Julien Neaves – Caribbean Head Writer
As a Trinidadian and a film reviewer it is a special pleasure discovering classic films from my country as I feel like I am rediscovering my own history. And that was definitely the experience when watching 1969 (or 1970 if you listen to IMDb) anti-colonial classic The Right and The Wrong.
The film, is about an African slave named JoJo and an Indian slave named Shyam (played by veteran actor Ralph Maraj) who band together against an evil, lecherous plantation owner. I was unable to confirm any cast names other than Maraj because there was no end credits and the IMDb listing, the only source I found online, had sparse information. There is an opening credit that states it is “A first West Indian colour movie” which lets you know how old a film this is. The credits do list that the screenplay was by local theatre icon Freddie Kissoon and written, produced and directed by Harbance “Micky” Kumar.
The time setting of the film is a revisionist history as there are both African and Indian slaves on the plantation when East Indians only arrived to be indentured labourers in May 1845, seven years after slavery had been abolished.
The film opens dramatically with the stereotypical massa Malcolm hanging two “disobedient” slaves and then can’t stop laughing about it. He, his wife, and Maraj give some of the better performances while most of the other cast are either too stiff or too theatrical. On the plantation two ne’er-do-well slaves are planning a violent revolt but the peace-loving, hard-working JoJo and Shyam will have none of it. But when the massa sets his eyes on Shyam’s fiancé and massa’s sexually repressed wife sets her eyes on JoJo the two are thrown into conflict with their sociopathic oppressor.
For such an old movie I thought the editing was very well done and the story is a decent blend of action, tension, romance, sex and racial politics. There are, however, some very odd musical numbers (including after the above mentioned hanging and an act of forced infidelity) which gone on forever and I found very distracting. There are also a few dream/imagined sequences which are shot in the same way as the rest of the film leading to a bit of confusion.
The story was clearly meant to be a nation-building one with African and Indians (the two main races in Trinidad and Tobago) coming together to build their own plantation away from wicked massa. And this is not surprising as it was just seven or eighth years after the country gained its Independence. They even incorporate the country’s motto “Together we aspire, together we achieve” into the dialogue. The film does come off preachy at times and the end showing clips of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr was real overkill. But still the film has a lot of entertainment value, some decent music and I enjoyed it as a fun throwback.
Julien’s Score: 6 out of 10
You can view the film for yourself here:
For my review of best Trinidad and Tobago film few have seen 1972 crime drama Bim (also featuring Maharaj) you can click here. And for more Caribbean film reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook by clicking here.
Julien “Jules” 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. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.