Local playwright puts the spotlight on Surama
Michael Gilkes (fourth left) with the technical and production crew of ‘Maira and the Jaguar People’
Michael Gilkes (fourth left) with the technical and production crew of ‘Maira and the Jaguar People’

–Village, Macushi culture to feature in short film

GUYANESE-born playwright and author, Dr. Michael Gilkes recently wrapped up a two- week shoot here of the proposed short film, “Maira and the Jaguar People”.

The shoot was held in Surama, a predominantly Macushi village in the North Rupununi, where the story is set.

The production team included famed Cuban visual artist and director of photography, Omar Estrada and his crew, who flew in to capture the film on location.

During the shoot, the residents of Surama reportedly benefitted directly from the production of the film, since they were actively involved in the technical and casting aspects of the production.

The construction of a replica of Surama, as it looked back in the 1950s, which was used as part of the set, was spearheaded by the village’s toshao, Mr Glendon Allicock, and completed with the help of members of his immediate family and other members of the community. Word is that the structures will remain in the care of the community for use in the future.

The objective of the movie, which is about young Maira and her twin brother, Mairun, is to promote the restoration and preservation of the Makushi way of life.

The story talks of Maira, who loves birdsongs and her twin, Mairun, who dreams of becoming a hunter. As a result of a terrifying encounter with a jaguar called “Karamapichu”, the two discovered for themselves the practical wisdom behind the traditions and beliefs of their community and way of life.

In the film, the rainforest will be featured as more than just a beautiful backdrop. The music of the trees, waterfalls, rivers and birdsong all come together to play an important part in the story. Also, the musical language of the Macushi with subtitles will be featured in the film.

Michael Gilkes is a distinguished Caribbean critic, dramatist and former lecturer at several Universities, and more recently a filmmaker.

His critical work includes ‘Wilson Harris and the Caribbean Novel (1975)’; ‘The Literate Imagination (1989)’, which is also about Harris; and ‘The West Indian Novel, Twayne’.

His play, ‘Couvade’, was published by Cape in 1974, while ‘A Pleasant Career’, a play about the life and work of Edgar Mittelholzer, won the prestigious Guyana Prize for Drama in 1992. ‘Joanstown’ won the 2002 Guyana Prize for best book of poetry. He won the 2006 Guyana Prize for drama with his play, ‘The Last of the Redmen’.

The movie is set to be released in March 2017 for several film festivals around the world.


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