Julien Neaves – Editor

On March 28 the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (ttff) gave Caribbean viewers an isolation gift with #WatchaMovieOnUs:  Online Screening Series – 14 films shown over 14 days, each for 24 hours, on its website. Now as you would see in the RMR About section, one of the goals of this site is to promote Caribbean film, or “Cariwood” as I call it.

So ttff has inspired me to do my own review series, 7 Days of Cariwood, which will be a mix of the Online Screening Series films and other Caribbean films. For part 4 of my review series and the film that is available right now through the ttff website (provided you are reading this April 5 and live in the Caribbean) we will be checking out award-winning Bahamian drama/thriller Cargo (not to be confused with the zombie flick Cargo starring Martin Freeman which also came out in 2017) And we will be keeping it spoiler free. Let’s go!

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Cargo, inspired by true events, tells the story of down-on-his-luck fisherman and habitual gambler Kevin Pinder (played by Warren Brown of the acclaimed BBC cop drama Luther) who becomes a human smuggler to provide for his family. It also features Omar J Dorsey (Django Unchained, Selma) as Kevin’s loyal friend Eddie, and Persia White (The Vampire Diaries, Girlfriends) as his neurotic wife Berneice. The film has won a number of awards including: the Bahamian Icon Award; Best Film, Haiti International Film Festival, Los Angeles; Trident Award, Barbados Independent Film Festival; and Amnesty International Human Rights Prize for Film, TT Film Festival in 2017.

Cargo opens with the harrowing image of bodies washed up on the beach, an image that writer/director Kareem Mortimer saw as a child on the news and which inspired him to create the film. The plot does not spend a lot of time on the actual human smuggling, but explores what would lead someone to become a smuggler or a victim of smuggling. It also follows Kevin’s journey from desperation to false hope to all-consuming darkness, and Brown must be praised for his layered portrayal of this conflicted character. This is a guy you will root for one minute and then be utterly disgusted with the next.

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The other standout in the film is Haitian actress Gessica Généus (Moloch Tropical, Bird People) who brings heart and depth to the character of Celianne, an undocumented waitress who gets sucked into Kevin’s whirlpool of a life. Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes, Tears of the Sun)  appears briefly in the film but gives a memorable performance. 

Besides the acting the film boasts some strong visuals which are sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrific, sometimes both. There are images here that will stick with you long after you watch Cargo, for better or worse. I just watched the movie and I couldn’t even do my usual comedic photo captions.

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Mortimer must also be praised for shedding light on the cruel trade of human smuggling (you can see another take on that story in TT film Moving Parts).

At almost two hours long, though, the film is just a bit too long and probably could have cut out one of the subplots. But I was engaged throughout and that gut punch of a final act alone is worth the price of admission.

Score: 7/10

If you’re in the Caribbean and it is still April 5 you can view the film for free here. And for part 3 of 7 Days of Cariwood and my review of TT gangster film Zesser: The Movie you can click here

Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. Also loves promoting Caribbean film, creating board games and is an aspiring author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Can also be found talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.