Directed by: #RichardEtienne
Written by: Richard Etienne
A journey of self-discovery in the Caribbean, filmmaker Richard Etienne’s documentary ID Project: My Dominica Story is a love letter to our roots, heritage, and Dominica.
Winner of the #BUFF Awards 2019 Best Documentary category, I was lucky enough to hand Etienne his award. Having not seen the film, I was keen to take a look. Fortunately BUFF stalwart Emmanuel Anyiam-O hooked me up with a screening link this week so I was able to take the journey with Etienne.
Raised in London, the #filmmaker’s family heritage lies (obviously) in Dominica. After the passing of his father, Richard decided to pay homage to his family by journeying to the Caribbean island to learn more about his roots and to experience the culture. He is met with the beautiful warmth of the people there and the arresting natural landscapes, passionate individuals who champion the country’s growth, and artists who make the place wholly unique. As Etienne delves deeper into this journey of self-discovery, we witness a country experiencing its own struggle for identity and one that is at risk from low population numbers and natural disasters.
As a piece for the Dominica tourism board, ID Project: My Dominica Story would tick all the boxes. This documentary is bursting with life, colour, and extraordinary zeal that, when juxtaposed with British culture, makes it seem completely alien and completely alluring. Etienne interviews a plethora of interesting figures from all levels of Dominica society; from his newfound relatives, to the Dominican Prime Minister, and basically every single person seems to be enchanted by the place.
The bewitchment on Etienne is clear through his #filmmaking. Rapid shots of the vibrant events going on all around and the simmering day-to-day life being captured on film feels chaotically enthusiastic, as if the camera is ridiculously ill-equipped to try and reflect this beautiful society. Authentic music is used to complement the piece and many artists are able to showcase their own tunes during live gigs. The sound quality was a little poor in sections, which is often the bane of the documentary filmmaker.
Through the immensely enjoyable trip we are given plenty of reasons to fall in love with Dominica, but it felt lacking in terms of connection to Etienne. It would have been nice to have spent more time with him and what the journey meant to him on an emotional level. We are given a few scenes where this happens, such as him visiting his father’s old home but there was not enough to fully invest in the narrative or outcome. That being said, Etienne manages to bring it back home well by the end, tying in the ways in which people can explore their cultural identity even if it is in another country.
A film full of family, flavour, and feel-good culture, ID Project: My Dominica Story is as life-affirming as it is a robust exploration of a beautiful and precious island.