Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Di Gal Bite Mi – review

Director: JC Money

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

I stumbled across this movie on YouTube and that’s all I have been able to find. There is no IMDb page, no homepage for the film, no page I can find for Wah Gwan Family Entertainment but director (and writer and producer) JC Money does have the linked YouTube channel with several of his filmic efforts.

dialogue swear words vanish in subs
The title on YouTube calls this a full Jamaican movie and that would be English-Jamaican, the film being shot in London. The film uses very heavy street language, so much so that for the majority of the film there are subtitles (the act of turning swear words in the dialogue into something else in the subs was strange to say the least).

The credits have kids singing a nursery rhyme then we cut to night and two blokes talking. One is boasting about his prowess with the ladies and the fact that, because he is a musician, there are always girls around. He sees a woman walk past and tries his patter, following her down an alley. Eventually he starts to turn around and head back to the street but she approaches him and attacks. His friend – the Rastaman – comes round the corner, sees what is happening and runs. His running becomes an on-running (pun unavoidable) joke through the film and we cut to his fleeing occasionally as he runs from London to Manchester (just over 200 miles).

The news reports a vampier attack – and this is the spelling we get through the film, but I’ll talk more of classification later. Then through the film we get a succession of men attacked by the vampier – either when they have picked her up or, seemingly, randomly. The hero of the film (and I didn’t pick up a name) is a friend of one of the first attacked. His grandma informs him that he was attacked as a child, as where his parents, and that is how he got a scar. They sacrificed themselves by giving him the only cure (what this cure is we do not know).

Grandma sends him to see Oxegentman – so called as he has a permanent oxygen mask, I assume. He survived a vampier attack and gives the hero advice (mostly adding up to “peg” her in the heart and do it during the day). I was unsure as to the lore around crosses – at this stage they are said to be effective but later not so. Garlic is listed as a vampier deterrent. She prowls the streets after midnight and appears to be able to appear and disappear at will. Oxegentman suggests that she is around in 2013 as it is the 30th anniversary of attacks in 1983 – the YouTube page suggests they appear every thirty years. However later – when a woman tries to get turned as she is sick of life – we hear that she only attacks women and this is because her vampier man fell for a mortal girl rather than attacking the girl and cheated on her – she drained them both (draining is a way to kill a vampier then) and now only attacks men (cheaters and flirters). Interestingly (and accurately and, to be honest, fairly uniquely) dialogue does connect vampirism and cannibalism – for what is one human drinking another human's blood if not cannibalism?

Rastaman's run
The problem was not so much within the street language used, nor some quite thick Jamaican accents at times – indeed the language aspects were genuinely fascinating – but generally within narrative structure, poor dialogue and awful cinematography (as well as cheap plastic fangs). The narrative structure was simply lacking, we just really got a string of conversations, most of which didn’t push a narrative forward nor invested in characterisation, interrupted by a bite. As for the dialogue, if I was told it was improvised I wouldn’t be surprised. The filming was amateurish, dialogue became lost in traffic noise, dark scenes were treated so you could just about gather what was going on.

the hero packs a peg
All this is a shame as building a story within the Jamaican community in London is a fantastic idea (and seems to be JC Money’s raison d'être). This could have celebrated the rich multiculturalism that makes up the modern UK and that brings me to the vampire classification. I don’t know why the spelling of vampire was changed to vampier. To my knowledge this is not one of the variant spellings and I guess it was deemed ‘street’. Yet the Caribbean have a rich vampire folklore in the form of the soucayant (which itself is one of many variant spellings).

staked and in the sun
Of course using the soucayant in her common form would have been difficult given the lack of any perceivable budget – the soucayant takes the form of an old woman who sheds her skin at night and becomes a ball of flame that will suck the blood from sleepers. However, without using the myth type the name could have been used (after all a variant of it was appropriated by Neil Jordan for his Byzantium) Coincidentally I watched this whilst reading Giselle Liza Anatol’s the Things that Fly in the Night, which is an exploration of female vampires in literature of the circum-Caribbean and African diaspora and has a great deal of information about soucayants. In fact the theme of female demonization for the “sin” of independence that Anatol identifies within the soucayant myth fits in here, with the female vampire active because she was wronged and yet that activity is seen as evil and she must be punished (staked) for her sins by the hero, which will allow men to return to their cheating ways with no fear of punishment.

So without the soucayant myth, we are left with a film that could have been a great exploration of multiculturalism in modern London but was actually a bit of a plastic fanged mess. 2 out of 10.

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