On July 27, 1990 there was an attempted coup in Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island nation in the Caribbean, by an Islamic group called the Jamaat al Muslimeen. The Prime Minister and other government officials were held hostage in the Red House, the seat of Parliament. The country was under a curfew and there was rampant looting for six days until the insurgents surrendered.

It was one of the darkest days in the country’s history. But Trinidadians, of which your beloved writer is one, have a way of taking serious issues and finding the humour in it. And that is exactly what director Ryan Lee did with his 2014 comedy short Flying the Coup; I do appreciate a good pun title.

coup 1
Director Ryan Lee

The film is about trigger happy rookie police officer David (Renaldo Frederick) and slacker Joseph (Keston Dick) on the first night of the attempted coup. The film begins with toe tapping calypso music: first The Sinking Ship by Gypsy and then into David Rudder’s masterpiece The Hammer. The events of the attempted coup are narrated by the buttery tones of actual radio announcer Adrian Don Mora.

In the opening we see the officer getting ready for work getting ready for work, trying out his gun poses and chatting with his loving grandmother. This is inter cut with scenes of the slacker being blasted by his mother for his lack of a job. It is a slice of Trini life that feels authentic.The dialogue is all in Trini dialect which may be difficult for non-Caribbean viewers and subtitles would have been a good idea when thinking of wider release. There are also a couple of scenes where the audio is a bit too low but overall the sound quality is good.

In terms of plot I will not go into spoilers but I will say there are bombings, police chases, mistaken identity and other hijinks. David and Joseph have a great odd couple feel and Joseph’s two slacker friends, including an overweight, mush-mouth guy, also add to the humour. The film, executive produced by the University of the West Indies Film Department, is a light, comedy romp that explores one shade of the dark stain on local history. Sometimes you have to laugh so you don’t cry and Flying the Coup delivers on the chuckles.

Rating: Flying the Coup loots four out of five stars.

The film is available for viewing now for free at studio anansi. Photos courtesy ttfilmfestival.