Dir: Maria Govan. The Bahamas. 2008. 93 mins.
One of the first indigenously produced films to come out of the Bahamas, Maria Govan’s Rain shows a different side to Nassau where, in the shadows of luxury resorts and ocean liners, lives a subset of islanders battling the ravages of drugs, HIV infection and extreme poverty. Notable not only for its novelty value, it is also a well-crafted film with a fine, mostly female cast, although western audiences will find not a little naivete in the familiar coming- of age story in which school sports acts as an escape from a dire situation.
The film can expect bountiful festival play as a Bahamian trailblazer and the local music and acting talent on show can only serve to help its overseas prospects, although the strong island dialect is often difficult to decipher and might need some subtitling.
Fourteen year-old newcomer Renel Brown, who has never acted before, is winning in the title role of Rain, a 14 year-old living with her grandmother Rosalie (Hall) on the tiny Ragged Island in the Bahamas. But when Rosalie dies, she travels by boat to Nassau to seek out the mother who abandoned her as a child.
The woman she finds - Glory (very convincing Micheaux) - is a drug-ravaged woman living in the ramshackle neighbourhood known as ‘the Graveyard’ because nobody ever comes out alive. Glory has no knack for motherhood and spends her nights doing drugs and turning tricks, while Rain tries to fit in at her new school.
She finds an ally in the school sports coach Ms Adams (Pounder) who spots her obvious talent for track running and suggests that she pursues racing seriously with a view to financing her further education. The two train together and become friends, but, even as Rain sees hope in her future, it is questionable whether Glory will be able to see past her drug addictions and desperate financial situation and help her.
It’s refreshing to see Nassau not as the Atlantis hotel resort or golden beaches that have made their way into other films like After The Sunset and Into The Blue. The Atlantis is only glimpsed in the background in one shot. This is a Nassau of suburbs and ghettos where hardship is taken for granted - Rain’s schoolfriend Magdaline, for example, is the daughter of a white man who barely acknowledges her existence - and a life beyond poverty is difficult to imagine.
Not that Govan doesn’t show some degree of affluence. Ms Adams lives with her lesbian lover in a comfortable house, although in her case, she has spent her life battling the islanders’ prejudice against her sexual orientation.
Although the story of Rain’s success is foremost here, perhaps more interesting are the insalubrious characters of the Graveyard - Glory’s obese neighbour Tiny (Gina Smith), the drug dealer/pimps who work the neighbourhood and the ‘Preacher’, a mentally ill HIV positive character who preaches against sin yet molests Rain when she is out picking grasses for her mother’s fever.
In association with Dhalia Street Films and DedPro Inc
The Works International
(+ 44 207 612 1080)
Director of photography
Irma P Hall