Thursday, February 17, 2005

Statement from Chief Charles Williams of the Dominica Carib Territory re: Disney

Fellow Dominicans, my Kalinago brothers and sisters people of the Carib Territory, every Carib brother and sister around Dominica where ever you may be.

Disney is preparing to film the second part of the movie titled Pirates of the Caribbean part two. At the moment they are casting interested persons for backup role in the film.

Some time late October / early in November I as Carib Chief was approached by officials from the ministry of tourism and the N D C informing me of the proposed film, they did indicate that there was a sensitive part of the film and that Disney would be meeting with me as Carib chief to discuss.

Some two weeks later a team including Paul Toulon of Digital Designs, Disney local representative, the film Director/ producer cast director and others came to talk to me on the issue.

The discussion started and I realized that they wanted permission from me for my Caribs (Kalinago) people to participate in a film that is highly discriminatory against us. I was told that there is this film titled Pirates of the Caribbean part two, supposedly consisting of a
section with a role that has some features of cannibalism.

I realized that the discussion needed more than just me, so I called in councilors Irvince Auguiste Kent Auguiste and Christabel Auguiste, whom I was able to reach at the moment via telephone and Dr Worrel Sanford Margaret Rose Burton, Gerod Langlais other community members.

The discussions went on and we were told that the film is a fiction movie, something to do with ghosts, it has strong element of cannibalism in it, they cannot hide it, they cannot change it, they must film the movie, they will dress us beyond recognition and we will not be mentioned.

Some members of our team present in the discussion felt that Disney is a rich corporation and perhaps this was an opportunity for us to get something from them, some felt that we needed to do some more investigation, and said we should follow up with some resource persons before we can decide.

We also felt that perhaps a disclaimer at the end of the movie would help. Disney's' people then said they would follow up with us for confirmation on our decision.

On the week of the 26th of November Disney was planning to have their cast done at the kareena Cultural village, and I told them we were not ready, because the council was still divided over the issue.

On the 29th of November 2004 the matter was taken up at a special council meeting and the four councilors who were present along with the Carib Chief voted overwhelming not to participate in that film, some time later during our meeting the parliamentary representative joined us and strengthened the councils position by saying "that is nonsense and we should not prostitute ourselves and spoil our image for nonsense such as this, he went further to say that we should contact the prime minister for his take on the matter and that he too would talk to the PM for the same reason.

On Saturday the 11th December a meeting was planned several members of the community were invited including parliamentary representative who did not appear, principal of all the schools, and other prominent members of the community, again to meet with four members of the filming team, the director the producer the cast director and the extra cast director.

They explained that the movie is fiction, there is strong element of cannibalism in it, there is an encounter with a pirate on the beach, there would be savages who wants him to lead their clan and to do so they have to kill him to get his spirit to do so, they spoke of the chase, the capture, hanging of people in a cave upside down saying we are all there to be eaten, roasting of someone like on a barbeque fire, and the scenes of mountains and gouges is needed so to fire their bow and arrows.

They said they cannot hide the fact there is cannibalism in the movie one will not see blood and actual flesh eating but cannibalism is strongly implied, they cannot show us the script because it is not Disney policy to do so, they cannot change the movie, they must film it, they will be filming in the Soufriere, Indian River Portsmouth, Vieille case, Hampstead and Londonderry areas. They won't be filming in the Carib Territory.

They will as far as possible employ people in the catchment areas and was offering just $10.00 E C per hour.

Later on I learnt that they wanted specially the red Amerindian looking people to participate in the movie who would be filmed practically nude. I also understood and if we were not willing to participate they would seek people from the Pitite Soufriere and Pitite Savanne areas, and was also considering getting the Caribs of St.Vincent. [NOTE FROM MAX FORTE: I can confirm, thanks to a correspondent in St. Vincent, that Disney has rented an entire Bed & Breakfast there to accommodate crew who will be shooting there in March.]

After the film officials were dismissed a discussion was held again to ascertain our peoples position, in the end from among over two dozen people present only five voted in favour of the movie the rest were undecided.

It was further planed that a team of five people would meet on the same Saturday night since I as chief had offered to give a final answer the following Monday only one person attended the last meeting, taking into consideration all that was said and done I as chief informed, Disney filming team through Mr. Paul Toulon that we were not interested in participating in the film; copies of our decision was also sent to the ministry of tourism and the N D C.

It must be noted that at a meeting that was held with cabinet, the minister of tourism raised the issue and when I as chief stood up to defend our position for not agreeing to participate councilors Elvis Francis & Irvince Auguiste claimed that was the chiefs decision not theirs.

The matter was again raised at the council's statuary meeting on December 29th I as chief explained that we have to understand that we through our ancestors were the ones whom the pirates encountered in the 15th 16th and 17th century when they came, and we were labeled savage cannibals because we stood and fought for our rights, and this is documented in every history book around the world that speaks of the Caribbean history, we are stigmatized up to this day as cannibals, every time that some conflict arises between blacks and Caribs right here in Dominica it is thrown into our faces "we ate the Arawaks but wont be able to eat us blacks".

Today Disney wants to popularize that stigma once more, this time through film. And to my amazement councilors whom the people trusted as leaders, councilors who served in the office of kalinago chief, councilors who have served for several terms as leaders of the people, councilors who took an oath to serve the kalinago people are betraying their own blood brothers and sisters and rallying them to participate in a film that so unjustly discriminates against us.

I say shame on them, for a few dollars you all are betraying your own flesh and blood, every year during Carib week they stand and pledge solidarity messages on community platforms, this one opportunity proves how weak and in genuine we are to our cause to fail to such a small test such as this.

Perhaps I should add that even after the strong statement of the parliamentary representative during our councils meeting, the day in cabinet he has asked me to tow the line.

I dare say people with no morale background, people who do not believe in principle, people who do not understand their history, people who do not understand what is the meaning of representation should never stand and offer themselves as leaders, for they do not understand the role of leadership.

I therefore call on all Dominicans, all who understand what is it to be suppressed, all native and indigenous people, nationally, regionally and internationally to condemn that act of victimization and stigmatization by all those who promote and support it, money is not always the answer, love and cordial respect is worth much more for peace and tranquility to prevail in the world we live in.

I thank you.

Chief Charles Williams.

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