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The Independent Critic

Ruben Reyes, Julian Castillo, Yessica Alvarez, Gloria Garnett
Ali Allie & Ruben Reyes
99 Mins.

 "Garifuna in Peril" a Unique, Involving Film 

Ricardo (Ruben Reyes) is a Garifuna language teacher struggling to preserve his endangered Afro-Amerindian culture by building a language school back in his home village in Honduras, a Central American nation. A business venture with his brother designed to raise money for the school's construction becomes complicated by expansion plans involving a nearby tourist resort potentially moving into indigenous territory. All of this creates historical parallels as Ricardo's son rehearses a stage play about the Garifuna people's last stand against British colonialism over 200 years earlier in their own motherland, the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean.

Thus, we have Garifuna in Peril, a film with both a compelling narrative and the tremendous impact of being informative and enlightening about an aspect of culture I'm guessing is unfamiliar for a good many Americans. As the DVD cover for Garifuna in Peril notes, in 2001 UNESCO proclaimed the language, dance and music of the Garifuna as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Despite this awareness, the survival of the culture is uncertain due to globalization, poverty, AIDS, discriminatory land measures, and lack of educational opportunities.

With a cast made up almost entirely of non-professional actors, Garifuna in Peril is the first feature film with the majority of dialogue in Garifuna language. While there are times when this is just a bit of an obstacle for the film, it's pretty clear from point one that co-directors Ali Allie and Ruben Reyes are aiming for a film far greater than its narrative and in this measure the film most certainly succeeds.

There's a tremendous authenticity within Garifuna in Peril that makes every moment of the film's 99 minutes rather compelling. The film sort of dances on this weird line between feeling almost documentary like and feeling like a more traditional narrative. In reality, it is neither documentary nor strict narrative feature but may actually fall within its own sub-genre of a cultural narrative. The story is compelling, but the film itself is far more compelling.

Garifuna in Peril weaves together its narrative quite nicely as Ricardo works hard to preserve his culture, daughter Helena (Yessica Alvarez) deals with relationship issues, and son Elija (E.J. Mejia) first rejects then publicly embraces his culture. While these story arcs certainly aren't complete, they do serve the film nicely as a way to bring out the culture within the context of the stories unfolding.

Currently making quite the name for itself on the film festival circuit, Garifuna in Peril is a terrific view for those seeking a different kind of cinema that informs, inspires and entertains. Already having played across the U.S. and in multiple countries, Garifuna in Peril brings to light the power of cinema to change the world that we live in.

© Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic