Monday, December 12, 2011

The Story of Eric Williams - how we see it.

Eric Williams was a man of contradictions. From a family that felt disenfranchised because of their class and colour, but who were in many ways privileged compared to the working class in the then British colony of Trinidad and Tobago. He was a man respected for reaching the pinnacle of British education, yet he dedicated his life to ending colonial rule. A lifelong scholar who was often unwilling to admit his mistakes. A politician who used even his disabilities as tools of power. Calling for ethnic unity in Party and country, yet not above using race to win elections. A passionate loving husband to one wife, a cold and bitter wind to another and party to a third, secret marriage. A man driven by hard-work and discipline, who allowed corruption and intrigue to flourish around him. He was seen as a man of the people, and at the same time, he saw himself as intellectually superior to others; a visionary who expected his decisions to be followed without opposition. He sought after mentors, then pushed away even those closest to him. One of the first advocates of West Indian Federation, yet unwilling to drive the union after Jamaica’s withdrawal. Anti-colonial, yet not willing to depart radically from British systems of governance. A Prime Minister who transformed the lives of many in Trinidad & Tobago through education, political mobilisation, and economic development, yet did not go far enough, some say, to undo the ongoing hierarchies of a post-colonial society. A devoted father to his last daughter Erica, he could not, in the end, despite her advice, leave the politics that had come to define his life. He died unexpectedly under disturbing circumstances in office after 25 years of leading Trinidad and Tobago. Still, Eric Williams’ power, personality and politics continue to define the nation.

Inward Hunger: The Story of Eric Williams is a 3-part documentary series on the life of Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. This groundbreaking documentary was produced in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of Williams’ birth on September 25th, 2011. It consists of three episodes, each running for approx. 1 hour. Episode 1, Great Expectations, follows Williams from his birth in the British West Indies in 1911 to his dramatic entry into politics in 1955 as he “Let down his bucket” in Woodford Square, Trinidad. Episode 2, Movement of the People, begins with the emergence of Williams and the PNM as a political force, and the roller-coaster of events that formed part of the West Indies’s struggle for independence, which came to a head for Trinidad and Tobago in 1962. Episode 3, Power, covers Williams’ public and private life as the leader of a young nation full of expectations, divisions and upheavals, leading up to the dramatic circumstances surrounding his death.

The series explores both the political and personal life of Eric Williams, in order to understand the multiple sides of his complex and enigmatic character. It is the first documentary series to delve into the character and life of Williams in such depth and from a variety of perspectives. The documentary goes beyond “Williams as Prime Minister” to examine the diverse facets of Williams’ personality, ideas and behaviour as eldest son in a large family, student, historian, writer and educator, husband and father, friend, professor, international civil servant, and Party leader. This portrait of Williams reveals the aspects of his family and school life that shaped his personality and perspectives from childhood; his understanding of colonial society and his uneasy place in it, having won access to an elite colonial education, yet facing financial hardship throughout his youth, and a pervasive sense of discrimination; his charisma and public persona as a father-figure, a saviour, a domineering and eventually distant leader; his privacy and intensity in close/intimate relationships; his mentors and the sometimes traumatic breaks with them; his career as an educator in the classroom and in the public sphere; his fight with the Caribbean Commission and entry into politics; his dominating leadership style and charismatic, yet changeable political personality; his vision for an independent society – his reforms and social transformation, hesitancy to change the status quo, the deep loyalty and strong opposition he engendered from within the Party he created and the wider society.

Williams is a highly controversial figure in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean - revered in some quarters, vilified in others. This series attempts an honest exploration of both his strengths and weaknesses, his successes and failures, his private and public lives. The documentary draws on a wealth of written and audio-visual material on and by Dr. Eric Williams, including rarely seen archival footage of Trinidad and Tobago in the 1950s and 60s. In addition, the series draws on extensive research on Williams published by scholars such as Prof. Colin Palmer, Prof. Selwyn Ryan and Prof. Ken Boodhoo. The narration is carried by the powerful voice of Nigel Scott, while Williams’ voice and the voices of other characters in the series are brought to life by renowned actor Albert Laveau and emerging talent Catherine Emmanuel. Calypsos craft a musical storyline, offering an everyday man’s commentary on Williams at each step of his journey in public office. And Francesco Emmanuel’s original score weaves through the series, connecting music, voice and image.

Diverse perspectives on Williams come through original interviews with journalists, writers, historians, revolutionaries, family members and former politicians and associates of Williams. This pioneering documentary series reveals Eric Williams in unprecedented breadth and depth, in the context of the history, society, region and world that shaped him, the forces to which he at times succumbed, and those he fought to change.

No comments:

Post a Comment