Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 30th 2015 Contents SUNDAY 30TH AUGUST, 2015 -- UWI TODAY 15
Dr J. Vijay Maharaj is a cultural and literary analyst who works in the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies.
All thirty of VS
and his hundreds
of articles and
take up considerable
space on a library
shelf. Add in some
of the critical work
on his oeuvre, then
wall shelved space
usually allocated to
a personal library
would be occupied
solely by VS Naipaul
along with work pertaining to his writing.
If, you consider "the writer is worth reading slowly,"
and you read like VS Naipaul, then you have been reading
for a long time, for he says: "I would like to read only 20
pages a day -- to read more is to throw away lovely things"
Interview with John Baker, Publishers Weekly 6 June 1994,
44-46). You would, however, have certainly found the spatio-
emporal investment worth your while, especially if you read
his words -- carefully cra ed, as he tells us in the Foreword
o A House for Mr Biswas, at the rate of approximately 400
words a day -- like he does, and particularly if you obtain
he kind of enlightenment I have.
Illumination comes in a variety of ways. It inheres in the
models of precision and clarity the writing provides, quite
frequently on issues that reader as well as author harbour
ambiguous, ambivalent views and emotions, and for which
therefore only the most subtle techniques of caricature,
parody, irony and resultant humour are suitable. We can
think for example of the well-loved works of the youthful
writer: Miguel Street (1959 -- written rst; published later),
e Mystic Masseur (1957), (adapted for the Merchant-Ivory
lm script by Caryl Phillips), e Su rage of Elvira (1958)
and A House for Mr Biswas (1961). But the description
also applies to the portraits of the British working class
in Mr Stone and the Knights Companion (1963), the Black
Power movement captured in Guerrillas (1975), and of
Willie Chandran's ostensibly revolutionary endeavours in
his journeys across Africa, India and Europe in Half a Life
(2001) and Magic Seeds (2004).
One also gains a special kind of socio-cultural and
historical awareness through VS Naipaul's journalistic
techniques, from which many a journalist could learn.
is is most evident through the nine books comprising
the Latin American-Caribbean, Indian and Islamic-Middle
Eastern trilogies: e Middle Passage (1962), e Loss of El
Dorado (1969), and e Return of Eva Peron with the Killings
in Trinidad (1980); An Area of Darkness (1964), India: A
Wounded Civilization (1976) and India: A Million Mutinies
Now (1990); e Overcrowded Barracoon (1972), Among
the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981) and Beyond Belief:
Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples (1998) as
well as the three comprising re ections on Africa in one of
the narratives in Finding the Centre: Two Narratives (1984)
"Our greatest achievement has been the output of students
who have brought an immensely diverse suite of narratives
o the storytelling table, through their productions", says
Yao Ramesar, lecturer in and coordinator of e UWI Film
Programme and a singularly diversi ed and distinguished
lmic storyteller, with a note of well-deserved pride.
Notable feature lm releases that have come from
students of the programme include Santana: e Movie
Roger Alexis) and Escape From Babylon (Nicholas Attin).
Programme alumni have gone on to professional work in
all genres of cinema -- sci- , animation, horror, urban, slice
of life, documentary and the world of video gaming -- just
o name a few of the post-programme arenas. Graduates
of the programme "constitute a highly mobile workforce",
ere are two possible tracks in the lm programme.
There is the major (B.A) in Film Production -- an
nterdisciplinary programme designed to teach potential
lmmakers the technical skills and of production at the
highest level, and ensure that these lmmakers understand
and apply the theoretical and aesthetic principles of lm. It is
designed to ensure the balance between theory and practice
s maintained and that analytical and critical skills for the
practice of cra are also learnt.
The other track is a major (B.A) in Film Studies,
designed to teach students how to evaluate, critique and
analyse lm products and understand how lm images
work. Future critics and aestheticians of lm will therefore
be grounded in the basic technical skills of lmmaking.
Among numerous courses o ered are Caribbean Cinema
I & II, Cinemas of Africa, Latin American Cinema and
With numbers growing, and the requirement of studio
and editing spaces proportionally with this growth, the
country's rst lm degree programme now has its own
building -- a testament to the flow and growth of the
development path since its inception in 2006. e precursor
was the rst tertiary level lm courses o ered in Trinidad
and Tobago, designed and deployed by Ramesar and
Kenwyn Crichlow at the then Creative Arts Centre(now
Department of Creative and Festival Arts/DCFA) UWI, as
a component of the B.A in Visual Arts degree in 1998. e
programme is located in the O ce of the Dean, Faculty of
Humanities and Education.
Ramesar notes that cinema here 'has a renaissance
capacity'. "Students", he explains, "have the potential to and
have demonstrated their power to advance the narrative
structure of lmic storytelling, as the Hollywood formulaic
way has been trapped in a closed romantic realist structure
for much of its existence."
at 'renaissance capacity' it appears, is a key success
factor of e UWI Film Programme. Students begin the
work of challenging the form and structure of storytelling in
lm and, as graduates of the programme, continue to push
the proverbial envelope in the spaces where they pursue their
original productions -- with a high degree of competence, if
audience feedback is the gauge. e programme's students
routinely cop multiple awards at e Trinidad & Tobago
Film Festival, usually their rst port of call upon completion
of their lms.
is 'renaissance capacity' is also the context for the
programme's 10th anniversary showcase event -- the rst
staging of the World Festival of Emerging Cinema. e
inaugural festival takes place this November around the
theme, Women in Cinema, and will bring together the best
works of the students and their international peers while
facilitating opportunities for global collaborations and co-
productions. It recognizes that lmmakers throughout the
Caribbean region need to be provided with the expertise
and portable skill sets to ensure their competitiveness in
the burgeoning international lm industry and this is the
direction in which they are moving.
From next month until the World Festival of Emerging
Cinema, UWI Today is pleased to make space to feature
the writings of some of the programme's students on the
Film Studies track as they re ect on topics from Caribbean
Cinema, lmmaking in the region, critiques of form and
content and the theme of the Festival, Women in Cinema.
and the recent Masque of Africa (2010) and on the United
States in A Turn in the South (1989).
These books model not only a writing style but
an attitude to life of courage and detachment. Equally
importantly, the acumen the work yields has to do with the
development of a keen grasp of human psychology especially
with regard to lust for power and pleasure and the abyss
between desire and its object. For many ardent Naipaul fans,
this assertion will immediately bring to mind the political
Caribbean novels e Mimic Men (1967) and A Flag on the
Island (1967) as well as the earliest and most penetrating
analyses of the postcolonial condition in the collection of
stories In a Free State (1971) and the novel A Bend in the
River (1979). Finally, (only because to do otherwise is to
exceed my word limit), there is a philosophical education
from becoming immersed in the hybrid works e Enigma
of Arrival (1987) and A Way in the World (1994) and the
most recent collections of essays.
From the little said here, it should be possible to glimpse
why V. S. Naipaul echoes his father and brother to insist on
the nobility of the writer's calling. As he said to Tarun Tejpal:
"It is the only noble calling. It's noble because it deals with
the truth" (Random Magazine June 1998).
e Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication
Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the St
Augustine Campus joins with the Friends of Mr Biswas to
host a conference, Seepersad & Sons: Naipaulian Creative
Synergies, October 28-30.
e Plenitude of VS Naipaul
BY VIJAY MAHARAJ
UWI FILM 10
A Renaissance Movement
BY REBECCA ROBINSON
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