Film: Michelle Mohabeer’s “Queer Coolie-tudes” (Review)


Queer Coolie-tudes (2019), directed by Michelle Mohabeer (Canada) will be screened on Sunday, February 9, at 11:00am at the Third Horizon Film Festival, at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex (located at 212 NE 59th Terrace in Miami, Florida). See festival synopsis below and excerpts from Nalini Mohabir’s film review (PREE).

Synopsis: Queer Coolie-tudes reclaims the slur of “Coolie“ and compellingly visualizes the inter-generational lives, histories, creole identities, familial relations and sexualities of a diverse range of subjects from the Queer Indo-Caribbean and Black Diasporas in Canada. Instead of succumbing to pressures to find a shared narrative or common ground, the documentary is a powerful collection of testimonies: mixed-race identities, genderqueer, gender, age and disability are portrayed in nuanced ways. Speaking to the limits of identity and the violence of mainstream categorizations, Queer Coolie-tudes uses an experimental visual aesthetic to illustrate the importance of not accepting erasure.

[Screening] preceded by the short films My Mother Resents Me and Langston Dreams of Fancy Sailors.


The Caribbean in its free-ness –multi-racial, creole mixing and sexual expression— has always been open to difference. Yet for a long time, the Indo-Caribbean was set apart. So I was excited to see Jovanté Anderson’s introduction to Pree’s special issue of the Queer Caribbean pose the question “are we free or not?” through a bending of Naipaul’s phrase “In a Free State.”  In the unsettling story of the same name, Naipaul’s main character Bobby is alienated from his country of origin (Britain) due to his queerness. He takes up a position in a post-colonial African country where he finds an exploitative sexual liberation with “the native.”

With all our free-ness, how is the complicated condition of the queer “coolie” living outside the Caribbean experienced and perceived? In a troubled free state, where is the Queer Indo-Caribbean visible? Given the existence of “queer coolies” in Canada, where is their archive of queer sexuality? Not in the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives as Amar Wahab, one of the participants in film-maker Michelle Mohabeer’s documentary Queer Coolie-tudes (2019), tells us. Wahab is filmed sitting on a verandah, his being and conversation queering that quintessential Caribbean space of “old talk”. [. . .]

Yet despite the queer possibilities in Trinidad, the “queer coolie” remains unseen in Canada, as the implications of cultural imperialism can also flow through state institutions. Official state multiculturalism in Canada produces discrete and broad categories of race (e.g., South Asian), without historical context, as Wahab points out. So the figure of the “coolie,” and even more so the queer “coolie,” becomes invisible. As Gosine states: “I’m not sure where the Indo-Caribbean is meant to fit. I think it used to fit within a Black identity category, a broad Stuart Hall notion of blackness that included Drupatee [but] … I don’t think it happens anymore. And in terms of thinking about people who are queer and Indo-Caribbean, it’s true, they disappear.” [. . .]

Read full review at

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