Ali Allie and Ruban Reyes’ Garifuna in Peril is a naturalistic drama looking at the story of a school teacher in America called Ricardo who is desperate to preserve the fading Garifuna culture back in his native village in Honduras. Ricardo has been living and working in the States for a while and his desire to help ensure that the Garifuna language is not forgotten by the younger generation is in part sparked off by his own son’s inability to speak it. Spurred on by a conversation with his brother, Miguel, who still lives back home, he decides to fund the building of a school back in his home village and sends Miguel the money to do so.
The building plans are complicated however when a nearby tourist resort begins to threaten the process thanks to its ruthless expansion plans. When Miguel buckles under pressure and sells the community land earmarked for the school to the tourist resort, Ricardo flies out immediately to try and repair the damage.
Meanwhile, back in the States, Ricardo’s so, Elijah, is taking part in a play covering the actions of a Garifuna hero called Chief Joseph Satuye who led his people in a last stand against the British colonial forces on the island of St Vincent two centuries earlier. The parallels are clearly drawn between the devastating impact on native culture caused by expanding modern day commercialism and latter day colonial expansion.
I must admit that prior to watching this film I knew little about the Garifuna people and that’s something which the film articulately rectifies. A brief history lesson is cleverly worked into the narrative as we sit in on a school class which explains how the Garifuna are descendants of Carib, Araawark and West African people. Part of what gives them a unique identity is that during the period of excessive European colonial expansion in the eighteenth century, the island of St. Vincent where the Garifuna resided, refused to buckle to French and British invasion. It is a proud point amongst the Garifuna that they never succumbed to slavery.
Garifuna in Peril is a timely and interesting movie which will inspire you to go away and learn more about this proud people and their history. The struggles they face to keep their unique heritage in modern day Honduras, where a large number of Garifuna now reside, is passionately demonstrated by the directors.
It is telling that the film’s cast is nearly all newcomers as it does unfortunately show at times. Though while the acting on show is not the film’s strongest point, if you can see past it, there is a strong and interesting message being delivered. Garifuna in Peril is more historically and ethnographically interesting then it is a work of great drama, but a commendable and heartfelt piece of film making nonetheless.