Controversy around “Tula: The Revolt”

Without hitting the theaters yet, forthcoming film Tula: The Revolt is proving to be quite controversial  [see New Film: Jeroen Leinders’ “Tula, the Revolt]. Jermain Ostiana has written a response to pre-production reviews on the film website; he sees the film, directed by Jeroen Leinders, as an exploitation of Tula, the liberation warrior who sought abolition of slavery in Curaçao. See excerpts with a link to the full post below:

[. . .] As United Nations declared 2011 the year of Afro descendants how in nomber di Dios (for heaven’s sake) can you green light a project of 2 Dutch European filmmakers who came up on this insensitive idea to do a movie about our recently declared freedom fighting national hero Tula? With the help from two Afro-Americans: a screenplay writer Curtis Hawkins and Warrington Hudlin a pioneering black filmmaker, activist and advocate for independent black film movement, who should’ve know better [than] to participate in the exploitation of Tula.

On the website www.tulathemovie.nl they are talking about: “A story representing centuries of conflicted relations between black and white the effects of which still haunt us today.” And it does, as the two Dutch white privileged filmmakers cold heartedly or extreme naively kidnap the opportunity of Afro Curaçaoans or at least Curaçaoans to tell the tales of freedom fighting Tula. [. . .] Was the announcement of this project lucid? No, there has been no transparency whatsoever of the commission in approving the making of ‘Tula The Revolt’. No one knows the criteria, no national hero law has been made public if there is such a law, we the people sure didn’t have democratic participation in it and therefore no one can scrutinize to see if the right procedures are just and were used which resulted in an approval.

A few lines from their summary: “As many slaves were transported and traded through Caribbean transit harbors like the one in Curaçao, this story belongs to them and their descendants it deserves to be told, for it is an important part of history, identity and in the end of our society today.” So they understand the story of Tula is ours, but morals and respect for our own emancipatory path that we as descendants have to walk fade away for a $25 million Hollywood adventure?

[. . .] In 2005 I wrote a poem called: ‘F..k Tula’ because obviously just like now only a small group is genuinely interested in uplifting this heroic character. Every year on August 17, no media will even live transmit or dedicate afterwards a full spread to the commemoration in Holland or in Curaçao; it has no cultural priority at all. The first monument made was in 1963 the second one in 1998 at Rif far away from the public eye, unlike Louis Brion, a Venezuelan national hero who occupies our biggest square in the heart of Otrobanda; sad but true: it took us to overcome an identity crisis of 48 years to proclaim him as a national hero.

[. . .] The re-enslavement of Tula, the greatest fighting spirit of our times, for commercial glory, international fame, is an act of neo-colonial villainy. A regime of critical thinkers and activists who sleep on this will have to deal with this when their ancestors lace them with the consequences. Everyone involved can still correct this injustice.

For full review, see http://triunfodisablika.wordpress.com/

Photo from http://www.rnw.nl/papiaments/article/davelaar-%E2%80%98pel%C3%ADkula-tula-no-tin-prioridat%E2%80%99

 

4 thoughts on “Controversy around “Tula: The Revolt”

  1. Dear Mr Ostiana,

    Thank you for pointing out the relevance, or better yet, the essence of the movie Tula, The Revolt. Your article clearly shows that even today we are faced with a world in which being black or white makes all the difference. Integration is a word that apparently does not show up in your dictionary, whereas integration, and assimilation are in fact key characteristics of society in Curacao today.

    As you may be aware, on the island of Curacao, black people today may well be descendents of white plantation owners back in the day. On the other hand, white people today may well be descendants of black slaves working the fields. Now you tell me, is this important? Can a black man with white ancestors produce this movie? Or should he be white with black ancestors? Or maybe even better, a black man with black ancestors. For only he understands the true injustice that slavery brought upon these people.

    Wouldn’t it be better to agree that the key word here is people? Can we agree on the fact that injustice has been done to people? Can we both look back at the period of slavery and conclude that this is something that is despicable? Does it matter what color you are to come to this conclusion?

    You call the idea to make a movie about Tula insensitive. Why? Because you did not come up with it? You judge the fact that Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne sponsors this project. Even if it were true that they earlier did not show any interest in uplifting the Afro Curacaoan heritage as you say, wouldn’t it be better to applaud them for doing it now? Even if you are right, can’t you see this as a step forward and welcome the gesture?
    In addition, you conveniently forget to mention the fact that we also have the support from Pacheco Domacasse. Indeed, the same man who directed the Tula play back in the seventies. He is kind enough to advise us on the script and we highly appreciate his involvement. You do not mention Mr Charles Do Rego, our historical advisor. You forget to mention the fact that we spoke to the Tula foundation and to the commission to rehabilitate Tula, yes the same people that are behind the website http://www.tulalives.org.

    You say we commercialize our ancestor’s history and bypassing the descendants rights and think you are doing us a favor. Let me tell you this. When we started out two years ago, somebody asked me if I would be willing to donate all the proceeds of the film to charity on Curacao if he would be able to find financing for it. My answer was “Yes” then and it still is. The offer still stands. So you want a film school in Curacao? Our project offers training on the job for people interested in making film.

    And so maybe it would be better for us to join forces. Work with us, Mr Ostiana. Read the script, talk to Pacheco Domacasse about it. Welcome the opportunity to tell the story of Tula in a way that is accessible for anybody. Help us to realize this important film. Give the youth of our island a chance to learn about their history and to honor the people that played an important part in that history. Learn from Tula. For his values: freedom, equality and brotherhood still are important today as your article clearly shows.

    The re-enslavement of Tula? “A story representing centuries of conflicted relations between black and white the effects of which still haunt us today.”

    Both of us have the power to say ‘no!’, to these effects. Everyone involved can correct this injustice.

    Jeroen Leinders

  2. Recently I finished ‘The Autobiography of Malcom X’. Clearly mr Ostiana did not. Where Malcom first fighted for separation and more hate between black and white, shortly before his dead he came to realise that we are all One and only cooperation as brothers, not looking at race or colour, could bring solutions. I am sure mr Ostiana can find this book at Amazone, meanwhile mr Leinders (and all his white and black friends) can go on making Tula an import topic – apparently the same goal mr Ostiana is working on. Good luck to the both of you! Herbert van Hoogdalem (white).

  3. From a Dutch white privileged framework your reaction reconfirms that you are delegitimizing what the United Nations in 2011 has declared as the “International Year for people of African descent.” The negation of the fact that slavery was perpetrated by whites and established a power structure in which whites would reap the most benefits and reinforce a system that disproportionately catered to their needs and not to those of all people is a giant failure.

    In the moral universe of post-colonial race relations the unlearning of white superiority think patterns is a must if you seek true unity. There is no justice trophy to be won while the Afro-Curacaoan still has to negotiate opportunities from a disadvantaged socio-cultural position in the 21st century.

    No conversations at parties,construction sites,hair salons, in the church, by the bus stop in Punda or beneath the viaduct in O’banda about ‘Tula the movie’. The blessing of a few prominent black intellectuals is not vox populi. There has never been no public debate ever in our language Papiamentu about this. Nobody approached common folks their voices remained unheard.
    80 likes on a facebook page is not representative for a broad public support. You need more peoples.

    Its naïve to assume that Dutch white filmmakers trying to start a project about the 1795 prime model of Curacao black leadership will not hurt and hinder the emergence of Curacao black cinematography leadership. If you still can not comprehend this the great poet Elis Juliana and his 1977 ‘Lòs e mucha’ poem might help you all out:

    Tende mama,
    Lòs e mucha!

    Lòs e mucha fo’i herida
    dje kadena di katibu.
     
    Lòs su mente lagé pensa.
    Lòs su lenga lagé papia.
    Lòs su pia lagé kana
    buska su mes identidat.

    Dun’é piki di orguyo
    p’e koba un buraku hundu
    dera bèrgwensa
    dera kompleho
    dera frustrashon.

    ‘Untie the child’ 

    Listen mother:
    Untie the child
    from the wounds
    caused by slavery.

    Untie his mind and
    let him think.
    Untie his mouth and
    let him talk
    In search of his
    own identity.
    Give him a pick axe
    and let him dig a hole
    so deep where he can
    bury all traces of shame,
    complexes and frustations.

    Only thing I would add is:
    Untie his eyes and
    let him film
    his own history
    his own truth
    his own reality.

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