Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
It’s always great when celebrities provide opportunities for lesser-known content creators. And this is the case with Senegalese-American actress, writer, and producer Issa Rae who has showcased short films from other creators on her YouTube page under the title “Issa Rae Presents” and #ShortFilmSundays.
And five years ago (what? I only now discovered it. Get off my back) she presented The Resort, written, directed and executive produced by Shadae Lamar Smith, an American-British filmmaker born to Jamaican parents. But this is a Cariwood (Caribbean film) review? Surely there’s a stronger Caribbean connection than just Jamaican parentage. Fear not dear RedMangoReader. The film is shot and set in Tobago (sister isle of Trinidad, where I’m from) and shines a spotlight on sex tourism on the island.
And “spotlight” is the best term as it’s a narrative film and not a documentary, and there is only so much story you can tell in 15 minutes. The plot is set in an unnamed but pretty sweet looking resort and focuses on three sets of people: the maids, the “beach boys”, and the “congo man.” The maids are a somewhat lighter moment as we see them working, chatting about their lives, and making fun of the guests. TT actor Stephen Hadeed Jr. (Pendulum, Mangroves) plays shady hotel manager Barry who appears to be both overworking the maids and apparently receiving sexual favours from Anne (the lovely Marjuan Canady).
We find the beach boys on the beach (no surprise there) and they are attempting to sell tours to the tourists. It seems like a hard life for them and though we see them only briefly you get a taste for the struggle. When beach boy Andrew (local actor Shea Best) approaches tourist couple Alicia and Peter the former asks if he is “selling anything else?” Poor Andrew doesn’t know what she means and they brush him off.
Andrew then notices them leaving with fellow beach boy Kevan (the very fit Aleem Marcus Valentine) who is the previously mentioned “congo man”, a reference to the classic and highly sexual 1965 calypso of the same name by the Mighty Sparrow. The song is about two white women being eaten by a cannibal headhunter in Africa. Okay, it’s not the most politically correct song, but it was the ’60s and that was a very different time.
The couple have arranged with Kevan for some sexual shenanigans (I won’t spoil exactly what they have planned). And Graham Skipper is so good as the sleazy Peter and Jessica DiGiovanni steams up the screen as the lustful Anne. Is it hot in here, or is it just her? Peter tells Kevan “My wife loves the way you guys smell” which perfectly encapsulates both the dehumanisation and fetishising of sex tourism. It’s ugly, but it’s an ugly business.
The cinematography is great and I appreciated the use of local dialect (with subtitles) but I think there was a big missed opportunity with Kevan. He is not given much of a personality, though there may be a hint of reluctance with his drinking. But we don’t really know exactly why he does this or how he feels about it, especially since we don’t see him after the act. And while the film ends on another character I think it would have been much more powerful and poignant if the final shot was Kevan and just seeing the emotions going through his head after selling his body again.
But besides that one issue, The Resort is a very well-made film that can be used as a conversation starter about a hidden industry.
Editor Jules’s Score: 7.5 out of 10
You can check out the film for yourself by clicking here. For another film about Caribbean sex tourism you can check out my review of classic Jamaican comedy Smile Orange by clicking here. Or for Antigua and Barbuda short film The Guest you can click 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 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.