Green Days reaches journey’s end

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Kionna Hall and Melissa Doughtey for Trindad’s Newsday.

IT IS Michael Anthony’s hope that the film adaptation of his iconic novel, Green Days by the River, inspires a new generation of Caribbean writers as well as those interested in film. The novel has been adapted into film by a local film-makers Michael Mooleedhar and Christian James and is set to launch this year’s Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.

The film’s première will be held at a red carpet gala on September 19.

In a phone interview with Newsday the acclaimed author said, “I wrote the book as a writer hoping his work will be published… you think about telling a good story, a story that people would want to read and carry on reading it.” Not only did audiences want to continue reading Anthony’s novel 50 years on, but it has become so beloved in the hearts and minds of Caribbean readers that the novel is now finished.

Recalling what it was like initially crafting the novel, Anthony said, “When I finished Green Days by the River, I sent it and kept my fingers crossed that it would be published, and when it was published it began doing what you would call fairly well and I kept having hope. And then 50 years later, Mr Mooleedhar and his producer came to me and told me about the film and I said ‘my goodness, just in time I am ready to die’. I warmly accepted this and look forward to the film but I just did not have any real deep faith that we’d get to journey’s end.” Anthony now expects out of the film, a new wave in Caribbean literature with an eye on film. With a widely growing local and regional film industry, Anthony said, “I am hoping for success so that it will start a new day for writers and that there are some writers that will write with their minds on film. I did not because I never thought for one moment that my book was going to be filmed. There are young writers who would think, ‘Oh I hope they turn my book into film’.

This is the sort of effect that comes from that sort of event which is going to be with us shortly.” The film’s director and producer have similar expectations, that the film would draw a large local and regional audience to it. For the film’s producer Christian James, although he had not known about the book because he had not done it in school, he knew that it had a large fan base.

When he and fellow University of the West Indies (UWI) graduate, Michael Mooleedhar began looking at films, Green Days was not the only option, but James said the pair kept coming back to it because of its simplicity.

“When I came back States in 2014, I had just done a degree, a masters in film producing and creative producing and I met back up with Michael. It was actually at a UWI event that we met back up. They were launching the new film building or something and we decided that alright, Michael was making short films and experimental films and documentaries and stuff but he didn’t do his first narrative feature as yet. And likewise with me, so we were both looking for that first narrative feature project.

“So Green Days wasn’t the first one on the list, we had a few scripts that we were reading on the table, a few ideas, some of them were original, some of them the script wasn’t written for as yet.

But Green Days, luckily he had a script written, it’s called a spec script or a speculated script and it was written already by Dawn Cumberbatch, who is another local screen writer. I didn’t know about Green Days, the book per se. I knew about Michael Anthony but I didn’t really know about the book because I didn’t do it in school, but I know a lot of people who did it in school. When I saw the script, okay well we both read it and it’s like we made our short list and somehow Green Days always… we always gravitated towards Green Days because of the its simplicity and because of the context that it came from such a strong intellectual property as the book. The book was published in 1967 and has been around for the past 40 years, people still know it and still talk about it, that means that there is a life for it, a market for it. It was that perfect project where we knew we could have…,” he said.

While issues of funding posed some difficulty, the duo got it done, although it took them three years from initial thought to completion.

James and Mooleedhar plan to release the film at a number of film festivals in the region and globally. The film will also be screened at the Bahamas Film Festival and the Belize International Film Festival. James told Newsday he wants to do more films like these but “the scales would have to be bigger and funding will have to come from outside.” In Mooleedhar’s heart, he knows that he and his team have made a quality film and he hopes local and regional audiences would buy into as its first showings happen here.

On the novel’s 50th anniversary, he hopes that the film would last as much as three to four weeks in local and regional cinemas to large audiences. But also important for him is telling a story about Trinbagonians for Trinbagonians.

Mooleedhar knows only too well that “films have a lifespan.” While, he said it’s hard to get a movie accepted internationally, what he hopes to bring to local audiences is what the international cinema landscape hasn’t seen before. Mooleedhar’s end goal is to hopefully have the the film picked up by Netflix in about two years. But more importantly, Mooleedhar hopes 50 years from now the film could also celebrate its 50th anniversary and the success that goes with that.

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