Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

Ever try doing an Amazon.com search with the keyword “Caribbean”, and notice that the only thing that comes up is Pirates of the Caribbean? Well, last summer’s blockbuster comes up for a bit more criticism than hijacking my search for Caribbean books and music online.

There’s a controversial scene in the second installment of Disney’s series, Dead Man’s Chest, involving Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and a “native” population which, after Sparrow dons a little make-up and spews a little gibbrish, worships him like a kind of god. I’d like to hope that the filmmakers are doing a satire of Cortez and the Aztecs, given that Mexico was one of their locations. But perhaps one is asking too much. Dead Man’s Chest was also shot in Dominica, St. Vincent, and the Bahamas. Not surprisingly, then, it was heavily criticised by the Garifuna tribe and by the native Carib population of Dominica.

No-one’s lacking in a sense of humour, but one does not need to exert oneself to spot what the trouble might be in shooting that kind of scene in a movie that grossed over $423K at US Box Office alone and doesn’t have any immediate benefit either for the “third-world” countries in which they’re shot or the long-suffering, long-marginalised indigeneous people they, well, kind of exploit. Perhaps there is a kind of colonial economy of scale?

But (neo)colonialism has always been profitable, and in this case, it’s garnered the film four Oscar nominations for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Art Direction. If nothing else, the visual effects were quite impressive. If you want to know if they win, check out the Academy Awards telecast on a channel near you on February 25th.

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One thought on “Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

  1. Trinidad's Carib Queen Valentina Medina also spoke out against the Pirates of the Caribbean flick. As did the Chief Ricardo Barath and the medicine man, Cristo Adonis.The indigenous community in the Caribbean is less of a community than it ought to be.There is still a lot of focus on how "pure blooded" someone is, a throw-back to the control mechanisms used by colonists. There are control dramas. We devour ourselves. We've lost our young because we have no pride in what we were.They say we ate people – even in our Caribbean history classrooms.Like every other Caribbean "nation" struggling to remember our strength.So we do not summon up a strong enough lobby to stop a film like Pirates of the Caribbean – the "native" is long dead.Even when our leaders protest their comments are buried in the corner of a left hand side page in the newspapers.But there is good work being done to fuel a resurgence.The Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink blogspot is a great clearing house for what indigenous activists are doing in the Caribbean: http://www.cacreview.blogspot.com

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