When you hear “The Bahamas” what images come to mind? A relaxing cruise? Lying on a white sand beach sipping drinks with umbrellas?
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is synonymous with being a tourist paradise but the documentary The Black Moses (2014) is an eye opening look into its rich history and most well known political figure – “Father of the Nation”, first black premier and first Prime Minister Lynden Oscar “L.O.” Pindling.
The film is directed by Bahamian Travolta Cooper and is narrated by US actor Dennis Haysbert (Major League, 24, The Unit). Haysbert, who you may also know from those Allstate insurance commercials, and his rich deep voice anchors the documentary well. He is the ambiguous figure of “Black Moses”, a title given to Pindling and others, and is fittingly shrouded in darkness.
Cooper’s documentary is extensive and traces the history of The Bahamas from slavery up to the new millennium. He presents a vast assortment of archival photographs and footage with a few animation sequences thrown in for effect. But the real stand out in this documentary is the interview segments.
As we trace Pindling’s story from a young boy to an influential leader, both in his home country and on the international stage, we are treated with insights from: former Prime Ministers like South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and Jamaica’s PJ Patterson; Pindling’s widow, Dame Marguerite Pindling; Pamela Poitier, daughter of Bahamian-American actor Sidney Poitier; Pindling’s former political allies and opponents; late Bahamian evangelical minister Dr Myles Munroe; and entertainer and activist Pras Michel of Fugees fame. The work and research that went into this project must have been gargantuan.
We also gain insights into: colorism in The Bahamas – “the lighter your skin the better your chances on the food chain” Haysbert says at one point; the oppression by the white oligarchy known as the Bay Street Boys; the struggle to have Poitier’s film No Way Out (1950) shown; the general strike of 1958; the 1965 “Black Tuesday” protest which saw Pindling throw the mace, the symbol of British power, out the window of the House of Assembly; Pindling’s party winning the election in 1967 over the Bay Street Boys; The Bahamas achieving independence in 1973; and Pindling championing the end of apartheid in South Africa and the release of Nelson Mandela.
But Cooper’s film is no homage as we also see the criticism of Pindling as an “Uncle Tom” by other Caribbean leaders for his country’s tourism push and, most damaging of all, accusations that The Bahamas was a drug trafficking empire from which he personally profited. In the end, however, his legacy of non-violence, integration and freeing his nation from colonial rule must be acknowledged.
I was greatly impressed by this film. It is an informative and enriching experience to anyone interested in Caribbean history or fans of good documentaries.
Rating: The Black Moses gets a perfect 4/4.
The film is available to view on Caribbean video streaming site Studio Anansi http://studioanansi.tv/video/the-black-moses/.
So have you see The Black Moses? What did you think of it? Feel free to comment below.
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