I’m back! Sadly, in the intervening time since my last post, the Uzbek short film The Dog has been taken down from YouTube, and I cannot find another way to access it. Because of that, this post will only be discussing two short films: Jus Lyk Dat and Bal Kan. Both of these films deal with the theme of betrayal.
Jus Lyk Dat
Directed by Errol Chan, Jus Lyk Dat is a relatively rare example of a locally-produced Guyanese film. (One person on YouTube left the comment: “Keep it coming we need more Guyanese production instead of those played out Nollywood and Bollywood movies,” which provoked the ire of at least one diehard Nollywood fan.) At the beginning of the movie, we’re introduced to Tyrone (Terrence Giddings), who is something of a card shark and a jackass. He steals money from his friend Asher (Stephon Wills), who in turn tells his partner Esther (Joyann Crandon): “This is the third time he thieve from me!” He recounts: “The other day, I left me money ‘pon the table and gone outside. Two thousand dollar missing.” However, “I refused to believe that he would do a thing like that. But I set a trap fi him. Two thousand dollar gone again. Now, just now, he thieve two thousand dollar.” Esther merely chuckles, unimpressed: “I guess only two thousand dollars he done fo thieve” (which, of course, isn’t strictly true, but nevertheless…).
Jemma (Marita Weatherspoon), Esther’s sister and Tyrone’s partner, owes Esther money. “Babes,” Esther pleads to Asher, “you know it’s two months now Jemma owe me money, and she won’t pay me back.” Instead, “all she does do, is give Tyrone fi gamble or she ga lets him dance.” As a result, Esther refuses to lend Jemma any more money. This sends Tyrone into a rage: “Hey Esther! Don’t come in here with your flapping mouth, girl!” Again, Esther is unmoved: “Or else what? You can’t do me nothing.”
Upon this, Asher enters, accusing Tyrone of thievery. “Is who you calling thief?” Tyrone replies incredulously. The argument comes to fisticuffs, before being broken up by Andy (Andy Henry), one of Tyrone’s gambling buddies. But this does not end the feud. Later, Tyrone chases Asher down the street, until—jus lyk dat—the argument takes a fatal turn. I’m not sure if the scene is supposed to be comic or not. It reads that way to me—the melodramatic orchestral stings, the “uh-oh Spaghettios” look on the killer’s face. And yet, the brief aftermath plays out in a serious tone. There are some apparent issues with continuity. At one point, Asher seems to refer to Esther as his sister, and Esther calls Jemma “Jenna” at least once. By most definitions, it’s not a “good” movie, but I think in some ways it is, not least of all because of its cultural significance: like the YouTube commenter said, it’s a locally-produced (albeit ultra-low budget) Guyanese alternative to foreign films.
The title says it all—this is a film about the fractured and factious political climate of the Balkans. Directed by Kriks Dumo, it begins in Kosovo in 1988. Ilir and Emil, Albanian and Serbian respectively, are two boys who, despite their ethnic differences, are close friends.
Fast forward to 1999. Things have changed. Emil, now grown, spraypaints a Serbian cross on a building. The former friends are now on opposing sides of a bitter and violent ethnic conflict. When the Serbs murder several Albanian children, it seems they’ve finally taken things too far, prompting a bloody shootout between the town’s Serbian and Albanian factions, including Ilir and Emil. Soon, Ilir and Emil are the only two combatants left. Only when Ilir recognizes the marble that Emil is wearing on a necklace do they realize who each other is. They tearfully embrace, before reaching for their knives, bringing the film to its ending, which is somehow both foreseeable and shocking.
The video has approximately 40% thumbs-down reactions on YouTube—not because of the quality of the film, which is impressive, but presumably because of the content. Comments include: “KOSOVO IS SERBIA!!!”; “KOSOVO IS ALBANIA MACEDONIA IS ALBANIA BIG ALBANIA IS COOMING [sic]”; what a lie and propaganda, everything in this movie is lie”; “Albania us [sic] the one that started conflict at at Kosovo Wikipedia”; “fuck analbania”; “will they show albanians selling organs?”; and “Kosovo? You mean that not independent province of Serbia?” However, some of the comments offer a more positive response: “im albanian and i love serbs”; “Why cant you Shqiptars and Cetniks just shut the fuck up about the ‘Propaganda’ and take e leason [sic] from this. They where [sic] playing togheter [sic] and then they killed each other. Seriously look at them in the end. Fuck politics and fuck religion. We are the same. And yes im Yugoslavian! Not Serb, Bosniak, Kroat, Sloven, Makedon, or Alb. Fuck religion and nationalism. B A L K A N / J U G O S L A V I J A”; “Kosovo is Kosovo! Serbia is Serbia! Albania is Albania!”; and “Oh Kosovo… A land where brotherhood died and was replaced by hatred. Kosovo isn’t Serbia, Kosovo isn’t Albania, Kosovo is Kosovo and it can only exist as such. Tito invited Albania to join Yugoslavia, if it did it wouldn’t be like this. We are all to blame, we killed brotherhood. Albanians and Serbs are brothers, not enemies. Long Live Yugoslavia!” Other comments are more ambiguous, including: “Guys i was looking koments……this is sad how people stupid are P.S. Russia please bomb whole balkan with 5 tsar bombas please…..” Admittedly, it’s probably a bit unusual when the content of a film is overshadowed by the comments section of YouTube, but nevertheless, the movie itself is pretty good.
In the next post, I’ll be discussing two short films that address sexual education, as well as a third educational film that promotes financial literacy:
The Story of Mariama (The Gambia, 2013)
Yu No Save Ronwei Lo Lav (Vanuatu, 2016)
Maudabak (East Timor, 2016)