Ian Harnarine has always been a movie buff. Growing up in the city, the Newtonbrook Secondary School graduate regularly attended the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) before moving to Chicago to complete a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Physics to add to the undergraduate degree in Physics and Astronomy he earned at York University.
Despite his academic success, Harnarine was bored with probing the fundamental building blocks of the universe.
“I was at a point in my life where I was not curious anymore or satisfied with what I was doing and the trajectory I was going down in my life,” he said. “I was in my early 20s at the time without a wife, kids or mortgage so I decided to take a chance on me.”
Abandoning the sciences, Harnarine pursued film at New York University where he’s a faculty member in both the Graduate Film School and Physics departments.
His first short movie, Doubles with Slight Pepper, was highly successful. It was the Best Canadian Short at last year’s TIFF and is currently touring Canada as part of a select group of Canadian films.
The 16-minute production tells the story of a street vendor in Trinidad & Tobago who struggles to reconcile his relationship with his father, who had just returned from Canada, before the latter dies. Poetic dialogue and compelling characters shape the story of this contemporary immigrant experience.
Last month, the film was nominated for a Genie Award.
Harnarine, who developed the film as an alumnus of the Caribbean Tales incubator program in 2010, was honoured with a Trinidad & Tobago Award of Recognition at last Saturday’s Caribbean Tales Youth Film Festival brunch held in conjunction with TIFF to celebrate Black History Month and T & T and Jamaica’s 50th independence anniversary this year.
The son of T & T immigrants dedicated the prestigious award to his father, Dhanidath “Dodie” Harnarine, who died two years ago.
“My dad was the inspiration for the movie which I also dedicated to him,” said Harnarine. “I have a passion for films just like he did and I will watch anything. Last year, I viewed almost 150 movies.”
New T & T Consul General in Toronto, Dr. Vidhya Tota-Maharaj, and Christopher Laird of the twin-island republic’s film company made the presentation to Harnarine.
“Your success is an example to aspiring artists and directors in an industry that is growing in Trinidad & Tobago,” said Tota-Maharaj. “Our government is committed to developing this industry through various incentives….We are a very creative and dynamic people and our scenic landscape provides a backdrop to vivid imagery that can inspire and express the artistic vision of writers, actors, producers and directors that choose our country as a location to do business.”
Jamaican-born entrepreneur Denham Jolly was presented with a Black Media Pioneer Award.
A McGill University graduate, Jolly taught Physics at Forest High School before embarking on a business and philanthropic career. He co-founded the Black Business & Professional Association and was instrumental in obtaining a license forCanada’s first urban music radio station.
“It’s a special honour to be singled out for such esteem by one’s peers and contemporaries,” he said in his acceptance speech. “It’s important that Blacks, as a people who have been in Canada for over 400 years, present ourselves in all aspects of Canadian society – from janitors to jazz musicians, from surveyors to surgeons and from ball players to bankers. But not the least of these endeavours is media and communications because it’s paramount that we not only tell our own stories but that we have the facilities to present them to the broader society.”
Following the presentations, the award-wining film, Better Mus’ Come, was screened.
The film tells the story of the Green Bay Massacre of 1978 which was precipitated when rival Jamaican political factions mobilized street gangs that turned an election campaign into a bloody showdown.
“This film is really about the landscape and environment in which an event like a Green Baycould have happened,” said producer/director Storm Saulter. “It is a beautiful thing when we as Caribbean people have the opportunity to tell our stories from our own unique point of view and to have a Canadian audience experience Better Mus’ Come in such a prestigious setting is a real blessing.”
Saulter, who was born in Negril, collaborated with Canadian music video director Little X on a project a few years ago inNew York.
“He provided me with confidence and encouragement and it’s so nice to come back to his hometown to show off my first feature film,” Saulter added.
Last Saturday’s award presentations and film screening are part of a special TIFF screening series titled Music, Magic, Clash: New Voices in the African Diaspora.
By RON FANFAIR