Black Land ( Newsday exclusive)

‘Black Land’

By Iana Seales Friday, June 12 2015
( Trinidad and Tobago Newsday )

Around the end of the first two decades of this new century, Port-of-Spain could find itself in ruins – a black city destroyed by a civil war but teeming with survivors who learn to live without the ugliness of race and divisive politics.

In a new, post-apocalyptic story scripted for television and titled Black Land, the local group Ville Venture Films (VVF) will push the boundaries and explore what Port-of-Spain could look like in 2018 if the society shifts further towards distrust, division and violence. 

“Everything turns to black in this series, everything including the skin tones,” said CEO of VVF Ancil Harris. He wrote the script for the new show which will premiere some time in August on local television. 

Without giving away too much, Harris said the story begins in Port-of-Spain after the city and its inhabitants were ravaged by a civil war. To add to the pain, a bomb drops on the city and levels it then turns everything black. 

People die by the thousands during the civil war, but there are survivors and the story follows a detective who lost his family in the war. 

“People survive but when they wake up they realise that the land is black, they all look black, everything is black and they learn how to live moving beyond race and all these other identity issues because they all look the same,” Harris noted during a recent interview at Newsday’s Chacon Street office, Port-of-Spain. 

He explained the concept behind the show which he wrote over a few days and is now pushing to have released by August. Black Land is meant to shake up the consciousness of the viewing audience and to make them think about the consequences of division, racism and bitter politics. 

In the series, the people revolted against the government and a Prime Minister is killed. Harris would not release any names and the show doesn’t either. 

“The show is science fiction and fantasy so we do a number of things with it that are interesting, but it’s also meant as social commentary,” he added. 

In fact, Harris and his team are commenting on the violence, the murders, the daily political squabbles, and the distrust and division in society. The show tackles all these issues and to make them easier to consume they throw in science fiction and some fantasy. 

Commenting on the message he said, “Race doesn’t have any place in TT…we are fighting and killing each other and destroying everything we have worked for and built so far.” 

“Black Land is basically saying that we brought this on ourselves, but it’s not all doom because the show follows the survivors who are uniting and rebuilding after the devastation,” Harris added. 

As he explained the messages, Harris sounds prophetic and he could easily be a prophet in disguise as a graphic artist/writer. He is not just writing a show, he is writing about life, the choices we make and how that affects the space we live in. 

“It’s to teach people that if we keep going this road, this could happen and we also wanted to eliminate race that’s why everything turns black….we’re also trying to depict that TT is in a black place right now,” he continued. 

The characters in Black Land will look different because Harris and his team developed a new art style called cosmic-film, which they will use to present the show; comic-film is a breakdown of the 1940s comic art and a mixture of animation, spoken word, feature film and graphics. 

“We wanted to present something different so the show will visually look different and hopefully people will like it,” he said. 

The 30-year-old Harris grew up in Laventille and has lived through the violence and the murders. He himself is a survivor and in many ways the show he has written mirrors a lot of what he has seen and lived. But as he correctly observed during the interview, the issues are widespread. 

Since launching VVF in 2010, Harris and his 20-member team of creative enthusiasts have produced a number of shows for local television. Previously, their soap opera, All About Us has aired on Gayelle and was picked up by Synergy TV in its second year. The group also worked in Jamaica producing the show Caribbean Mix and shows such as Chosen Folk Wars and Techville. 

For the new show Black Land, Harris is in discussion with Synergy TV to have it released in August or even July. The show has ten episodes and one episode would run for about five minutes. In addition to having it released on television, the group is working to have it released on DVD. 

When asked about challenges in the industry, Harris said opportunities to do different shows and to make successful pitches are limited. But he and his team are pressing on. “We are young but driven,” he said with a smile. Every time they have been turned down they’ve continued working to prove people wrong. Further, he said the team is constantly working to improve. 

“It’s about putting out the work, getting people to see it and embrace it; important work that people can gravitate to.” Harris is a self-taught graphic artist and producer who started his own company. He is constantly looking for the next challenge and is working on season two of Black Land. 

“I really hope that people watch the show and learn something from it because that is the point, to learn something and to make changes,” he added.