“A Hand Full Of Dirt” a near Documentary where Financial Services erode Tourism: A Bajan ‘Rustem & Sohrab’?

Was invited down to the Cinetheque at the Errol Barrow Centre the other night, where there was a student screening of the award-winning short movie “A Hand Full Of Dirt” with Alwyn Bully, Cynthia Wilson, Luther Bourne, Nigel Scotland and Marcia Burrowes as the principal Barbadian characters in what was originally intended to be a full-fledged documentary. {This review of the Film has Spoilers, if you want to contact Russell Watson about a viewing or copy and watch fresh from start? This item may reveal too much…}

A Hand Full of Dirt - Archie (2nd Generation), played by Alwyn Bully, contemplates his financial dilemma

When a preparatory questionnaire indicated how here in Barbados, Tourism supersedes Agriculture yet Financial Services is starting to override both, and when possible ways it is happening were studied extensively the leap from fact to fiction was bridged.

The story examines three generations of the Redman household, where Luther Bourne plays Ben, who is the old patriarch who manages to earn a significant portion of land from white Bajans and in his old age ignores his diabetes and Cynthia Wilson plays Elmira his wife, while he ignores in life yet he yearns for her once she is dead; Alwyn Bully plays his son Archie who also desires independence like his father, but rather than farming and cultivating land which angers Luther’s role, he tries his hand at being a hotelier. As a businessman he is haemorrhaging funds and his idea dies on the vine slowly before his eyes, even to the cost of his marriage with Marcia Burrowes’ character Lynette who is easily more self sufficient as a Doctor (a fact she rubs in his face unintentionally which added to the tension over his foray into tourism).

Director Russell Watson (w/Beret) fields questions from the UWI crowd

Nigel Scotland (got the role by accident after the original actor was overcome by a religious epiphany, no lie) is the new generation with Jason – he’s overseas and wants to graduate yet in order to graduate must clear his tuition balance at college, the way to meet those demands if his parents cannot send the correct amount is get a job. If he wants a good job? Why he has to graduate, repeat and rinse!

The plot looks at how each generation could help the other, but because each want their own way – everything degenerates into a state of entropy where they seemingly have no choice, yet the results happen from the very decisions they make.

A Hand Full of Dirt - The Redman Family, Ben (Luther Bourne), Elmira (Cynthia Wilson), Archie (Alwin Bully) and Lynette (Marcia Burrowes)

Ben the grandfather could simply assist Archie to help Jason clear his student loan debt, perhaps by selling off a portion of the huge property (which many banks had their eye on anyway) – but because Archie once stopped Ben from disciplining the grandson in his childhood, he decided to bear spite even into his deathbed.

Archie on the other hand could have decided that being a hotelier is not what he expected and sell of the property to his banker, but you got the impression he was determined to show his medical ex-wife that he could survive no matter what. Meanwhile, the the last generation becomes the third as a fourth is on its way!

Russell revealed how the scene at the beginning and end of three royal palms was more or less by accident as he was making sure he had enough "B-Roll" or what I know as 'cutaways' and he saw the trees as appropriate looking at each generation - even down to a fourth now springing up

Jason got involved with a white girl abroad, he told his parents she was a waitress – she really was a receptionist at an Exotic massage/Escort agency, were she was being pressured to move “up” in the ranks to ‘service‘ customers. With Nigel being forced to miss good vacancies due to student loan limbo, she decides to attempt more duties but she loves Jason and she resigns from her job immediately as her mother discovers the truth.

Ben dies in a rather violent manner which brings a temporary reconciliation between Marcia and Alwyn’s roles, however typical to the old man’s motives he does not make inheritance easy – he splits the land between father and son, if the property is to be sold then BOTH must agree to the sale!

With a baby on the way and tired of missing good jobs, Jason appeals to a Jamaican friend he meets abroad – who just happens to be a part of an affiliate service to the bank which wants to acquire both the plantation and hotel! They promise Jason a promotion but start him as a Mail Clerk and give him enough money to clear his debt and start off life as Daddy. But somehow he just can’t get past the Mail Clerk level just yet?

A Hand Full of Dirt - Ben, played by Luther Bourne, surveys his overgrown plantation

Jason, now desperate, objects to the property’s sale, Archie keeps the Plantation as a Tourist attraction with the National Trust while the hotel is finally sold off and Jason’s mother in law secretly sends pictures to Archie of the next generation of Redmans to inherit… What?

It was an extremely realistic yet depressing depiction of the new Middle Class of Barbados – very gripping from start to finish, where the former rulers (White Plantocracy) now have a back seat – only one “white” person was seen in the film… Kaye Foster played an ‘Ecky-Becky’ or Redleg (Bajan slang for poorer white folk) who was a neighbour to Luther Bourne’s Ben.

Director Russell Watson and Executive Producer Lisa Harewood at a screening of "A Hand Full Of Dirt" at the Afro-American Film Festival in the USA recently

Real Estate from agricultural to leisure purposes played a major role in creating havoc in one of the core functions of Humanity, the Family, what should have been community and bonding was war and drama not unlike the Borgias or Medicis in 15th Century Italy and for similar reasons.

Grandfather to Father to Son, each seeking to gain a one-upmanship on the other, was like a version of Rustem and Sohrab which is rather akin to the Russian toy where each figure has a smaller one inside the other, almost ad infinitum – especially with a mixed fourth generation now growing up! The Bajan cinematic feature from Russell Watson and Lisa Harewood begs for a sequel to see what happens next in a “Dallas” from Barbados!

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