Earl Lovelace’s ‘Joebell and America’ is a Small Story about a Big Dreamer (Trinidad and Tobago)

Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer

What happens to a dream deferred?

Langston Hughes, Harlem

I thought of this line of poetry while watching 2004 Trinidad and Tobago drama Joebell and America. The film tells the story of the titular gambler and part-time grass cutter who dreams of leaving his small village of Cunaripo for the big life in America.

The movie is a family affair: it is co-written by legendary TT novelist Earl Lovelace and based on his short story of the same name; it is co-written, produced and directed by his daughter Asha Lovelace (in her feature film debut); his son Walt Lovelace is the director of photography and editor; and his other son Che is the art director.

Hey dude. Can I have a soda please?

Being a Trinidadian myself, one way I can describe this movie is “refreshingly Trinidadian”. The characters, dialogue and situations all reflect the culture authentically and unapologetically. And the story of someone dreaming of a better life in the US is one all Trini and Caribbean audiences can relate to.

Joebell, played with charm and flair by Brian Green, is what people in TT would call “wotless” (worthless). He has no fixed employment and his main source of income is from gambling. But he is a handsome, friendly sort, and his wide-eyed dreamer ways is infectious, even snagging him an attractive young village girl named Alicia (Gabrielle Gellineau). But the girl’s mother (Grace Maharaj) is less than pleased that her daughter is sweet on this “crazy” man, and seeks divine intervention to change her mind. Joebell’s mother (Eunice Alleyne) is also displeased with his layabout ways, though her love for her son is quite clear.

Wha’s de scene?

The village of Cunaripo feels very lived-in thanks to its relatable characters. My favourite is an extempo singing (an extemporaneous form of calypso) old man who both teases Joebell and acts like a Greek chorus narrating his misadventures. And as an audience you do root for him during his ups and downs, sweet romance with Alicia, and his machinations to get to America. And when Joebell puts on his “yankee” get-up and accent it results in some of the funnier scenes in the film.

Joebell and America? More like SuperFly 2: Caribbean Hustle

But under the comedy and the romance there is a deeper message about love of country and of self that will always be important. So for a breezy and very Trini drama might I recommend visiting Cunaripo to hear the tale of Joebell and America.

Editor Jules’s Score: 7.5 out of 10

For another literature-inspired Trinidad and Tobago film you can check out my review of Green Days by the River by clicking here. Or for award-winning TT family feature Sally’s Way you can click here.

B0FC059B-BBEE-47CF-90E4-D588C1BACD93 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 about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.