By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
IN A twenty-three minute long documentary, Bahamian entertainer Tracy Ann Perpall shines a spotlight on a pressing issue that few people so far have explored in any depth.
Earlier this year, Tracy, also known as ‘TAP’, premiered “Roses Part 2”, a short film that deals with domestic violence. The message was also spread through a public service announcement.
It directed attention to the very prevalent issue of domestic violence by pointing out red flag behaviour of abusers and encouraging discussions about the problem.
Tracy’s new documentary, “Bwapen”, which she put together with the help of Juniper Tree Productions and Schin Nguyen, deals with an issue that is no less important.
Taking a closer look at life in a New Providence shanty town, the film asks pertinent questions, like who are the people who live in these makeshift settlements and what do they represent.
“Bwapen – Village Burning” tells the story of a shanty town fire that took place in Nassau on July 22, 2013 at Joe Farrington Road. The fire left hundreds of people displaced and without a home.
The community is known for its tension between Haitian migrants and Bahamians, and the story of the fire captured the attention of local media and the interest of the general public for a few days, but in the documentary Tracy goes further. She asks about what came after; she tries to find out the real story.
“When I heard about the story I contacted my co-producer Stephen Hanna, and I was interested in finding out more. A lot of the information that was out there wasn’t representing these people on a personal level and it seemed to have gone to a certain point, then you didn’t hear anything about the story anymore or what came out of it,” Tracy told Tribune Arts and Entertainment.
“In the video we started giving people a background of what happened with the fire. We have news video clippings from that night and we talked to persons who lived there, the lawyers of the land owners and a few Bahamians on that street. We also spoke to Ryan Pinder because that area falls under his constituency.”
The name “Bwapen”, she explained, is the Creole name the shanty town residents use to refer to their community. Translated into English, it actually means firewood.
She said the overall goal of the documentary is for Bahamians to have a more objective view about how they view the immigration issue in the Bahamas.
“For me, before I did this documentary, I had never seen a shanty town and I never knew how these people lived. Most Bahamians assume that these are illegal immigrants and these are people who just squat on land, but the situation shows that it is not so black and white, because a lot of persons living there were not only immigrants,” she said
“One of the main persons that we anonymously interviewed was a Bahamian. I wanted to show people that it is important to raise these questions, and we do have a responsibility for some of the issues that we have in terms of immigration.”
Tracy said these people are paying local land owners, so all Bahamians have a part to play in how they are going to move forward in regards to the shanty towns and immigration on the whole.
“I am planning to hopefully air the documentary on television. My main goal is to always get the message out so people can really sit down to think, evaluate and then really move forward. If I can do my little part to just spark a conversation then I would be satisfied. I definitely want to do a ‘where are they now’ follow-up to the video. I would like to go and see if anyone is still living there and if there is progress in terms of investigations,” she said.
Tracy said she is touched by the feedback she has received thus far regarding the documentary.
“It has been surprisingly good and I say that because any time in the Bahamas you talk about immigration and people of different nationalities, people can get very opinionated and have strong views which they are entitled to. However, it was nice to see people look at the documentary with an objective point of view without it getting crazy or insulting anyone. I didn’t expect them to be so moved by it,” she said.
Tracy said one of the first persons that sent her a message after the release of “Bwapen” was a Haitian-Bahamian. She said the person thanked her for being brave enough to speak about the issue.
“They told me that if I ever need help in the future they would help out because it is something that needs to be talked about,” said Tracy.
While she is best known for her comedic videos, Tracy said she is now working on a balance between comedy and serious community issues.
“I always had that kind of activism spirit inside of me. Yes, I love comedy, but I can use that platform and the audience that I have gained over the years to bring attention to very serious social issues. This story was the perfect opportunity to highlight a serious issue in the community,” said Tracy.
“Bwapen – Village Burning” can be viewed on YouTube on the ‘justcallmeTAP’ channel.