“PLAY THE DEVIL”— At the Carnival in Trinidad

play the devil poster

“Play The Devil”

At the Carnival in Trinidad

Amos Lassen

During Trinidad’s Carnival Season we meet Gregory (Petrice Jones), a young black working-class eighteen-year-old. He was starring in a local play where he was noticed by James Young (Gareth Jenkins), an older affluent businessman.  James felt immediately attracted to Gregory and pursued him. On Carnival Monday as is expected in Trinidad, the young men cover their bodies in blue paint and dressed as devils and descend down into the valley, howling and drumming as they lose themselves in carnal dance.  That night a fateful confrontation erupts, changing their lives forever.

“Play the Devil” was produced, directed and written by Maria Govan. Gregory was just 18-years-old when he and James began their friendship. This is so much more than a simple plot here as the film looks into the psyche and why we consider what some people do to be wrong. On one level we see the film as a thriller that it is but it is also an exploration of class, religion and homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago.

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Gregory lives with his grandmother and older brother in the poor area in the hills outside of the city. He makes good grades and it is very likely that we will receive a scholarship to go to college away from home, placing him in prime position of a scholarship to study medicine outside of the country. When James takes an intense interest in him, the result threatens to ruin those chances and expose Gregory’s own secrets.

Gregory is very deep in the closet. At first we do not really understand what James sees in him but then we see the two men lying to friends and family and withdrawn is he that those terms wouldn’t feel complete when applied to him. At first, we’re not even sure he’s aware of what Jenkins’ James has on his mind. Soon, though, we see him lying to his friends and family about what is going on and see that Gregory is not nearly as naïve as we thought.

Gregory moves from outright rejecting James’ advances. After all the film is set in a place where homosexuality is still stigmatized. Set in the rural mountain village of Paramin, the film follows the relationship between student Gregory and businessman James Young. We learn that James has stayed in his marriage because of his daughter yet he flirts with Gregory and goes to see the play that he is every day. Eventually the two go to James’ beach out for a weekend away.

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The glamorously wealthy James has dutifully carried on the lucrative family business and remains in a loveless marriage for the sake of his daughter — or that’s the story he tells himself. He makes a pointedly flirtatious backstage visit to Gregory after the latter’s appearance in a play, and from there his interest in the young man quickly escalates, until they spend an eventful weekend alone together in his beach house. James encourages Gregory to face the truth of his identity and ignores Gregory’s request for distance and intrusively pushes himself into Gregory’s family life.

It is clear that  his conflicted feelings are not merely about repressed sexual desires. They also reflect his uncertainty about his the mores of his small-town mores and family expectations. James, however, has the financial means to give Gregory all that he desires and this is very tempting for a boy from a poor family. When he accepts a camera from James and gets busy snapping pictures, things began to change between the two but then the tension between the two main characters reaches a fever pitch during a Carnival dance that turns participants into ferocious blue devils and this is where you will have to see the movie to find out what happens.

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