Moko Jumbie
R1 - America - Indiepix
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (22nd June 2019).
The Film

Born and raised in England, Indian teenager Asha (Between Friends' Vanna Girod) comes to Trinidad where she spent her holidays as a child to visit her aunt Mary (Sharda Maharaj), uncle Jagessar (Dinesh Maharaj), and cousin Sujata (Aryana Mohammed). She discovers that Mary has rented the family's decrepit old house to a black family to whom Mary condescends with elocution lessons and readings of Jane Austin despite enmity with voodoo-practicing matriarch Gloria (Melvina Hazard). Although Mary forbids her from associating with the family, Asha is drawn to Mary's son Roger (Jeremy Thomas) and they sneak around the village at night to listen to the calypso band Roger yearns to be part of as a way out. Tensions increase between Mary and Gloria when someone robs Mary's house - including the jewelry Mary's grandparents brought over from India - while they are at the market, and Asha can only find understanding in Jagessar who tells her about the local legends, including Moko, a spirit who came followed his people from Africa to the "Land of Sugar" who has been appearing to Asha as if to impart some hopeful message even as forces familial and political - Asha's visit takes place in 1990 around the time of the failed Jamaat al Muslimeen coup - try to drive Asha and Roger further apart. Advertised as a "gothic punk Carribean love story," Moko Jumbie is the feature debut of short filmmaker Vashti Anderson, a Trinidadian-American filmmaker, and demonstrates an assured handling of loose narrative threads and nonprofessional actors, imparting nuance and depth of feeling to a familiar tale of star-crossed lovers that could easily devolve into either tragic or escapist cliché.

Video

Unlike some recent Indipix DVDs, Moko Jumbie is a pressed disc although some of the company's authoring peculiarities remain like only three chapters for the feature-length program, although the serviceable encode gets the job done with this cleanly photographed high definition production which does not skew the color palette too far for the period setting.

Audio

The film's original audio mix is stereo, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 track boasts clear dialogue, subtle atmosphere, and some more aggressive material during the coup scenes late in the film. Even though the film is in English, English subtitles are hard-coded into the image (another peculiarity of Indiepix's foreign-language titles). The subtitles may help with some of the thicker accents but most viewers would probably still prefer them to be optional and better defined than the small semi-transparent subtitles that can be hard to read against bright backgrounds).
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Extras

Extras include an audio commentary by writer/director Vashti Anderson and cinematographer Shlomo Godder in which the director discusses not only the film's autobiographical aspects but how she wove local beliefs into the script – including beliefs about the abandoned house they chose as a shooting location – while she and cinematographer Godder also discuss the location scouting and shooting challenges. The film's theatrical trailer (1:37) is also included.

Overall

Advertised as a "gothic punk Carribean love story," Moko Jumbie demonstrates an assured handling of loose narrative threads and nonprofessional actors, imparting nuance and depth of feeling to a familiar tale of star-crossed lovers that could easily devolve into either tragic or escapist cliché.
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