Even as Trinidad and Tobago’s Mishael Morgan was triumphantly brandishing her Emmy Award in LA on the night of Saturday June 25, another young talented Trini named Akil Gerard Williams was quietly working a New York stage at this year’s edition of BAMcinemaFest, a vital annual showcase of independent filmmakers.
“The Young and the Restless” star Mishael Morgan made history on Friday night as the first Black lead to win a Daytime Emmy Award.
At the ceremony in Pasadena, California on the US West Coast, the 35-year-old actor said she was “so honoured to be a vessel and experience this moment.” Morgan, who plays Amanda Sinclair on the CBS soap opera, claimed the prize for lead actress in a drama. She was previously nominated for supporting actress.
“Chee$e is a model of what Independent Filmmaking should be”, said Richard Brody in the New Yorker. “Damian Marcano’s second feature is the exuberant adventure of a young man with big plans and big problems”.
The film openly proclaims its crowd-pleasing intentions without concealing the conflicts that lie beneath the surface. Brody notes that Chee$e emerged from a period of the life of Trinidad and Tobago-born Marcano who moved to the United States when he was twelve, and “Chee$e” represents that “in-between state of mind”.
Its subject is an outgoing yet pensive young man who wants to get off the island; this dream is as urgent as it is vague, and it packs an ironic sting. The protagonist and narrator, Skimma (Akil Gerard Williams), is solitary, young, Black, and long orphaned.
“He lives in a remote area called Turtle Village, where he’s the hardworking assistant to a Mr. Ottone, a white Italian tourist who stayed and became the area’s artisanal cheesemaker.
Early on, discussing life in Turtle Village, Skimma describes the local approach to well-off tourists: “We smile and play along, all in exchange for that almighty dollar. We suck onto the big fish in hopes that, when it eats, we eat.”
In the February 4, 2022 edition of
Akil was described as “one of those special individuals who – having come through a game-changing experience since taking up his acting career – is now well poised to welcome and handle success in an industry where “many are called but few are chosen”.
This is what he said on his Facebook page on February 2, on the eve of Chee$e appearing at “South by SouthWest Film Festival” .
After seven years of being quietly committed and investing everything into this production, I can finally announce that the Feature Film “Chee$e” would be making its international debut at the “South by SouthWest Film Festival”.
Words can’t express how grateful I am for such an opportunity.
After thanking “big bro” Damian Marcano and others for their support, the man who portrays the lead character Skimma in the fully original Caribbean work humbly says to all:
Thanks for believing in me.
Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer of Red Mango Reviews, who saw the “pilot”, connects with Chee$e following “a young man named Skimma (Akil Williams) who makes and delivers cheese in his coastal community of Turtle Village, Trinidad.
But his ambitions to see the world are not feasible with his small income, so he cooks up a scheme to start trafficking marijuana in blocks of cheese”.
For Neaves, “What stands out immediately about this show is the high production quality. Chee$e looks very polished and I could easily watch it on major streaming platforms like Netflix (picking it up).
“There are also subtitles for the Trinidadian dialect which adds to the international marketability of the show. The pilot opens with a cold open of a police raid on a beach with a helicopter, slo mo shots and some haunting music”.
This could have easily been the start of a feature film. We then see Skimma running into a room of men with marijuana and telling them they have to hide everything now (with some green verbs added for emphasis).
Lou Lyons also plays an important role in the production.
Producer/Director Damian Marcano who grew up in one of T+T’s “crime hot spots” known as Morvant, after which he named his production company, also received high praise from Neaves.
Richard Brody summed it up well in the New Yorker when he made the following comment about Chee$e:
“American cultural tourists—i.e., moviegoers and the film industry that serves them—are the big fish Marcano is targeting.
“Chee$e” is a virtual travelogue of a movie, cheerfully introducing outsider viewers to life on the island and in the village with a satirically loving look at the island’s personalities and customs, and landscapes and locales, packing a confrontational display of its socio-political crises”
With comments like these, it seems that Chee$e, Damian Marcano and Akil Gerard Williams – like TT Emmy Award winner Mishael Morgan – are certainly set to go places!