‘God Loves the Fighter,’ was written and directed by Damian Marcano, and co-written by Alexa Bailey.
A prizewinner at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, UrbanWorld, and DC Film Fest, GOD LOVES THE FIGHTER is described as a gritty urban fable in the spirit of CITY OF GOD and THE HARDER THEY COME, told against a soundtrack of music by Q Major and Freetown Collective. King Curtis (Lou Lyons) is a vagrant and poet on the streets of Port of Spain, Trinidad who narrates the stories behind the headlines in one of the worst ghettoes in the world, Laventille. Charlie (Muhammad Muwakil) is trying to stay on the right path, but with no job in sight he is finding it hard to say no to other “opportunities. A chance at redemption presents itself when Dinah (Jamie-Lee Phillips), a prostitute, crosses his path in need of help. A the story unfolds, King Curtis reveals the ripple effects created by each decision the characters make, leading to moments of both tragedy and triumph.
‘God Loves the Fighter,’ brings back fond memories from my childhood days in Jamaica West Indies. It is Saturday, and it is time for ‘Ring Ding.’ The notable Jamaican poet and host of the show, Louise Bennett, sashays before the camera. She confidently makes her way to center stage and proceeds to recite poems and recount stories and folktales. She penned many poems which truly captures the rhythm and flow of the Jamaican dialect, culture and spirit. In the film ‘God Loves the Fighter,’ Marcano and Bailey have successfully and artfully captured the rhythm of the language and the cultural dynamics of this neighborhood.
As I watched the film, I was immediately caught up in the daily struggles of the people in this neighborhood in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Suddenly my attention is drawn to a colorful homeless man who makes the street his stage and functions as the neighborhood tour guide. His walk through the streets, unhurried and protracted, is tempered by expectancy and urgency. This homeless man, King Curtis (Lou Lyons), engages in a constant banter which he sustains throughout the film. His banter informs of impending doom; political upheaval; economic strife; and ongoing criminal activities. King Curtis’ poetic narrative serves as a legend for the map of these people’s lives. He speaks for these people in the neighborhood. His voice can be heard above the din or noise of the marketplace: honking car horns, backfiring cars, and reverberating shots. His diatribes are interspersed with news bulletins highlighting the occurrence of criminal activities in the neighborhood.
As the colorful homeless man’s voice booms through the neighborhood, everything gets crazier and more chaotic. We are informed of the impending criminal acts and the misdeeds follow. People are robbed in the middle of the streets. Weapons are brandished and the passersby look the other way. Drugs are sold and the innocent is bartered. A sense of hopelessness and desolation is inherent in this community. There are those who thrive on this desolation and those who are being suffocated.
Charlie Ward’s (Muhammad Muwakil) life has been fraught with loss and deprivation. He is a child of the streets. His guide into manhood has been Mr. Odrick. Charlie is hungry, he has no job, no prospects; he is desperate. He is forced to approach his childhood friend Stone (Abdi Waithe). Over the years, Stone has gained notoriety in the drug trade. He wields a gun, which he identifies as his God. He offers Charlie a job running drugs along with a taxi driver called Moses. Charlie is apprehensive about accepting the job. However, Charlie relents as he is hungry. No job. No prospects-no choice.
Chicken (Zion Henry), a mere boy, is also a child of the streets. His very existence is hapless and ill-fated. He lost three brothers to the streets and is left with a matriarch who is embittered by her circumstances. Dinah (Jamie Lee Phillips), the whore, is caught up in a moral conflict. However, she is ensnared in this world of prostitution and drug dealing. The prostitution and drug trafficking ring is managed by a morally bankrupt Putao; the ruthless drug kingpin. Putao (Darren Cheewah) is consumed by greed and power. He wields this power through the use of violence, intimidation and exploitation.
Chicken is our guide into a world of hunger and a world of total lack. Chicken has no guidance at home, he is constantly being berated by his parent. Chicken is the provider of the household and is responsible for putting food on the table. If he fails to return with food, he is greeted with lashes soaked in bitterness, loss, abandonment, strife, and poverty.
“My father gave me to this strange man.” This statement is a lament; a cry for help from the depths of her soul. She laments the loss of innocence and loss of self. Her words are the words uttered by the ‘invisible.’ The invisible or unseen of society go unnoticed by passersby. The colorful homeless man speaks for these people. He is their voice.
Dinah, the whore, is faced with a challenge. This challenge brings her to a crossroad. Does she stand by helplessly and watch the death of innocence, or does she rescue innocence from the dragon’s lair.
The film is not a comfortable film. It is very raw in its presentation. It is filled with color, honking of car horns, loud voices, noise and more noise. It explores the chaos and disorderliness of life. It examines man’s daunting task to extricate him or herself from the jaws of bondage. I connected with Dinah who struggles to unravel herself from the serpent’s grasp. Charlie is ‘her angel of mercy’. He sees a flicker of hope, a chance at a better future, and he takes it. But is it too late for Charlie? I am with Dinah as she takes an honest look at her life. I am with her as she wills herself to hope. I applaud-
Her first breath of freedom.
written by: Angela Ramsay