A Caribbean Dream
Crop Over Festival, magical plants, fairies, human silliness, Bajan music, not to mention quarrels between both old and new lovers, make up the flavorful ingredients of Shakirah Bourne’s A Caribbean Dream.
This is a humorous and charming, modern-ish retelling of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, filled with twerking, cell phones, and Barbadians. I watched it with my mom, a fellow Caribbean islander, and it was an utter delight for the two of us huge Shakespeare nerds. Bourne manages to weave together Caribbean and Shakespearean folklore, history, and culture while the story evolves into chaos and folly as mystery, magic, and love abound. It was just utterly delightful to watch!
Similar to Shakespeare’s play, the film consists of multiple subplots that revolve around the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, who are returning to Barbados to prepare for their upcoming nuptials. You’ll notice that the couples are interracial in this film, which is presented in a relievingly non-racist way – a feat many films are unable to attain. A Caribbean Dream centres the couples as just couples and tries not to focus on their race as being a contributing factor to any of the hijinx that come their way.
While the wedding planning is going on in the foreground, we also have a love quadrangle in the background: Helena is in love with Demetrius, Demetrius is in love with Helena’s best friend Hermia, Hermia is in love with Lysander and Lysander loves her back, but her father insists that she has to marry Demetrius. It’s a lot. But all this angst grows increasingly more complex thanks to the meddling of the forest fairies!
At night, you find yourself in the unfolding magic and disarray under the moonlight and sweeping hot forests of Barbados. Enter the fairies, who are dancing and celebrating their mischievous ways with wild abandon. Birdman, with rich coloring and feathers, dances with a little boy, but soon a confrontation with Queen Titania and King Oberon leads to a face-off for guardianship of the boy. Personally, I felt Titania had a better claim, because she was friends with the boy’s mother, who recently died, and she made a promise to take care of him. It is interesting to see how much personality and backstory the boy is given compared to his character in Shakespeare's original play. We get a chance to see his deep love for both the fairy community and his would-be parental figures.
With these fairies involved, havoc ensues and you’ll find that the carnival festival is where things really happen. Lysander and Hermia run away together and Helena, in a misguided attempt to win his affection, tells Demetrius where they are. Everyone is running to the dream-like and magical forest where things just seem to happen in raw, conflicting, and hilarious ways. Oberon asks Puck (a dangerous and powerful, albeit blundering, agent of chaos) to use a love potion on Queen Titania to make her fall in love with the first living creature she sees upon waking. Later the same tactic is used, accidentally, on Lysander, who is now in the forest with the rest of the human gang. He falls in love with Helena, resulting in a fight between Hermia and Helena. It’s all just a mess!
Magic is ripe in this story and you’ll notice the fairies have “undercover” roles within human society, including the mischievous Puck as the butler, Oberon as Head of Gardening, and Titania as the Head of Housekeeping.
It is honestly a unique reimagining of the beloved Shakespearean comedy, complete with Shakespearean language to boot.