One article is not enough to explain the contents of this film. Saying that it was interesting or amazing would be an understatement. For me, it was definitely an eye-opening experience, sparking more questions in my mind about the state of younger generations in terms of literary awareness. Cyril Lionel Robert James was a man who questioned his reality, a true scholar, artist, writer and revolutionary among other titles who, surprisingly, found himself massively under the radar among his own. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I am one who has found himself within this realm of detachment from those who have paved the way for me as a young man in today’s Caribbean society. I say fortunately because maybe this experience was an opportunity to change. Maybe this is an opportunity to find something to hold on to. Maybe this film is a sign of a shift in perspective among younger populations and within myself.
It was a film met by a truly-deserved round of applause by its audience. Structured in a documentary format, it strategically explored not only the works of James but also his thinking processes and the various topics he explored throughout his career as a writer. I would describe him as a natural analyst. It was this ability that spurred his thinking and most definitely his pen, because with it he explored and tackled concepts and issues such as
- racial inferiority, which he believed to be a myth,
- class, an issue he skilfully explored through his writing on cricket,
- his experiences with racism during the world wars,
- white abolitionists, whom he was highly critical of,
- communism, human civilization and its march towards freedom.
More popularized for his writings on cricket, James was never a man interested in politics — but when the world went political, he went with it. He was particularly against Stalinism and Communist ideals, and he defeated these ideals in many parts through his writings. In the 1930s he travelled to London, where he challenged British Nationalism and conquered Imperial Britain. James was not just an artist and a revolutionary; he was an artist who became a revolutionary.
I did not choose to view this film; it was my duty to do so. However, while sitting in the front row on the far left near the curtains, the thought came to me, “This room is too small.” I felt this was something that should have been showcased where the most possible persons could view it, not within the confinements of an audio visual room within the National Library’s basement. Nonetheless, it’s a start. After viewing, I feel that more persons — especially around my age and much younger — should see it at as well. His books should be on the curriculum and more accessible in schools across the county. Throughout our schooling in Trinidad and Tobago we are bombarded with the works of V.S. Naipaul, whom many believe to have an extremely narrow view on Trinidadian society. This does not mean that the works of Naipaul should not be explored, but I believe it is possible to look at Naipaul and James comparatively to expand the views of our students, especially at the secondary level.
James is a man who can be analyzed from numerous angles. What resonated with me after viewing the film was James’ ability to take seemingly simple topics and use them to explore deeper concepts. In Beyond a Boundary, James uses cricket to explore issues of race and class among colonials. In his memoirs about the game, he explains that during the 1950’s, 60’s and some time before, cricket was an upper-class English sport and was ruled by the whites. In fact, only whites could become captains on the team, even though over time the teams became populated with more black men. In the 1950’s James led a campaign which further led to the appointment of the first black captain of the West Indies team, Sir Frank Mortimer Worrell.
C.L.R. James was a revolutionary who never compromised, an internationalist who believed in human liberation both physically and mentally, a man of class but never afraid to get down and dirty with his pen. He understood that true democracy and freedom come from within and trying to obtain these things through war was not the answer. He was a man who today remains timeless. Obviously, with the number of topics expressed here, one can find oneself writing the length of a bottomless pit, which is why I will keep it short for now. However, I will definitely be recommending this film to my peers because I believe it is a film that must be seen.
Blog by Keston Charles.
One of our inaugural NGC Bocas Lit Fest Youth Bloggers, Keston Charles is a student teacher at The University of Trinidad and Tobago. He describes himself as more of a thinker than a talker. His hobbies are writing, reading a good book, cooking and travelling. He blogs at 7 Generation.