Damian Marcano chats God Loves The Fighter

Interview written David Pountain

Making its UK premiere at this week’s East End Film Festival and online at FilmDoo, God Loves the Fighter is one of those rare Trinidadian films that has blazed a trail from the crime-ridden community of east Port-of-Spain to film festivals around the world. It’s no accident that the captivating day-to-day struggles in Laventille, the underprivileged end of Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, are framed within the narration of a passionate street preacher. “This was me shouting”, director Damian Marcano told Front Row regarding his fearless feature-length debut, “Saying things like this, who knows? Maybe it could put a target on my head one day.” After shaking up audiences in the Caribbean, God Loves the Fighter looks set to provide international viewers a profound window into the darker parts of island life that they’d be unlikely to find so vividly and so humanely elsewhere.

Drawing inspiration from his childhood in the Port-of-Spain neighbourhood of Laventille, Damian’s film is passionately tuned in to current circumstances in Trinidad but the filmmaker considers this side of himself to be an innate product of his upbringing, “I don’t think there’s any way to be an island man and not be political. When we start to talk about politics where I’m from, everyone’s unhappy about something. There’s so much corruption in the Caribbean and Latin America. Sometimes I get banned from watching my local news because my wife doesn’t think I should. I get too worked up. I get worked up at the fact that guys don’t live past twenty-five in my neighbourhood. I really would love to do something about that but I constantly tell people I’m not a politician. I think I’m no different than any other island man that has a view on politics or any other man in the world per se and this is just my one colourful view of it.”

Rather than conveying any partisan alignment, the film is intended to empower the individual against the larger problems observed, “There’s a woman who I found through our film’s Instagram and her husband was gunned down in Trinidad a couple of months ago. He was 35 years of age, he had two kids and it’s sad enough to say what you see in her Instagram feed because it’s just constant photos and memories of the two of them. Perhaps he made some bad choices, perhaps she made some bad choices too but she said something one time – that you have to stop letting life take from you and you have to start taking from life. So, whatever the political message is in this film, I hope it at least inspires people to say we have to start taking back from life. I guess that’s my political view.”

Despite the troubling issues exposed by God Loves the Fighter, Damian still considers his picture to be an optimistic film, “The optimism is that life will go on tomorrow but we just kind of want you to know the reality behind the stories. I guess I would compare it to a Bob Marley song when they say he used to tell it so pitiful you had to believe it. I hope that when the people of Laventille see God Loves the Fighter they say, ‘Man, I’m proud of home. I’m proud that even if our story is this hard, it looks this beautiful. I am inspired by it.’”

While he acknowledges that there are many talented artists in Trinidad, Damian views his film as a break from a trend of relatively safe Caribbean films, “I think just overall Trinidad is a bit a ways away from being completely honest with itself. I think Caribbean cinema for a while has just been these gangster movies, shoot-‘em-ups. God Loves the Fighter I guess doctrines these guys’ lives to a certain degree but God Loves the Fighter isn’t about the drive-by. I wanted to show the comradery with the guys.” Its Damian’s intention that his picture reveals “the man behind the issue” in a way that is distinct from other recent island films which “have spent a lot of time following the Hollywood business model.”

Nonetheless, Damian believes that Caribbean cinema in general still has the potential to offer “a different perspective of the simple man. When you look at our broken chain of islands throughout the Caribbean, it’s essentially what you have to look at in us – a broken chain of islands, a chain of broken people. As West Indian people, all of our stories have a certain root to it. That is the root of the simple, hungry story of the poor beginnings of a humble man or woman. We have simple stories. We have colourful stories. We have colourful language. We have literature. We have performers. They go there to shoot Pirates of the Caribbean, right? Well, why can’t the Caribbean make their own version of something from the Caribbean? We have smart guys. We’re just all sort of broken up so I think our offerings to America and world cinema will begin to change as we begin to get together.”

An artist who transitioned from the medium of painting to cinema, Damian remains modest about his status as a filmmaker, “I don’t think I’ve begun to yet call myself a director because I really, really respect the arts. I guess when you become an artist in your mind you really protect that term to every artist that’s out there.” Nonetheless, he seems confident about the future of his career, having already filmed a TV pilot called CHEE$E, “CHEE$E is done in a make believe place called Turtle Village. That’s shot more on our north coast. It’s completely different. It’s not urban like Port-of-Spain. It’s the typical island aesthetic. It’s a fun piece.” The filmmaker is adamant about not repeating himself but hopes to retain a consistent vision across his works. “Every painting that I do isn’t the same so I didn’t want to just get branded doing one sort of film but I think you’re always gonna’ hear my political side of taking back more from life. You’ll always hear that fight in the work.”

God Loves the Fighter is available to view now at FilmDoo.com in the UK & Ireland

Watch here: https://www.filmdoo.com/films/god-loves-the-fighter/

About The Author

Reviews Editor, Contributor and Festival Coordinator

Ollie has written for Front Row Reviews pretty much since its inception about seven years ago whilst still studying Film & Television. Since then, he was trust into the world of independent film distribution and has recently started working with Picturehouse Entertainment in their Marketing Department. Having written and produced two radio series, he is moving hoping to (one day) write a web series/short film/feature (delete as appropriate ;)). His favourite director is David Lynch (which makes him make a lot of sense!) and his favourite films are The Hours, Mulholland Drive, Volver, Blade Runner and Bridget Jones Diary.

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