A report by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life News.
A new feature film following a Caribbean female superhero in the future is debuting at the Urban World Film Festival on Sept. 23. “Brown Girl Begins” is a fantasy set in the year 2049 in a dystopian Toronto, and follows Ti-Jeanne, a young teen living in the alternate world faced with the task of saving her community from evil people. The film itself visualizes one of the few tales where people of Caribbean descent are the main focus of a futurism story, and that is what sets it apart from most films with similar subjects, said the director.
“I can’t name a dystopian film with Caribbean people, and I don’t know any fantasy with a young black female protagonist that saves the world,” said Sharon Lewis.
The story is inspired by author Nalo Hopkinson’s book, “Brown Girl in the Ring.”
Main character Ti-Jeanne grows up in the classist world and when her people are exiled to an island, she has to use her capabilities to put an end to the disenfranchisement.
To further highlight aspects of island culture, well-known mythical spirits are a part of the main storyline via several characters, and it also how Ti-Jeanne uses her powers.
“It’s a film about a young black woman who draws on the power of Caribbean spirits and saves her community from a drug lord and the wealthy who made all the poor people move to the island,” said Lewis.
One of the plots in the story is the examination of classism. Lewis says however, the movie looks at the positive side of it with Ti-Jeanne being the savior to end the social ills.
The film stars main actress Mouna Traore and calypso musician David Rudder. His particular casting in the film was pivotal to the story at hand because of his stances on the issues tackled in the film, said Lewis.
“It was really important to have him in the film. I feel like when talking about Caribbean people and those who lose hope — to me his songs are so political yet so funny, you can’t give up hope.”
Working on a film with a black female protagonist is an essential part of Lewis’ aspirations as a film director. She adds that being able to work with black actors on a film is always a privilege, as well as showcasing Caribbean people on screen.
“I love being able to work with an all black cast. As a director it’s so rare to work with all black cast,” she said. “But for me the exciting part is showing a little Caribbean culture in there. This story is by us and for us and we understand the language we are speaking to each other, and when it shows up on screen I get a sense of that connection.”
Despite the film’s fantasy plot, it is more about a young woman making realizations in life along the way and learning to take pride in her abilities.
“It’s more of an artsy film than a sci-fiction,” said Lewis. “This is not a black wonder woman — this is a coming of age story and I want people to know that. Ti-Jeanne does not want to be a priestess she just wants to be a regular teenager but she sees that it’s her responsibility and destiny.”
“Brown Girl Begins” at AMC Empire 25 Theatre [234 W. 42nd St. between Seventh and Eighth avenues in midtown, Sept. 23 at noon. $16.50.