Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: Trinidad Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) has introduced a pioneer couple of the country – Hugh and Suzanne Robertson.
According to the TTFF, Hugh Robertson came to Trinidad to film an adaptation of Derek Walcott’s play, Dream on Monkey Mountain, for NBC and embarked on an engagement with his wife’s homeland, which saw the birth of what is arguably the most important film to be produced in Trinidad: Bim (1974).
American of Jamaican heritage, Robertson, together with his wife, Suzanne and a group of local directors and investors, set up Sharc Productions – an acronym for the names of his family: Suzanne, Hugh, and Antonio (their son) Robertson Company. Sharc brought in professional film equipment and a custom-built production vehicle for location filming and created a sound stage at Tucker Valley in Chaguaramas, producing commercials and documentaries – but its real mission was to establish a local film industry.
Bim was set in Trinidad in the period before independence, and the politically charged film reflected the passion and conflicts of the 1940s and 50s. Written by Raoul Pantin, the film starred Ralph Maraj as Bim in what is widely considered to be his finest performance on film. The film’s musical score was by Andre Tanker, who worked with a group of East Indian musicians. It was later released as an LP record, according to the update shared by Trinidad Tobago Film Festival.
Bim won a gold medal at the United States Virgin Islands Film Festival in St Thomas in 1975 and was shown at the Carifesta Film Festival in Jamaica (1976) and the Los Angeles Film Festival (1976). The producers were encouraged to make another film, Avril, based upon an original story by Hans Boos with a script by Raoul Pantin about a spell inflicted on a young couple, but the producers suffered major financial problems in having the film processed and edited.
In 1987, almost ten years later, the film was finally completed and shown in San Francisco under the new title Obeah, a year before the director’s death. This film has never been seen in the Caribbean.
Robertson was also the editor for the Hollywood films Midnight Cowboy (1969), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and Shaft (1971). He also directed Melinda (1972).