I can say without any exaggeration that SistaGod is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Written and directed by Yao Ramesar, it’s the first in a trilogy of experimental films about an enigmatic young Trinidadian woman named Mari, whose dreams herald death and destruction. Set over an eerie soundtrack and jerky camerawork, SistaGod is as unsettling as it is compelling. The tempo of the film is strange, at times slow, at times fast, making the film seem disconnected from time altogether
Endings and Beginnings
SistaGod contains almost no dialogue, relying mostly on Mari’s narration to tell the story. Indeed, the first twenty minutes or so are a monologue delivered by her. Her narrations are powerful and poetic, so please forgive me when I quote them at length. Mari tells us that her father was an American Marine sniper who served in Desert Storm. He suffered brain damage, and “My mother, his caregiver, nursed him back to health.” She continues: “I was conceived in the cemetery next to our house. I was born a throwblack, came out darker than expected,” so her father suspected that she was not his child and left. As a result, “My mother spent most of the rest of her life in the asylum, or madhouse, thumbing through the memories of her one great romance. She tried her best to salvage some status, making sure I spoke and thought in standard English, making sure that even though I only had one dress, it was a good dress.”
Mari is surrounded by death from the start: “Living on Cemetery Street, my next-door neighbors were dead people, their restless souls threatening to possess us all.” Perhaps it is her familiarity with death that enables her to cheat it at an early age: “On my ninth birthday, I picked some poison berries. I don’t know who or what made me pick or eat them, but they stained my tongue black and nearly killed me, or so my mother claimed.” Regardless, this experience gives her supernatural and clairvoyant powers: “When I was 18, a spirit entered me telling me I was God, to prepare for the end of life as we knew it.” Mari’s mother orders that she be exorcised, but the exorcism only strengthens her newfound spiritual powers.
The Coming of SistaGod
Mari soon reveals that she is pregnant, presumably with the child of God (or perhaps, in a less fanciful interpretation, the child of the man who administered her exorcism). “When my mother found out that I was pregnant,” we learn, “she threatened to kill herself, jump off the waterfall. After they subdued her, she started sewing a Carnival costume for me.” We see the main character, fittingly enough, dressed as a Carnival character known as Baby Doll, an unwed mother. (The backstory of Baby Doll is explained here.) In the lacy white costume, Mari looks ghostly and frightening. And with this costume, she transforms into SistaGod.
Only SistaGod knows that this Carnival would mark the end of the world—the Apocalypso, as she calls it. “While we were waiting on the next epidemic, or the next World War,” she narrates, “we went out with a whimper: ‘Save the Earth.’ The earth survived. People disappeared, everybody in the blink of an eye. At least they went out playing mas. They all took their final vows before the mass [or mas!] destruction.” Some of the masquerade dancers faint and then begin flailing. Is it an act? Is this the work of SistaGod? Nothing seems certain in this movie.
All that is certain is that, following Carnival, SistaGod finds herself alone: “Then they were gone. Even those in Hell and beyond. I alone survived the Apocalypso. I looked at all the names in the departure lounge. Only the gods were left standing.” Wikipedia calls the film a fantasy. I guess that’s accurate. I’m really not sure it fits into any genre, but fantasy is as good a category as any. (Oh, and one other thing is certain: This is a phenomenal film and you must check it out, if possible!)
Confusion Na Wa (Nigeria, 2013)