By Nina Kalirai
Released in 2017 and produced in Trinidad and Tobago, Moving Parts is a film directed by Emilie Upzcak and proves that innocence is indeed more than meets the eye. During the 93 minute run time of the film, we are shown the raw, emotional trials and tribulations that those who leave their home country face, for a better.
The film begins with Zhenzhen (Valerie Tian) reuniting with her brother in Trinidad and Tobago, following the death of their father, but already being in trouble upon arriving to the island for not having the $10 000 (American) the man (Stephen Hadeed Jr.) she hired to smuggle her over had asked for. Her brother Wei (Jay Wong) works in construction on the island, and promises the man they will pay him back, but they stumble upon multiple obstacles when trying to get the money.
Upon her arrival, Wei has a job for Zhenzhen at a Chinese restaurant owned by Mrs. Liu (Jacqueline Chan), where she also lives but is told by Mrs. Liu that her cost to have a place to live will be taken out of her wages. She is told by the manager of the restaurant that she is to be the first one in the kitchen and the last one out, everyday.
With Zhenzhen barely making any money to be able to pay back the smuggler, due to Mrs. Liu’s rules, Wei attempts to gamble some money to help with the earnings. Meanwhile, at the art gallery next door, Evelyn (Kandyse McClure) has returned home at her father’s (Conrad Parris) request following the death of her mother. She tells her father how she saw her brother James (Nickolai Salcedo) on the street making art, and her father expresses his disappointment in how his son turned out. Evelyn and Zhenzhen have multiple encounters before a few pieces of paper change both of their lives drastically.
Wei resorts to asking his boss Mr. Logan (Nicholas Emery) for an advance, but he is declined and only given a couple of dollars from Mr. Logan after hearing about Zhenzhen’s situation. When Zhenzhen confides in Mrs. Liu to make money, Mrs. Liu puts her to work in a brothel upstairs in the restaurant that she works in by day. She agrees to do so, as long as Mrs. Liu promises not to tell her brother Wei. Seemingly uncomfortable, Zhenzhen is able to make more money quicker this way, while her brother Wei questions where she got all the money from. Meanwhile, next door, Evelyn invites her brother James over to talk and he lets her know that ‘daddy’ isn’t exactly making or spending his money in all the greatest ethical ways either.
One night, while at work in the brothel, Zhenzhen sees a girl who was beat up by a customer. After Mrs. Liu insensitively tells her than she looks a mess and to go clean up, the two leave a go to a club. Zhenzhen gets extremely drunk and Evelyn happens to see her from across the club, and stops a predator from taking advantage of her. Evelyn then takes her to her house to sleep and Zhenzhen wakes up in confusion, having no memory of the club.
Not too long after, it is discovered that Wei called the restaurant and asked the manager where Zhenzhen is getting all this money from. After telling him the truth, Wei finds himself at odds with the harsh reality him and his sister are facing and takes matters into his own hands. Zhenzhen then tries to steal her passport back from the safe Mrs. Liu kept it in upon her arrival, along with some cash, to flee the island. However, she gets caught by Mrs. Liu’s son who takes all of it back except for the papers showing all the information of all past clients at the illegal brothel Mrs. Liu was running out of the restaurant.
Zhenzhen brings these papers to Evelyn, who discovers her father’s name on these papers, reaches out to a close family friend, Lieutenant Miller (Sanjiv Boodhu), to shut down the brothel all while she helps Zhenzhen escape the island.
The lighting in the film added to the gloominess of the hardships faced by Wei and Zhenzhen. It was rarely ever bright and sunny, and mostly cloudy and dark, especially in the restaurant where Zhenzhen worked.
The sound design of the film also added to the emotional impact of it, playing soft, simple instrumentals at times of despair, really pulling on your heartstrings.
The overall narrative of the film was well done, and really makes you thankful for living the life you live now, after seeing the harsh reality faced by those simply looking for what they perceive as a better opportunity.
Moving Parts is a film I highly recommend all to watch, as it is an eye opener to see how those around the world are coping with day to day life, making you grateful to be where you are, yet sympathetic to those who might not have had it as easy as you.
This film was originally screened at the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival 19’.