The frenzy of Trinidad's Carnival season especially The Jab was the jumping off point for Maria Govan's latest feature Play The Devil. She saw the participants covered in blue and gold paint spitting fire with horns on their heads and tridents gesturing violently to the encircling crowd and wondered what is the back-story of these performers. From there she constructed the narrative of very smart 18 year old kid Gregory White (Petrice Jones) who is artistic yet a strong all around student that has a real chance to go to med school. Who meets an older rich man James Young (Gareth Jenkins) though an acquaintance with his daughter that can provide for every family need but at price.
The real exportation of this film is into the island culture. The communities are small and even the whisper of homosexuality can have devastating effects on an individual. Gregory has a best friend Devin (Akil Nicholas). He has no educational goals destined to be mixed up in some nefarious affair that will have bad consequences. When the two are together they act tough, go back and forth on past and future conquests in a strong local dialect while they draw slowly on marijuana cigarettes.
Devin begins to tease Gregory on his growing relationship with Young calling him Greg's sugar daddy after Greg is seen rolling into their small mountain village in the former's white Mercedes.
Gorvan screenplay acute displays the inner struggle Gregory faces. He has been called soft all of his life the diametric opposite to his farmer older brother Fayne (Nickolai Salcedo) who demands that Greg stand up for himself while he beats back their drug addict father (Che Rodriguez) attempts to reconnect with the family. Greg is definitely attracted to men and to anything that could get him out of the impoverished town of Paramin but James growing obsession begins to effect Greg's studies jeopardizing his best route out and running the risk of disappointing his hardworking family matriarch his grand mother (Penelope Spencer).
James Walls cinematography displays the lush topographical mountainsides and valleys of Parmin. The greens are sharp contrasting the brown dirt roads. A lake where the boys like to hang out features a forceful waterfall released from the rocks above pounding into the deep blue water of the lake below. Walls lens also brings the imperfections of the villages buildings and homes into focus. They are missing paints, have holes in the walls, colours are mismatched and many including Greg's grandmothers house have holes in the roofs.
British Actor Petrice Jones is well cast as Gregory. He is smart, knows James plan immediately and a very willing participant in private. Jones portrayal of the small town boys seduction by toys, wealth trappings, ambition and desire is finely crafted. Garth Jenkins easy British accent and quiet boldness suits the role of James Young. He sees himself in Gregory having some regret that he did not live his life instead of getting married and hiding his true nature. He does not want Greg to make the same mistake mainly for selfish reasons. Nickolai Salcedo is strong as the intense, primal, confrontational and impulsive Fayne. He's a man of action and not words. Jumping to act without considering consequences an attitude that eventually leads one toward serious trouble.
Play The Devil is a compelling narrative set in a picturesque setting. Cinematography James Walls brings out the beauty along with the warts of the village. The ensemble cast does not make a wrong step in the production. The Jag where director Govan found the inclining to embark on the film plays a major part in the piece. It's a colourful reflection on social status and moral standards in the Caribbean that is well worth a watch.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
Play The Devil | Maria Govan | Trinidad and Tobago| 2016 | 89 Minutes.
Tags: The Jag, Carnival, Parmin, Closeted, Medical School, The Devil, Homosexuality, Photography.