The majority of the cast of Escape from Babylon pictured here at the premiere
By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- In Caribbean society, where citizens are fixated on what a criminal should look like and who is a criminal, the locally produced and directed movie Escape from Babylon shows another side of reality, featuring the local night life in Trinidad, with the entire movie filmed on location.
When the movie hit theatres on Wednesday, August 21, cinemagoers got a glimpse into an underworld of contrasting lifestyles of ex-cop turned vigilante and a serial killer with similar ambitions -- to be heroes in their own world.
Escape from Babylon shows scenes of the stresses of crime and seeks to shift the goalposts for a better end result. Ex-cop Randolph Briggs turned taxi driver working the night shift in the capital city of Port Of Spain. “Although drummed out of the police force for unjust reasons, he continues to watch over the city he once protected all the while a serial killer posing as another taxi driver prowls the night in search of his victims. An explosive clash between these two is nothing but inevitable!”
The serial killer and the law-abiding citizen both prowl the streets of Trinidad’s capital Port of Spain at nights. How they each see the law separates them but they have a lot in common when the sun goes down. They each work at night, they love what they do, and they hunt and navigate the same terrain to engage in their nightly activities.
The streets are rough and they both know it. As the song says, “it is a jungle out there and the hunt is on” -- only one will escape from Babylon.
Escape from Babylon is a perfect depiction of life in the crevices and penthouses of the twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago, where neighbourhoods in a rich capital are twisted and bent by moral decadence. Escape from Babylon brings out the squalor of an existence of a people uneducated, mis-educated, chronically disturbed and producing children that are killing and harming each other and innocent civilians.
The film removes preconceptions about what a criminal looks like and where they come from. Another unexpected part of the movie that will shine a light in the minds of people is how an ex-police officer can use his training to be “guardian of the city”.
Escape from Babylon is fiction reminiscent of real events and the everyday crime and drama that the Trinidad and Tobago people have to contend with day and night, day in, day out. The movie truly mirrors life in Trinidad and Tobago. But it has a happy ending; the perpetrator gets caught, and it is not who you think it is.
The end scenario of the movie demonstrates how those entrusted to solve crime should adopt a good work ethic and commitment to rid the streets of reprobates and opt for the satisfaction of being a good guy, good cop and trusted individual who will guard the territory.
Watch the trailer:
Nicholas Attin and Joel Joseph talk about Escape from Babylon
Escape from Babylon is the brainchild of Nicholas Attin and Joel Joseph; two young men lighting up with excitement about their latest creation; Trinidad’s latest and hottest local movie.
The film is no Die Hard with a Vengeance with Bruce Willis or Denzil Washington’s Training Day; but like the other two cops in those action packed movies, ex-cop Randolph Briggs will find himself over the edge, and under the gun, before he escapes from Babylon.
A substantial part of the movie is the thrilling and dramatic night time scenes, depicting the underworld lifestyle of good cop versus bandit; vigilante versus villain, the collaborating of small fish bandits and big fish bandits to tie-up drug deals, and the feeding of heroic and killer desires.
The film yields sufficient suspense to hold your interest, while keeping the movie real enough to attract a Caribbean and Diaspora following.
Nicholas and Joel sat with me in my cozy apartment in the heights of Tacarigua just to talk Escape from Babylon.
“Joel and I, we drained our life savings to make this movie,” Nicholas said, with a resigned but satisfied look on his face. Furnished with the best camera they could purchase, the two young film makers spent the last 19 months, 18 hours a day to present what many that saw the film in a VIP premiere launch called “a well done local movie.”
“The idea behind it is, it is no longer going to be called just a Trinidad film or Trinidad cinema, this is Caribbean film, Caribbean cinema. And a little tip off, the sequel to this is going to involve more Caribbean countries; as well as South America. Right… so, we have to start thinking that way,” the film’s executive director and writer Nicholas Attin told Caribbean News Now.
“For me, why we have been struggling so long (as a Caribbean people) is because everybody wants to do their own thing. What we need to do is come together to make it strong,” added Joel Joseph, the film’s choreographer.
Like the Hollywood branded films, Nicholas wants to brand Port of Spain, Trinidad, in his movie, “just as you have brand New York,” he said.
“All cast members are professionally trained actors, with a proper ethnic balance; it’s a representation of every race… more or less, right?” He eyes Joel for approval… “Em hm,” responds Joel with a satisfied expression on his face… “African, Indian, Chinese, Syrian, white, yeah boy, we… we, we got it, and mixed, douglas, yes…!” Nicholas smiled with excitement.
This latest local movie will be launched in Caribbean cinemas in East Trinidad and Empire Cineplex in San Fernando (South Trinidad) simultaneously... negotiations are still in train to bring the local thriller to iMAX cinemas, Nicholas confirmed to Caribbean News Now.
The Trinidad and Tobago Film Company in collaboration with other sponsors is assisting with the marketing of the local production.
One film maker visiting from the US said she could not believe the standard of the film she had just seen at the Empire cinema in San Fernando.
“I am surprised at the standard,” Cathy-Mae SitaRam told Caribbean News Now. “This is good for Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.”
Nicholas did not just script, direct and produce the movie, he also arranged the music and sound effects for the film.
Joel, who was the choreographer in chief, also assisted with the production of Escape from Babylon.
Nicholas told Caribbean News Now he enjoys other passions within the creative industry, like advertising but, with his blockbuster success and positive responses beyond the shores of the Caribbean to his prize project Escape from Babylon, he says he is sticking to film.
Joel, who is also a martial artiste, will not allow that other passion to swallow his love for film production either.
Little Boy Blue was Nicholas’s first movie; “a psychological thriller” and he plans to produce other genres of film, like sci-fi, comedy, and even romance.
“I want to explore different genres and different themes,” said Nicholas; it’s like a Trojan horse he asserted.
“It is the birth of a hero who represents what we can aspire to as a country,” film director Nicholas told Caribbean News Now.
How Escape from Babylon mirrors the underworld in a Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean context
In a country that is bleeding from the scourge of crime. The murders occurring on the streets almost on a daily basis, in some cases two and three a day, is no movie; it is real, sometimes surreal and there seems to be no escape from Babylon.
Crime in the Caribbean, especially the murdering of its people and particularly its youth, is a treachery that governments face throughout the region; mostly, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, but St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Grenada and other Caribbean countries have faced their own crimson tide of bloodshed.
In Trinidad and Tobago, where Escape from Babylon was born, not only are the streets bleeding, the country’s young minds are bleeding ideas into the arts, paintings, poetry and now it is spilling over into the theatres of the twin islands. Such films are made possible by the reality of the crime situation in the country where such ideas are born.
The bloodletting in the last two weeks has finally brought together Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and opposition leader Keith Rowley to face the crime problem in Trinidad and Tobago head on. It took seven murders in two days, including the brutal gunning down of three teenagers, one 16-year-old pregnant girl who was hit by 34 bullets, to seal this agreement among the country’s top decision makers.