mistake about it, this movie is a must see on a big screen – a big movie screen. And yes, I’m talking about the West Coast premiere of ‘Garifuna in Peril
,’ an Ali Allie/Ruben Reyes production virtually 10 years in the making. It’s a story about the Garifuna experience told by Garifuna individuals and acting performances by men and women who are by and large Garinagu from every walk of Garifuna life across the diaspora, which indelibly now includes the United States of America.
The story is now well documented in Garifuna history, and barely needs repeating here as it is available virtually everywhere over the internet – an attempted genocide by British invading forces in 1795 on the island of St Vicent(Yurumei), the Garifuna ancestral homeland - the resulting banishment to Roatan and the incredible, against all odds survival in mainland Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and most recently the United States. Against this backdrop, came the realization of a culture that had skillfully avoided enslavement by the Europeans with a willingness to fight to the death to maintain their freedom.
Satuye, the Paramount Chief, the George Washington of his day, and who holds special significance in the Garifuna nation sacrificed his life protecting his land and freedom. The importance of land ownership and a freedom to live their lives as they see fit is an overriding theme of Garifuna in Peril or ‘GIP
’ as it is now so affectionately called by those intimately involved with the project. Reyes, as the lead
actor is unrelenting and unyielding in his attempt to educate the culture about its history and rescuing the language from the three pronged attack of falling into obscurity, assimilation and sometimes pure unadulterated ignorance. His wife, portrayed so beautifully by Gloria Garnett was his support beam, confidante, mother of his children and the family glue. She had his back despite all the challenges, and like most Garifuna women, indeed
most women everywhere, held the thankless job of holding the family together back in the States, even as Reyes struggled with village elders in Honduras, a younger brother who was more than eager to sell out to land developers and building a school on what was supposed to have been ‘community land.’
From a personal point of view, I feel a great deal of pride in what has been accomplished here. It was refreshing to see a side of Garifuna life that did not include the typical Hollywood depiction of savages, barbarism, wanton destruction and mindless idiots running wild. The script - the brainchild of Bill Flores was skillfully written, and it’s almost impossible to overstate the superb editing of bringing all the seemingly disparate side issues to a head. The fast paced scene cutting, the underlying musical score, the work of the young fella who played the role of Satuye, the indefatigable Helena and the cameo appearances of Bootsy Rankin together provided some powerful scenes that propelled the movie into a stratosphere all its own. One of the more powerfully poignant scenes in the movie was the point at which the younger brother Miguel, portrayed by Julian Castillo was about to sign the document selling ancestral land over to developers, it seemed like the audience held their collective breath and you could hear a loud murmur of ‘Nooooo’ across the room. The sense of pride, the sense of ‘yeah, I’m glad I came to see this and it was well worth my time to do so’ was overwhelming. Yep, it was that compelling.
Shortly after the credits rolled across the screen to a loud round of applause, Ali asked the actors and
actresses present to stand up and take a bow. Indeed the entire Garifuna diaspora should stand up and
take a bow in a show of respect and appreciation for this magnificent masterpiece.
I’m not sure where Allie and Reyes go from here in this movie making genre, what I do know is that the
movie will be playing in Los Angeles in a couple weeks and the word ‘sold out’ is already being banded
about. If you just gotta have a preview, feel absolutely free to open the link
below the title to view the