Film Review: Ida Does’ “Poetry is an Island, Derek Walcott”

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Jay Jones, who describes himself as “a Canadian-born second generation Trinidadian who appreciates all things Caribbean,” reviews the documentary film Poetry is an Island, Derek Walcott for Global Indie Seen. The film, directed by Ida Does (Suriname-born director of French, Chinese, and Dutch-Creole descent; see Ida Does: A Brief Interview with Repeating Islands) is now available for pre-order at Here are excerpts:

“Poetry is an Island” is a hidden gem of a documentary where Dutch filmmaker Ida Does takes the audience on a heartwarming journey into the life of one of the most beloved scholars the Caribbean has ever produced. Poet, playwright, author, painter and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott opens his life up onscreen to share in what is a very personal and intimate look at what the humble life of a literary genius truly is like.

From the film’s inception, it becomes clear that this documentary is one steeped in emotion, rather than witty anecdotes intermixed with tactile facts. Ida Does takes the approach of showing the audience the true face of Walcott. That being even with all his numerous awards and accomplishments, he is just as human as any of us. Maybe not the same, but human nonetheless. She shows us a man, with an unparalleled devotion to the country of his birth. The kind of patriotism that is ever present in so many Caribbean natives, which immediately draws the audience in and allows us to begin to relate with the literary giant.

Throughout the film, excerpts from his 1992 Nobel Lecture are played, and I found myself moved to the point where my spine tingled at the exquisite use of cinematography in emphasizing the points Walcott was making at the time. Between the score and the scenery, the imagery conveyed during these excerpts almost makes you feel as if you were there in the mind of the artist, gaining a partial glimpse into his brilliance.

[. . .]  “Poetry is an Island” derives its name from his 1992 Nobel Lecture where he states “Poetry is an island that breaks away from the main.” This documentary is akin to that phrase in that it breaks away from the standard formula, and takes the audience deep into the soul of a man who changed the face of Caribbean literature. “Poetry is an Island” is a film that I would recommend as a must see for all audiences. You need not be a student, scholar or artist to appreciate this film. Not even a Caribbean native. All you need be is human.

For full review, see

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