Almost 30 years have passed since a bloody coup in Grenada saw the assassination of the leader of the People’s Revolutionary Government, Maurice Bishop, along with his colleagues by members of the People’s Revolutionary Army.
Grenada, according to some scholars and researchers, even three decades later, still grapples with the chain of events surrounding the crisis.
As that island readies itself to observe the 30th anniversary of the coup next month, director and producer Bruce Paddington has focused his lens on that island with Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution — a 2 1/2 hour long epic documentary which highlights the revolutionary government of Grenada that came to power by a coup in 1979, and its demise with the bloody killings of October 19, 1983.
The documentary tells the story of the Grenada revolution as never before. Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution (2013), is a feature length documentary (150 minutes) directed and produced by Paddington. It explores the achievements and shortcomings of the People’s Revolutionary Government (1979-1983) as it attempted to forge a new revolutionary society.
It focuses on the year 1983 through use of archival footage and first hand recollections of persons who witnessed the events of October 19; the execution of Prime Minister Bishop and his close colleagues whose bodies were never recovered. This was followed by the American invasion and over twenty years later the gradual release of the prisoners from jail.
The film, with its the multiple perspectives and different narratives, explores this key event in the history of the Caribbean. The eloquence and passion of Maurice Bishop is apparent as he defends the revolution on such critical issues as human rights and the need for a true peoples’ democracy.
The film also includes excerpts from a feature address by George Lamming at a memorial service for Bishop in 1983 as well as the music of calypsonian Brother Valentino.
Paddington felt compelled to create this documentary. He was in Grenada just two months before the coup working on a documentary commissioned by United Nations on Science and Technology. He met with Jacqueline Creft, who was Grenada’s Minister of Education. Creft was killed alongside Bishop at the confrontation at Fort Rupert. At the time Paddington was impressed with what he saw in Grenada. He described the island as a “different type of Grenada”.
“They wanted democracy. I had dinner with the Minister of Education Jacqueline Creft, and there seemed to be a type of feeling of hope and the building of a new society. The Minister was confident and hopeful. She wanted to promote what was happening with Grenada. This was in August. There were major problems but she wasn’t discussing the government. There was no threat of anything in the air. Two months after my meeting with Jacqueline Creft she was machine-gunned down. I was shocked to find out what happened,” Paddington said.
Three decades later, Paddington has completed the film which he hopes will be a tool for healing and education. The world premiere of Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution will be screened at the University of the West Indies during the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival on September 20, at 3.15 p.m. Whilst Paddington’s film is being screened, it is not eligible for adjudication as he is the founder and festival director of the TTFF,
The film received a research grant from The University of the West Indies and received post-production and marketing assistance from Columbus Communications (Flow Trinidad), the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company and the Fundashon Bon Intenshon. Filming for the documentary according to Paddington started at a very pivotal time in 2011. Seven men convicted of killing Grenada’s leader — the last of 17 who had been sentenced for the crime, had been released from prison in 2009.
“The country still suffers from painful memories of this period but the healing has begun as all the prisoners have now been released from captivity. Hopefully, Forward Ever: the Killing of a Revolution will play an important role in helping the people of Grenada, and the wider Caribbean, to come to terms with this critical event in its history. A short version of the film was previewed at the Caribbean Studies Conference in Grenada in June 2013, and it was also shown to those who appeared in the film at a private screening to ensure that their views were not misrepresented.
“I wanted to do a major documentary. In June 2011, I went on a research trip where I met with a number of people involved with the coup. It was a good time to start filming I had an opportunity to speak with key people involved — both the victims and the people who were involved with the killings. We actually spoke to the people who admitted to shooting Bishop. It was a very emotional time. People were speaking for the first time publicly on camera. The crew including Princess Donelan, Luke Paddington and Oliver Milne, filmed for hours and hours. We went to Fort Rupert which is now Fort George,” Paddington said.
“It is such a sensitive topic. I had to have two screenings because I didn’t know if both sides, 30 years later, were willing to be in the same room together to view the film. People were almost in tears watching it and we had very spirited debates. Changes were made based on some of the critical comments that we heard, so hopefully the film is as objective as any film can be. I did a lot of research. I went to the Library of Congress which showed the American side of what happened and I also went out to Cuba for archive material,” Paddington said.
“So it’s going to be an educative film, not for profit. It would educate people who were very young at the time including Grenadians because a lot of the material that we used in the film have never been seen before. It is going to be a major education tool and will help in bringing some form of reconciliation,” Paddington said.
Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution will also be screened on September 22, with a question-and-answer segment at Little Carib Theatre from 8 p.m. There will also be a screening and question and answer segment at MovieTowne on September 30 at 8.30 p.m.
Bruce Paddington is the co-designer and lecturer in the BA Film Programme at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, since 2006. Previously he was a lecturer in educational technology, photography and the media. He wrote the strategic plan for the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (2005) where he works as a consultant.
He has published many journal articles on Caribbean and Latin American cinema and has co-edited, with Luis Notario, the book Exploring Caribbean Cinema that was launched at the Havana International Book Fair in 2012.
He is the founder/director of the New World Film Centre and the founder of the production company Banyan Productions. Paddington is an award-winning filmmaker, having made over 500 films and television programmes, mainly on Caribbean culture. His 2006 documentary, The Mennonites of Belize, has been screened at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, the New Latin American Film Festival in Havana, the Zanzibar International Film Festival, the St Barth Film Festival, the Guadeloupe Documentary Festival, the Martinique Film Festival and in 2007 received the award as the best cultural and educational programme by the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.
Paddington has taught film at York University, Toronto and Bowling Green State University, Ohio and lectured at Florida Atlantic University, Winona State University, Carleton University, the University of Michigan, New York University, University of Puerto Rico, The University of the Arts (ISA) Havana and the International Film School, Cuba.