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The women of “Between Friends”
‘Between Friends’ is a full feature movie, filmed entirely in Trinidad with a fully Trinidadian cast, that has been shown and acclaimed at international film festivals - Bangalore (where it was on the ‘50 Best Selected Films’ list at The Indian Independent Film Festival), Nigeria (where it won an African Movie Academy award), England (where it won for Best Cinematography at the Kent Film Festival), New York and Jamaica - but never here in T&T. The question of why is still unclear but, more importantly, that’s about to change. ‘Between Friends’, written, directed & produced by Omari Jackson, is finally set to be released in Trinidad & Tobago. The movie, featuring Taromi Lourdes Joseph, Gregory Pollonais, Vanna Girod, Stacey Clarke, Wayne Lee Sing, Kearn Samuel, Patti-Ann Ali, Nigel Auguste and Conrad Parris, follows an interlinked group of people through the trials and triumphs in their romantic relationships. According to its site, www.bewteenfriendsmovie.com, it is “delightfully playful” in the beginning but ends on a more somber note as “revelations of infidelity, betrayal, and over idealized relationships come to the fore”.
I spoke to two of its stars, Taromi & Stacey, who share the view that the film deals with real & relevant social issues and honestly reflects how they are dealt with in Trinidadian society. I asked them why they think the public should go see the film and they both agreed that, in addition to supporting quality local industry, they think people should see it because it is entertaining, informative & thought-provoking in it’s handling of social stigma in this country. Taromi, who plays Giselle, the main female character, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management and a Master’s in Tourism, both earned on scholarships by age 22, and held substantial posts as Training & Development Manager and HR Manager with Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America before making the commitment to go full time into acting. Of her role in the movie she says, “I connected with Giselle…. dealing with both a long distance relationship and interracial dating, and trying to figure out which way to go. Do I give up what is there before me (Malick) for what I already know (John)? Or do I take a leap and come out of my comfort zone?”
She already has quite a few film, stage & TV credits under her belt, including ‘Dance Me Lover’, the play written by Ronald John and directed by Louie McWilliams that had the honour of christening the brand new NAPA stage, ‘Locked Up Abroad (National Geographic Channel), ‘Alice’ in Kes the Band’s video ‘Stress Away’ and the crazy girlfriend in Terry Seales’ video ‘Please’. Stacey, who plays Leanne, the perfect, affluent, high-society wife who must now deal with a cheating husband, is a drama teacher at her own former alma mater, Bishop Anstey High School. She chose acting as her career early on, firstly immersing herself in all aspects of the arts at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop since age 15 before moving on to focus specifically on stage & theatre, studying under Bernard Hazell and Susan Hannays-Abraham. She earned herself a scholarship to South Carolina State University where she achieved her Bachelor’s degree in Professional Drama. When she returned home, it was to discover that the Ministry of Education had introduced Drama into the high school curriculum, and that the post of Drama Teacher at Bishop’s was open. She interviewed for the job and landed it, and since then has been teaching Drama/Theatre Arts from Form 1 all the way up to CXC level, a job she clearly takes great pride and pleasure in, and still managed to earn a Master’s degree in Mass Communications through SBDC along the way.
When asked how she connected with her role in the movie, she said “Leanne and I similar in the sense that we both suffered from being too naïve and trusting. In her instance though, those tendencies are exacerbated and the stakes for her are much higher. With all my characters I do attempt to find some similarity, but playing the differences are also exciting”. Though this is her first film role, she just completed an off-Broadway production, ‘Too Late’ which was staged in New York in July this year. Both of these ladies have also participated in education through the Arts programs to benefit our nation’s schools. Stacey’s was through the Splinters for Education and Performance program, which teaches workshops in drama for students, and Taromi’s was in the Theatre in Education program, run by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, that takes theatre directly to schools in a very relevant way: performing for the students the very books they are studying for exams. They also believe that the future of the arts in T&T is in a good place, especially in light of the fact that the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism has issued a call for performers for what is to become the National Theatre Arts Company of Trinidad & Tobago.
As for ‘Between Friends’, Film Threat (www.filmthreat.com), an online magazine that reviews cult films, underground shorts, alternative films and independent features, had this to say about it:
“Set in Trinidad and Tobago, M. Omari Jackson’s feature film, Between Friends, is an adult drama that investigates the overlapping conflicts of a group of friends and family. Heavy on conversation about sex and interpersonal dynamics, the film subtly weaves a tale that hits with a surprising emotional impact by the final credits. Teenager Mia (Vanna Girod) is in a relationship with an older man, Dennis (Wayne Lee- Sing). Malik (Gregory Pollonais) is pining after his best friend Giselle (Taromi Joseph), who is content to keep their relationship friends-only. Kimani (Kearn Samuel) buries his vulnerability in love by sleeping around. Leanne (Stacey Clarke) is worried her husband might be cheating on her. Without revealing too much more, all these characters and more wind up drastically impacting each other’s lives in unexpected ways”. ‘Between Friends’ opens at Movie Towne on October 9th.
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