By Machela Osagboro
The rustic backdrop of the pristine Antiguan and Montserratian landscape was highlighted in the film Wendy, screened locally for the first time at its Saturday night premiere. The film’s director Benh Zeitlin said the two countries presented a unique setting to retell the beloved tale of Peter Pan.
Zeitlin told Observer that his aim was to make a big film production in Antigua and Barbuda that represented the true nature of children who are free and unhindered by the “real world”.
“We want to bring a reality to the mythic story of the beloved tale that is relatable,” he said.
“We wanted to make a film that was larger than life that felt intensely real. We wanted to go to natural places that were wonderous and miraculous; that’s why we were so intent on shooting on location in Antigua in the water and on the beaches and volcano in Montserrat.”
The film received rave reviews as luminaries including actor Robert De Niro, Grenadian soca star Mr Killa, Team Antigua Island Girls and politicians alike turned out to Hodges Bay Resort on Saturday night in support of the film’s young Antiguan star Yashua Mack.
Zeitlin explained the inspiration behind his directing style. “The movie is its own story using the myth as a framework; it isn’t a retelling of the original story,” he explained.
The budding young actor’s mother, Aziza Roberts, was particularly proud of Mack’s performance.
“Being a child, his innocence shone through the film. He had long hours and sometimes he wanted to be free from the set environment but he loved running around and playing, interacting with the other children,” she said, adding that the film will be a great boost for the local movie industry.
Among the high profile attendees was Prime Minister Gaston Browne who lauded Mack’s acting.
“Yashua is now an international star and many people will know of the Rastafari community, and I think that exotic nature about him will take him places,” he said.
Culture Minister Daryll Matthew said Wendy “puts Antigua and Barbuda on the map as a destination where films can be made”.
“And it gives our citizens and residents here an opportunity to see one of our own really excel and do well in the international film industry,” he added.
Film Commissioner Bert Kirchner said he was happy to see Zeitlin’s vision materialise and highlight the two Caribbean nations in such a positive light.