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Documentary to explore trade, similarities between Newfoundland and Jamaica

Toronto-based actor and poet Al St. Louis stands on a fishing boat during a shoot in Newfoundland which clewed up on Tuesday.
Toronto-based actor and poet Al St. Louis stands on a fishing boat during a shoot in Newfoundland which clewed up on Tuesday. - Contributed

A documentary feature set to be completed in December 2019 clewed up the Newfoundland portion of filming on Tuesday.

The Toronto-based production will tell the story of historical and cultural connections between Newfoundland and Jamaica.

“Of Cod and Rum: The Newfoundland Connection” is part of a package of films inspired by Jamaica’s national motto, “Out of Many One People.”

That intersection of many cultures is something Jamaica-born producer Patricia Scarlett hopes to feature on film.

“Being married to a Newfoundlander, I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time there and we have a home in Witless Bay,” she said.

“I’ve gotten to know the culture, and I went to graduate school in Jamaica, and from where I stand I see similarities just in terms of island culture, politicians that are charismatic and the gift of the gab. … We have that same kind of tradition in Jamaica where the use of language is rich and vibrant.

“Jamaica’s also called ‘The Rock,’ as is Newfoundland. We have a rum culture as well. It dawned on me that I have seen a lot of documentaries about cod, but I haven’t seen one that explored it this way and ties it into the rum, and there is a direct link because that’s how the trade came about.”

Scarlett said the documentary will explore the rich trade history between the two islands, but will also look at the two cultures — “where they come together and where they diverge.”

A couple of local industry professionals also worked on the film, including sound engineer Lee Tizzard and producer, director and fixer Kerry Gamberg.

The documentary will be hosted by Toronto-based actor and poet Al St. Louis, who is married to a woman whose father is from Corner Brook, and he’s from “the diaspora” — Grenada.

Still, he had never been to Newfoundland or Jamaica, so he said audiences will see both islands “from my eyes for the very first time.”

The production team landed in Deer Lake on Thursday last week.

By Wednesday, they had finished filming.

St. Louis spoke with The Telegram about his experience while waiting in the airport for a flight back to Toronto.

He said he was “overwhelmed with information” during filming.

“But not just that — the beauty of the island itself. As I’m talking to you, I’m getting goosebumps remembering.

“It’s like a lost land in time,” he said, adding he was also blown away by the hospitable people.

A highlight for St. Louis was cod fishing, claiming he caught the biggest fish of the day — “of course,” he laughed. “It was probably about 100 pounds, I swear!”

Scarlett said there are plans for several spinoffs, including a photo exhibit paired with the release of the film, a book featuring Newfoundland landscapes and recipes for cod, as well as a website with personal stories they gathered related to the fishery. She also plans to do a teachers’ guide so the film can be screened in schools.

The Jamaica portion of the documentary will be shot next spring.

“I’m looking forward to just soaking up everything, and a whole lot of rum, too,” St. Louis laughed.

Once the documentary is completed, Scarlett said, she’d like the first screening to be held in Newfoundland, but those details are still in the works.

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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