By Francine Buchner
The writers of the Barbadian feature film, Chrissy which recently premiered in Toronto tell a Caribbean-flavoured story about childhood bullying.
There were no vicious fights, blood drawn, death or murder, nor did the story tell a one-sided tale of one victim being targeted by a gang.
Instead, Jamaican-born director, Marcia Weekes, successfully portrayed through her actors the various types of bullying and how the interconnections of such types can negatively impact the life of the innocent person being bullied.
Weekes said working on the film “afforded me the great opportunity of working with some of the best Barbadian actors. It was a joy to work as a team to create this Caribbean film which shares a very inspirational message of faith, determination and hope to the world.”
Chrissy, played by Makalah Harrison is the star of the film and her family is poor. She lives in rural Barbados in a run-down shack, Chrissy lives with an older sister, younger brother and a mother who is bedridden and unable to work until she receives help from the government to buy a wheelchair.
They live under the constant threat of eviction from their landlord because they are months behind in paying their rent. In the opening scene Chrissy is looking for something to eat.
She finds nothing in her cupboards and just drinks a glass of water. Weekes makes a point of showing the pure, crystal clean, country water - a sign of life and a small, God-given blessing.
And with that glass of water and a mango that she picked from the tree in her yard, Chrissy finds the strength to walk, what seems like miles upon miles to get to school.
By the time Chrissy gets to her Redemption Primary School, her school uniform is filthy from the mango she was eating. The classroom teacher, Miss Barker, played by Sophia Thomas shuns her and tells her to move from her seat at the front of the class to the back of the class.
When some children are teasing Chrissy the classroom teacher disciplines Chrissy, which results in her receiving lashes from the principal, Mr. Greaves, played by Mac Fingall.
She is also the subject of teacher and child bullying. Despite the teacher bullying, Chrissy excels at her studies and is the brightest child in her class, yet the classroom teacher and the principal overlook her and instead choose a not-so-bright white child at the school, Cara O’Donnell, played by Melissa Edghill to enter a prestigious academic national competition. Unlike other films on bullying that would show classmates jealous of another child’s intelligence.
The writers of Chrissy show classmates that embrace Chrissy’s intelligence. There are scenes of child-to-child bullying, but the likelihood of long-term psychological issues resulting from this type of bullying - an eight year old girl steals a bag of mangoes from some boys and then sits on him for fun - is low.
There is also teacher-to-teacher and principal-to-teacher type bullying explored in this film. Some great comedic moments in the film arise when teacher, Mr. Fenton played by Peter Boyce decides to take matters into his own hands and in favour of Chrissy.
At the end of the film, it is the children who expose the idiocy of teacher, parent and landlord stereotypes held in the film. Chissy ran for two-nights in Toronto and a trailer may be viewed on YouTube.com.