Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The doctor's daughter - Janine Fung

The pedestal we place on others often disappoints us in the end

At the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, Janine Fung presents her first major film. It has as Ms. Fung explains, taken a decade to finally finish the production. The Doctor's Daughter,(2005) is a film about family, obligation and betrayal. As the producer and directer, she has casts herself as herself and also includes members of her family and friends to portray a story which underlines a secret and a lie.

The history behind the script, Ms. fung confesses is based on personal accounts in her life.
The Doctor's Daughter dwells on the surface of coming out to oneself, the strains of first love, and the flaw to be overzealous in committing to others. Hurt waits around the corner.

Filmed in Toronto and Trinidad, The Doctor's Daughter opens with a downpour in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Nikki and Regan consummate their relationship. At the time, Regan has just been proposed to by her eccentric German speaking fiancé, but he is oblivious to the ongoing flirtation between the two friends. They eventually make love. Five years later, Nikki and Regan are both living together in Toronto and the strain of their relationship reaches a threshold.

Ms. Fung has filmed her father's office as she portrays vignettes of her character as his receptionist. The daily onslaught of the Doctor and his patients' idiosyncratic needs are compounded by her undisclosed affair which she has to contend with.

One Chinese patient makes a slip and says,
I want to see him... you ..I have a pain in my she speaks directly to the doctor, and this adds a raw anecdote to independent films. Unscripted dialogues by untrained actors tend to be amusingly, in all, she may very well suffer with back pains. Her acting is convincing.

The Bake Potato Painting

Regan played by Gillian Frise, is Nikki's love interests,
and she slurs her words in character, you have to pay close attention to her lines to get an essence of what keeps these two women together. Portrayed as a struggling artist, she waffles in her self pity and exploits Nikki's need to sustain the relationship, knowing in the past that Nikki has confessed her love to her. (Like to be heard, but seldomly said) But Regan begins to drift, and Nikki grows suspicious. The film concludes when she betrays the Doctor's daughter and expresses her desire to be normal. The charade is up and Regan decides to be with a man, married and with children.

Ms. Fung brings to attention the isolation which gay people feel especially during family gatherings, her slow pan of her family's dinner party is quite moving. This film deals with the dynamics of a relationship which people endure. In this case it is between two women, about truth, self esteem and the basic desire in all of us to be loved and respected equally.

The Doctor's Daughter is not an upstanding film, but neither is it a weak one. Ms. Fung is able to get her message across. There are a few inconsistencies in the visual scripts, jerky camera shots and close cut editing, but overall it has a genre that feels distinctly Canadian. Where and when Ms. Fung decides to produce another film, her maturity, self confidence and humour may shine.

Trinidad born, Janine Fung is a Canadian and this is her first screening at the second Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. The Doctor's Daughter has been shown in festivals throughout North America and it has received warmly at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in San Francisco, 2007.


Trinidad and Tobago has had a long, sad history with films and film making. In the early 1970's there was great enthusiasm for a film industry. The locally produced Bim starring future senator Ralph Maraj included all original music scored by the late Andre Tanker. it is considered a classic not only in Trinidad and Tobago but by many the world over who know of this precious little movie. The industry floundered and died on the vine. There have been halfhearted and expensive attempts at recessitation, but we have only seen tragic stinkers like 'Man from Africa, Girl from India' and 'Flight of the Phoenix' and a gaggle of poor action flicks that go straight to bootleg DVD for first viewing.

All in all, there are also special glimmers of hope, like Yao Ramisar's Sister God and now, Janine Fung's Doctor's Daughter. Recently I have looked at two Indian films dealing with lesbianism, and it is easy to think that film makers want to make something titilating (no pun intended) and controversial. This is untrue. These films are not only very watchable and thought provoking, but delicately told and beautifully produced, and unfortunately I cannot remember their titles at the moment.

Miss Fung's film may be the first to explore what t is like to be an Asian Trinidadian Lesbian. That is no small thing! The Asian community has not been represented on local film in any real way before. Far less an Asian woman, and even moreso, an Asian Lesbian Woman. The Asian community in Trinidad and Tobago is very private, very insular and very proud. For an Asian artist to explore her sexuality is very daring. But that is not all. This woman has singlehandidly pioneered a genre for Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean as a whole with such a semi reality movie/psychological drama that transcends our slapstick expectations. To have her family and friends join in in her understanding of herself and then filming it is in a word, Art.

For a production that has taken ten years to see the light of day, a topic such as those being addressed in her film, Miss Fung shows us that small communities deserve to have light shone upon them as well. it is relevant to see that there are many struggles that we all face, and that looking upon one group as privileged can in many times hurt both sides, as we neglect realizing that everyone has their trials to contend with, no matter how secure they may seem. The fact that the film still feels current shows us how slowly things change and how long people take to come to terms with emotional issues. I commend Miss Fung for her foresight and insight and look forward to seeing where she shall go from here. - Adele

All Rights Reserved 2007, Wonder of The World, thebookmann

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