A subtle and personal voyage of discovery that is a perfect example of indie filmmaking.
Wah Do Dem is a film that came about almost by chance. Co-Director Ben Chace won a trip on a cruise ship and decided to make a film in the process. Together with his co-director Sam Fleischner they
assembled a tiny crew and set about creating a film that is so
guerrilla in nature you are drawn into its very mechanics. There are no
flashy tracking shots, no perfectly lit backgrounds, this is filmmaking in its rawest form that perfectly lends itself to the protagonists journey.
Max (Bones) is about to depart on a cruise to Jamaica, that he won, with his girlfriend Willow (Jones).
The day before he departs Willow dumps Max and he struggles to find
anyone to take her ticket and accompany him. Deciding to go anyway, Max
finds himself on a ship where he is the youngest person, besides the
crew, by a number of decades. When the chance comes to take a day trip
to Jamaica, Max cannot wait to get off the boat. Meeting a couple of
stoner locals he takes a trip to the beach and while swimming in the
crystal blue water, his shirt, shoes and backpack, with passport and
money inside, are all stolen. When the boat leaves without him Max must
journey across the country to reach the American Embassy in Kingston and
learn about himself on the way.
Max’s stripped down Odyssey across this alien land is deeply
hypnotic. While on the boat he walks around in a zombie like state,
finding a new lease of life on the tropical island. Gone is the cocksure
ways he had back home, here he is vulnerable and reliant on others good
will. An invitation to a game of football as well as being given a pair
of trainers to play are things that Max would have taken for granted
back home but in his lost state these acts start to lift his spirits.
It is almost a Lost In Translation in reverse, a Found In
Translation if you will. While Max feels alienated on the boat, in
Jamaica he is invited to belong. There are those who look at him as
different but more often than not he is treated as an equal. While
Barack Obama wins the election on fuzzy televisions across the island,
so, the inhabitants’ find Max more of an absent friend than an unknown
entity ripe to be ripped off. Chace and Fleischner’s direction is
delicately nuanced allowing for an intimate insight into Max’s mindset.
The organic nature of their execution is perfectly reflected in Max’s
laid bare predicament.
As Max, Sean Bones brings a natural approach to the role. A musician
by trade Bones avoids falling into the realms of ‘acting’, instead he
allows the story and environment to engulf him into delivering an organic, rather than forced, character. That
his mouth is often open only adds to Max’s shock at being out of his
comfort zone. He is no longer in a place he can consider safe and the
possibility of danger is apparent throughout. Bones therefore always
looks small in the frame and his hunched over posture lend itself to his
exposed state. Special mention should go to other newcomer Mark Gibbs
as a hostile young man who tries to mug Max, only to decide to help him
when he realises he has nothing worth stealing. His character helps Max
through the otherwise hostile capital Kingston and evokes the warmest
moment of the film through his touching performance. That Gibbs was
originally hired as a production assistant makes his role all the more
In many ways, Wah Do Dem could fall into the trend of Mumblecore, the
movement of independent films that deal with young adults analysing
their lives, which included In Search Of A Midnight Kiss (2007) and Humpday
(2009), but here, the emotion is much more internalised and is all the
better for it. Max does not talk needlessly about his feelings, but the
film, conveys them effectively through his reactions to the
ever-changing surroundings. For a feature debut, this will act as a
calling card to bigger things for Chace and Fleischner but hopefully
they maintain their small budget indie spirit for it is why Wah Do Dem
is so engaging.
Different in the best possible way, Wah Do Dem is a film that
never forces the issue but lets the audience simply tag along for the