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PAFF 2013 Review – Alí Allié’s & Ruben Reyes’ Thoughtful, Enlightening ‘Garifuna In Peril’

PAFF 2013 Review - Alí Allié's & Ruben Reyes' Thoughtful, Enlightening 'Garifuna In Peril'

Screening at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, now in the latter half of this year’s run, the film’s title Garifuna in Peril is suggestive enough, and should clue you in to what the the film’s focus is – in short, the fight for the preservation of a culture (by those who are indigenous to it) that’s practically on the brink of extinction.

The longer description reads:

The plot of the film follows a Garifuna language teacher, Ricardo, as he struggles to preserve his fading culture by building a language school back in his home village in Honduras. A business venture with his brother Miguel designed to raise money for the school’s construction becomes complicated by the expansion plans of a nearby tourist resort, prompting Ricardo to confront land rights issues in tandem with his educational mission. Family tensions heighten when Miguel waivers in the face of pressure from the resort, and Ricardo’s wife Becky objects to her daughter Helena’s new boyfriend Gabriel. Historical parallels to the contemporary land struggle are invoked as Ricardo’s son Elijah rehearses a stage play about Garifuna hero and Paramount Chief Joseph Satuyé and his last stand against British colonialism on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean over 200 years ago. The play was written by Bill Flores of the Garifuna Writers Group of Los Angeles.

A film on Satuyé’s last stand against the British is one that deserves its own film, but, like the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, likely not one that financiers are rushing to fund – although Phillipe Niang did eventually produce his Toussaint L’Ouverture film, after many years that saw other attempts struggle and fail. That film is also screening at the Pan African Film Festival this year, by the way.

And, by the way, Garifuna In Peril is said to be the first feature film with most of its dialogue in Garifuna.

Its message should be familiar – stressing the importance of land, language and overall culture to indigenous cultural identity. According to UN stats, there are somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 languages spoken in the world today; most spoken by very few people; in fact, 97% of the world’s population speaks just 4% of its languages, while the remaining 96% of languages are spoken by just 3% of the world’s population – the majority of these 96% of languages, spoken by indigenous people, with most (roughly 90%) of them, in danger of becoming extinct over the next century.

Add to that the fact that indigenous people all over the world continue to experience loss of land and natural resources (in part because they’ve been excluded from the decision-making of the nations in which they live, and have been subjected to discrimination, as their cultures are seen as inferior, primitive, or irrelevant), and the result is that indigenous cultures (which includes languages) today are threatened with extinction in many parts of the world.

While some indigenous people are successfully maintaining or revitalising culture, many are fighting a losing battle, where languages/tradition/culture are unfortunately no longer passed from one generation to the next, after a great deal of traditional awareness has been undermined by colonizers and post-colonial governments who imposed their own worldviews on the indigenous people.

And with seemingly little governmental effort to reverse these trends, communities continuously struggle to survive.

The Garifuna people are descendants of Carib, Arawak and West African people who live in the coastal regions of Central America and are considered indigenous to the Americas. This film, Garifuna In Peril, is part of their story.

Production values may not be high, however, while there most certainly is a narrative meant to *entertain*, the film serves more as an introduction/education for those who were previously unaware, and should encourage further research, as it did in my case, with self-enlightenment being the main intent/goal.

Also worth noting is that the film was shot, on location, in Los Angeles, CA and Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras, and features a cast entirely of Honduran and Belizean actors, most who were acting for the very time – Ruben Reyes, Julian Castillo, Gloria Garnett, Jessica Alvarez, E.J. Mejia, Jr., Luis Martinez, Aubrey Wakeling, and Arleny Escobar.

The film will screen again at the PAFF, this Saturday at 2:40pm, at Rave Cinemas, where the festival is being held.

Trailer below:

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