[Blackstudies-l] These Two Takes on Human Trafficking in the Caribbean Prove Why a Filmmaker’s POV Matters

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Mon Apr 3 23:06:53 EDT 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " A report by Manuel Betancourt for Remezcla. Cargo,
directed by Bahamian Kareem J. Mortimer and Live Cargo, directed by
American Logan Sandler, are more than just similarly-titled films set in
the Bahamas. They exemplify the differences between homegro"
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New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> These Two Takes on
Human Trafficking in the Caribbean Prove Why a Filmmaker’s POV Matters
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 9.50.56 PM.png]

A report by Manuel Betancourt for *Remezcla*

*Cargo*, directed by Bahamian Kareem J. Mortimer and *Live Cargo*, directed
by American Logan Sandler, are more than just similarly-titled films set in
the Bahamas. They exemplify the differences between homegrown filmmakers
grappling with local issues in their work and foreign-born directors using
a seemingly exotic backdrop for their ambitious personal projects. Both, as
their titles suggest, deal head on with human trafficking in the Caribbean

In fact, the image of bodies washed-up ashore open both films. But where
Mortimer’s brightly-colored images give them the feel of
on-the-ground photographs capturing the devastating effects of a human
smuggling operation gone wrong, Sandler’s choice to shoot his film in black
and white leave them instead looking like glossy portraits much too pretty
to announce anything more than their own beautiful construction. That
difference in style very much dictates how each approaches the issue at
hand. Where Mortimer’s film, the largest Bahamian film project to date
which recently screened at the Miami International Film Festival
<http://remezcla.com/tag/miami-international-film-festival/>, attempts to
track how pervasive and damaging the trafficking epidemic is in the islands
with its sprawling and wildly diverse ensemble, Sandler’s film is much more
interested in using the gorgeous Caribbean landscape as a naturally
threatening background for what amounts to a small-scale personal drama.

Mortimer’s first film, *Children of God *carries with it the distinction of
being one of the first Caribbean films to tackle homosexuality head on. It
established the Nassau-born director as a keen and attentive filmmaker.
*Cargo *is ostensibly about Kevin (played by Brit actor Warren Brown). He’s
a man at his wit’s end. With a boy in boarding school, a sick mother, a
wife who’s long lost respect for him, and a flailing business, he turns to
human smuggling to make some quick cash.

But the more Mortimer examines the world around Kevin—including the young
Jamaican woman he employs at home and the pretty Haitian waitress he begins
seeing on the side—you’re made privy to the way immigration is central to
many in the island. Whether those looking for a better world up North in
the United States, or those wishing to make a better life for themselves in
the Bahamas in comparison to where they came from, many of the characters
in *Cargo* live daily with the brunt of a changing economy that forces
legal (and, at times, illegal) migration.

*Cargo* is also intent on exposing the racism that pervades the lives of
many of its characters. Kevin’s girlfriend Celianne (Gessica Geneus), for
example, has to suffer the indignity of being disrespected by her son’s
principal who’s keen on kicking him out since she’s yet to pay for his
tuition. “How many toilets do you have to scrub before you come up with the
funds?” she’s asked. And while Kevin depends on his whiteness to keep his
boat trips from being investigated (“Look at me, do I look like I would do
something crazy?”), his wife Berneice is quick to talk freely about how
Jamaicans are thieves and criminals. Played by Puerto Rican,
African-American and Irish actress *Persia White* (of *Girlfriends *and *The
Vampire Diaries *fame), Berneice is one of the more interesting characters
the film develops.

Often cooped up at home out of shame of what happened to her before the
film began, we later learn she herself was an immigrant in the United
States who got deported. The memory of the life that she and Kevin could’ve
had haunts her every day, leading her to lash out at her husband. She
thinks he has ruined both of their lives and confined them to living in the
Bahamas beyond their means. That she surely faced discrimination herself
while living abroad just adds to the various ways *Cargo* doesn’t want to
see things in black and white, never content with letting anyone off the
hook for the rampant social problems that these characters live with on a
daily basis.

There’s no reason why Sandler’s dreamy black-and-white marital drama should
be held to the same standards. After all, it’s merely intent on telling the
story of Nadine and Lewis (Dree Hemingway and *Atlanta*‘s Keith Stanfield),
a young couple who head to the Bahamas to try and rekindle a relationship
damaged by the loss of their infant child. The crashing waves, the imposing
clouds, and the stark landscapes around them merely help reinforce how
adrift they are from one another. In fact, there’s such beauty in
Sandler’s melancholy images that it makes the Bahamas feel like some
otherworldly paradise—especially in scenes where Nadine scuba dives and
expertly skewers fish in her wake.

Of course, one keeps waiting for this mostly dialogue-free arthouse yarn to
reach outside of this small-scale drama to deal with the social issues its
title suggests. But when the grief-stricken couple’s story finally collides
with the more violent goings on around them, the film cannot help but frame
a capsized boat tragedy as a tidy deus ex machina plot device which brings
the gorgeous couple ever closer together. Sandler, who spent part of his
formative years in the Bahamas, clearly has an eye for the area—you really
haven’t seen Bimini quite like this on screen—but it’s rather dispiriting
to see such a harrowing socioeconomic ill as human trafficking be reduced
to a subplot, let alone made into a marital metaphor.

Taken together, *Cargo* and *Live Cargo* give us two complementary
narratives about the human trafficking epidemic in the Caribbean. They’re
also a reminder of the ever growing film industry in the area which is
getting more and more varied with every new film released. But given their
respective focuses, it’s not hard to tell which one was made by and for a
Bahamian audience, even as the other cannot help but offer you a stunning
look at the natural beauty of the island—the better to tempt you to go
visit, perhaps.

*Cargo premiered at the Miami Film Festival
<http://2017.miamifilmfestival.com/> while **Live Cargo opens in theaters
and VOD on March 31, 2017.*
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
April 3, 2017 at 9:52 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-uD7

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