Rich Poetry Meets Striking Imagery in Derek Walcott-Narrated Short ‘The Saddhu of Couva’ (Trinidad and Tobago)

Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer

Greetings Red Mango Readers. I have a something a little bit different for you folks. It’s a look at the short film The Saddhu of Couva produced and directed by Yao Ramesar (SistaGod, Haiti Bride). It is a visual retelling of the poem of the same name by late St Lucian poet, playwright and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature (1992) Sir Derek Walcott (January 23, 1930-March 17, 2017).

According to in 2001 Walcott “commissioned (the) award-winning filmmaker… to produce a series of films that would allow students across the Caribbean to access and explore these works. The Saddhu of Couva (The Star-Apple Kingdom, FSG, 1979) was the first in the series, narrated and written by Walcott.” Ramesar would also adapt Walcott’s poem The Coral.

Director Yao Ramesar (left) and late poet, playwright and Nobel Laureate Sir Derek Walcott

The Saddhu of Couva is about the titular Hindu holy man in the west-central urban town in Trinidad as he contemplates his surroundings, his community, his mortality, and the afterlife. The poem showcases Walcott’s deft use of language and powerful ability to conjure detailed imagery. Beautiful lines like “my white mustache bristle like horns, my hands are brittle as the pages of Ramayana” are brought to life both by the writer’s resonant narration and Ramesar’s narrative imagery.

The visuals of the film detail the events of the poem, the cinematography at times capturing images like still life paintings. The somber and reflective mood of the poem is also reflected in the rhythmic East Indian soundtrack and the occasionally saturated colour scheme. Francis Mahabir plays the Saddhu and, though he has no lines, there is a wisdom and thoughtfulness in his expression and gait that serves the character well. The lines on his face and hands tell a story on their own. And he helps to bring home the melancholy line “There are no more elders. Is only old people.”

There is a richness to watching this masterful poem come to life that is difficult to put into words. All I can say is watch this very short film for yourself (it’s just over five minutes) if you want to hear and see some great art put to screen.

You can view The Saddhu of Couva on by clicking here. And you can find more great Trinidad and Tobago content below:

The Poetry of Unfinished Sentences in Three Slices (Trinidad and Tobago)

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


Julien “Editor 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”. Read more.