By Lisa Allen Agostini
When the credits rolled on Bim at the T&T Film Festival,
MovieTowne, on September 20, the audience went wild. It
was the first time the 1974 Sharc Productions feature film
was shown in a local cinema in a generation; its co-producer
and conceptualiser Suzanne Nunez Robertson was shocked by
the enthusiastic reception.
Robertson, whose late husband, Hugh, produced and directed
what was T&Ts first indigenous feature, had long
shut away Bim and the memory of Sharc. The idea for a Bim
DVD, floated by some audience members at the screening,
had been one Robertson had discarded.
For what? Im not going to spend money to do
a DVD and people arent interested in it, recalled
Robertson, who now splits her time between Manchester, England,
and Santa Monica, California.
Shes however, reconsidered, somewhat. The trip home
for the screening was a rare return to the place where she
met Hugh, a celebrated US-born filmmaker who came to Trinidad
in the early 1970s to direct a Derek Walcott play for an
American TV network. She was an actress with Walcotts
Trinidad Theatre Workshop and the couple married about a
year after they met. They moved to New York where Hugh ran
an editing suite and post-production sound studio, but came
back to Trinidad in a few short years.
When he looked at the talent of the actors and looked
at the material, he realised that this place had a lot of
potential. You had the stories, the dramatists, all you
needed was to get the technical aspect of making films,
Solid fact: in the 1973 Budget, oil prices went up.
My father said, Look the government has published
that one of the things they want to develop is the film
industry. All the things youre hearing now (about
developing the film industry) they said then.
Sharc was an acronym after the family: Suzanne, Hugh, Antonio
(their 0son) Robertson Co.
They hit the ground running. The resulting film was a dramatic
piece based on the lives of master criminal Boysie Singh
and politician Bhadase Sagan Maraj, with a good deal of
fiction thrown in for effect. It was completed in four weeks
and was shot all islandwide. Andre Tankers music finished
off the film and by 1974, it was ready for screening.
But the Board of Censors had other ideas. The board shut
down the films production on various grounds, including
fear that its plot would incite racial hatred.
The High Court rejected this view and ruled that the film
could be aired uncut. It was a pyrrhic victory, and though
it was screened nationwide, the audiences found its content
hard to take. It never made money and practically vanished
for the next 33 years.
Sharc made another film, The Haunting of Avril, but it was
never finished because their funds dried up. They had been
making documentaries and commercials to survive in T&T,
but ultimately went back into feature filmmaking.
The company went bust and Hugh moved back to New York where
he died of prostate cancer shortly after.
Im still in the business. I dont know
why people think I dropped out.
An Emmy-nominated researcher and writer, she sought other
projects and today is working on her own scripts with a
writing partner. One of them is a female buddy movie along
the lines of Thelma and Louise; another is about a man returning
to the US during the Civil Rights struggle. Shes written
TV sitcoms that have been considered by major studios, but
never made yet.
Robertson has also remarried to an Englishman who is a business
Her analysis of the way T&T rejected her efforts 30-odd
years ago is very unsentimental and she puts it into the
In a country where a government will pump billions into
mega-projects steel mills that go nowhere, stadia
that remain under-utilised, and airports that crumble before
your very eyes Robertson couldnt raise the
money needed to finish their second film.
Maybe its the Carnival thing. We create the
most amazing thing and it doesnt matter because next
year, we will do it again, she said.