptly entitled, Seventeen Colours. Prof Mohammed, who is the campus co-ordinator at the School for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, told the Guardian her overall intent was to eventually produce a film that documents the indentureship of Indians and the settlement of Asians to the Caribbean. In the meantime, she continues to experiment with short films, this even as she goes on with her literary works and other intellectual pursuits.
Film for teaching conjures a career
"I have produced 11 films," she admits, further explaining that the longest has been 40 minutes. Her style has been the short documentary and with the success attained from last year's Coolie Pink And Green, it can easily be said that Professor Mohammed is very good at what she does. "Coolie Pink and Green continues to travel the globe. It was featured at the Zambia Film Festival, Cannes, Zanzibar and India," she says. The professor explained that she initially got involved in film, thinking it would be a good method for teaching her students subject matter at the university. When I started making films, I made them as parallels to teaching," she said, adding, "After a long apprenticeship of learning the craft, I wanted to experiment with the documentary style." She explained that using film to teach afforded her the chance to develop herself.
Painting and music coincide
Now, in 2010, Seventeen Colours promises to interest anyone who comes out to see it. "It's 35 minutes long–just long enough so people won't get bored," she says. The short film features two artistes, British born, Caribbean resident Rex Dixon, who is a painter, along with renowned local sitar musician, Mungal Patasar, who wrote original music for the film. Professor Mohammed explains that the documentary is about the work of both artistes. She says the film brings both men together in a dialogue that expresses how their work comes to fruition. "The film brings interaction between the two artistes, with Mungal even creating music for Rex's paintings."
Professor Mohammed, who has also authored a book entitled, Imaging The Caribbean–Culture and Visual Translation, says parallels were discovered in the works of both men, adding that the documentary explores the need for an audience to get involved in their work. "I'm interested in how people view art," she admits, further indicating that artistes are barely recognised for their contribution beyond governmental functions for which they are often needed. Professor Mohammed admits that her documentary concept has been successfully attempted before by local film enthusiasts who've presented their work at the TT Film Festival, however she notes, "it's different in the sense that it's not boring talking, both artistes create their work directly in front of the camera."
She says Dixon paints in front of the lens and Patasar's musical accompaniment occurs in tandem with the creation of the painting.
3 Canal paints the whole world upside down
Seventeen Colours also features 3 Canal. Together with Dixon, the trio of the musical group paint on canvas to the melody and rhythm of their well-known J'Ouvert anthem, Blue. In the end, the painting is symbolically called, Turn The Whole World Upside Down. "This film is for the layman audience to look and listen. It is also for the audience who is very qualified in music and the arts," says the Professor. On September 17, Rex Dixon will showcase his work at the Soft Box Gallery in Woodbrook.
Professor Mohammed says a soft launch of the film is also planned. "The film is called Seventeen Colours because Rex's palette comprises 17 colours. "The idea grew in a very organic way," says the esteemed professor. She highlights that the concept came to her after Patasar saw Dixon's work and expressed his desire to write music to the art work. Professor Mohammed says her team's aim is to take Seventeen Colours to international media that showcases art and culture, making mention of PBS and BBC. "We want the film to be seen in places where art and music can be seen and heard and because I'm always partnered with someone, it will also broaden our institutional needs."