RDIFund Project: Leveraging Built and Cultural Heritage for Economic Development – Film Screening “City on the Hill” Report

RDIFund Leveraging Built and Cultural Heritage for Economic Development – Film Screening “City on the Hill”

Written by Sarika Mahabir (Project Manager)

On Saturday 21st March, 2015, the screening of the RDIFund film took place at the East Port of Spain Regional Complex (Desperadoes Panyard), Laventille at 10am. The film was directed by Professor Patricia Mohammed and Mr. Michael Mooleedhar, who were assisted by Dr. Sharda Patasar, the Lead Cultural Heritage Researcher on the project.

A total of 30 persons attended the screening. Mr. Trevor Mc Meo commenced the proceedings with an introduction of the longstanding relationship between East Port of Spain Council of Community Organizations (EPCCO) and the Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management including issues within the community. Dr. Perry Polar delivered a presentation on the “RDIFund project” (See Fig 1). The presentation entailed a brief re-introduction about the project and its objectives, the key deliverables achieved thus far and its way forward.   Highlighted also, was the integral role the community played in project initiatives such as the Participatory Three Dimensional Model P3DM (time-lapse video and stakeholder engagement) and the Interactive Map illustrating the built and cultural heritage assets in East Port of Spain. Mention was also made of the Research Assistant for the Historical Framework, Mr. Dexnell Peters as he was a resident of the area.

Film Screening Report Pics 01Figure 1: RDIFund Project presentation

Film Screening Report Pics 02Figure 2: Dr. Perry Polar delivering a presentation on the RDIFund Project

Following this presentation, Professor Mohammed provided a brief introduction to the film “City on the Hill”. The documentary film captured the built and cultural heritage of East Port Of Spain and explored how the contributions made by this urban settlement can be harnessed for economic growth. Through archival research, interviews with residents, and historical markings on the landscape, the film captured the proud identity of the people of the districts on the eastern fringe of the city of Port of Spain that persons often refer to as Laventille, although it encompasses other communities. Using an imaginative approach – the film connects themes and ideas with extracts from the poetry and prose of Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace and Wayne Brown read by Wendell Manwarren of 3 Canal. It referenced the work of the above writers to unite past and present history, thus adding a literary interpretation to the rich built and cultural heritage which we discovered through testimonies of creativity and survival of its citizens young and old.

Film Screening Report Pics 03Figure 3: Professor Patricia Mohammed introducing the film “City on the Hill” to the audience

Film Screening Report Pics 04Figure 4: East Port of Spain community member absorbing the cultural elements of their community as illustrated by “City on the Hill”

The documentary also worked against the grain of what has been conventionally presented about the Laventille area, reversing the images of violence, indolence, poverty and alienation that have been etched into its hillsides and valleys. Through the stories of those who continue to persevere in their chosen creative fields, and by exposing the iconic and historic landmarks, the film presented both the people of Laventille and the nation with a reason to be proud of a place that is crucial in the formation of modern urban Trinidad. The camera moved between religious archetype and human archetype, among church, temple, statues and flags, to the elders’ stories, and to the homegrown aesthetic found in the shop fronts, walls, houses, broken down shacks, and cemeteries. It is proposed that this reordering of the tangible and intangible provides an alternative vision for continued development of this area. The P3DM previously mentioned also supported the community’s vision on how it might harness its own resources and bring economic relief to those who are unemployed or under-employed, providing possibilities for a pathway out of crime and indigence which has for too long stigmatized the area.

Community Feedback

The screening of the film “City on the Hill” was well received and considered a major success for the RDI Fund project. After the screening a brief discussion was held, to ascertain the community’s views and opinions about the film and any other matters regarding the project. The audience was thrilled and expressed their gratitude towards the RDIFund project team. Community members acknowledged that the film was able to engender a sense of pride within them. Additionally, community members also articulated that the film was able to resurrect an awareness of the rich built and cultural heritage within East Port of Spain as they discussed ideas with a passion for community and an enthusiasm to ignite positive change.

However, the issue of land ownership within the community was emphasized as a main challenge for the area. A participant declared that the issue of tenanted land should be addressed and that the people that labored the land should be the ones to control it.

Another community representative, more specifically, from the Beetham Community also expressed disappointment that the Beetham community was not showcased in the film. Though the remark was taken into consideration, Dr. Polar informed him that the project focused on three carefully selected main communities: Belmont, Piccadilly and Top of the hill – Laventille, as this was recommended due to limited resources.

Brochures containing a synopsis of the film and web links were made available to the audience, ensuring their accessibility to the updated information about the project and the data collected.

Film Screening Report Pics 05Figure 5: Some of the RDIFund Project and community representatives of East Port of Spain

Way Forward

From this point onward, final edits will be made by the production team and the film will be submitted to the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company to be entered in the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival once finalized. Following this, strategies for dissemination will be devised and executed in conjunction with EPCCO.

For more information on the RDIFund Project “Leveraging Built and Cultural Heritage for Economic Development”, these websites can be visited:


CAP Webinar Series 2015 #2: Sustainable Energy Utilization and the Urban Habitat


DATE:    Thursday, 9th April, 2015

TIME:    16:00 UTC/GMT [Barbados/EC 12:00pm, Belize 10:00am, Jamaica 11am, Kenya 7:00pm, London 4:00pm, South Africa 6:00pm, Toronto 11:00am, Trinidad 12:00pm, Vancouver 8:00am]



PRESENTER: Dr. Asad Mohammed, Project Director for the EU funded project entitled “Mainstreaming Energy Efficiency and Climate Change in Built Environment Training in the Caribbean (CarEnTrain)”/Director of CNULM

DETAILS:   The Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) in association with Caribbean Planners Association (CPA) and The Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management (CNULM) is hosting the Commonwealth Association of Planners Webinar Series 2015. The Webinar series aims to inform planners and urban professionals on current issues which impact on sustainable development.

We also request your support in promoting these webinars to your colleagues so that they too have the opportunity to share in these professional developments.


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