By Kassandra Sharma
Award winning director Stuart Napier’s Carnival, a short film, recently screened at the closing night of the CaribbeanTales Film Festival 2020. With the theme of the night being “The Human Condition” no other story could have captured the essence of what it simply means to be human, any better.
Our story begins with little Soraya (Haniya Lampkin Berry) playing with her doll Roxy. Her grandfather (Dennis McCalla) joins her to ask how Roxy feels about going to her first carnival. She answers that her tummy feels a bit of both good and bad funny. The two wait for Rochelle (Nadia Williams), Soraya’s absent mother to come take her to the celebration and continue to talk about how Roxy enjoyed the last time Rochelle visited ands this time will be just as great. The wholesome exchange between Soraya and her grandad, using Roxy as the subject to make the conversation less awkward was very endearing. Rochelle arrives late resulting in a sour welcome from grandad but soon the girls are off excitedly to carnival. Just before they leave, grandad gives Rochelle some money saying it is only for Soraya and not for the “waste of space” who is back in town.
We continue to follow Rochelle and Soraya arriving at the carnival; the sweet melodies of a steelpan playing, band and mas players fixing and showing off their costumes, inspecting the variety of Caribbean cuisine like jerk chicken and curry goat. The two explore the parade and all it has to offer, all the while taking videos of their little adventure, with Roxy front and center. We see parade goers laughing and dancing, playing music live in the streets, the atmosphere filled with life and colour.
As Rochelle and Soraya take a breather, Rochelle tells her daughter of her time attending carnival, how her grandmother would spend ages making her costumes - she even won carnival queen once. Soraya listens but suddenly inquires why she does not live with her mother, prompting a reluctant Rochelle to explain their complicated relationship.
Rochelle, desperate to get off the subject, offers to buy her daughter a toy they saw earlier. Upon getting her new toy, Soraya realizes she has lost Roxy. Rochelle offers to help find Roxy trying to convince her daughter they will, but the two end up arguing; Soraya calling her mother a liar and Rochelle losing her temper. Amid the conflict, Rochelle recognizes someone in the crowd - “waste of space”. She quickly hides her daughter under a table.
Darren (Ed Browning) pulls her away for the streets to grab a drink. After insisting she has to have an alcoholic drink for old times sake and asking her to pay, Rochelle begins to leave to which Darren states she can only leave when he says she can, but she walks away unafraid. Returning to the streets to find her daughter missing, she frantically searches only to find Roxy left at the parade. She returns back to the house to learn that Soraya found her way back safe, grandad furiously throws Rochelle out and shuts the door. She however, does not leave, but sits on the porch sadly until late in the evening.
Soraya sneaks outside to see her mother who happily greets her daughter and returns her beloved doll, we finally see the two share a deep hug.
Carnival filmed during St Paul’s Caribbean Carnival in Bristol gives the audience gives the audience an immersive experience of the parade. The human contact, laughter, dancing, food and partying, the fun and vibrant costumes, live bands marching and playing on the roads, all well placed in this film. Not to forget the treatment of the softer moments, like grandad’s caring talk with Soraya, Rochelle hiding her daughter away from her past boyfriend, and the warm embrace of happy reconnections.
The short film packs it all into just 11 minutes, and does it so wholesome and elegantly. A befitting film for the festival finale.