I met Janluk Stanislas at a recent Caribbeing event and found out about his 2005 Caribbean futuristic short film, Trafik d’Info. As someone of Afro-Caribbean descent, I am always looking for speculative works from the Caribbean and so this excited me. Trafik d’Info, known as the first science fiction film from the Caribbean, centers on a 20th century organization of rebels who are illegally trading information despite censorship from authorities. One of the agents of the organization, Jouwa, hunted the militia, is attempting to save important information so that people in his generation and future generations can receive it. Later in the film we see the effects of the efforts of this organization in the future. Below is my interview with Stanislas about the film:
1) Tell us a little about your background and how it influenced you to be a filmmaker.
I’m French Caribbean, born on the island of Guadeloupe. I’m part of that generation that grew up with the values that our parents and grandparents instilled, but also grew up with the beginning of advanced technology. My parents had a TV when I was one, and I remember going to the movies with my father later on every weekend. My mother influenced both my brother and I to play the piano and always found a way to document the family. I guess that the essence of my art form today was always surrounding me since my young age.
2) Originally you studied physics, do you still have an interest and did it have any influence on you as a filmmaker?
It’s always interesting to see and follow the impact of science in my life, especially in Cinema, which is an art form but also a very technical medium. The evolution of technology has influenced cinema throughout this century, so of course my physics background influenced me as a filmmaker as well.
3) What influenced you to make “Trafik d’Info” and the meaning of its story and name? What was the process of making it like?
In 1802, Guadeloupeans fought for their freedom and many died fighting against the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. This was a critical period in the history of my country. “Trafik d’info” is creole for “Trade of Information” and takes its roots from this unknown part of the little history of Guadeloupe. The short is a manifest, honoring those men and women who gave their lives for posterity. For the sake of life transmission and the legacy of our ancestors, “Trafik d’Info” invites viewers into a reflexion about power and media information control in people’s life today. The idea was to project ourselves into a future in the caribbean, debating around this critical period in the history of my country.
4) Your film follows rebels who are trying to spread information and truth that is not release by the larger information and media systems like the news. They risk their lives for a better tomorrow. Given the history of maroons in the Caribbean and their fight for access to freedom, like the story of Solitude from Guadeloupe, did that history and other revolutionary acts influence the film?
This is the heart of the movie. Time has passed but humanity is still fighting for freedom, of expression, of thought, of action, for a better world in peace, respect, justice and system balance. Solitude’ story, for instance, just like the other generals Delgrès and Ignace was one where they would rather die than live under slavery. Revolutionary acts are multiple in the Caribbean. Trafik d’Info is just one of many films that shows respect for life achievers whose blood is flooding in our genes.
5) Your film is experimental with a kind of futuristic/science fiction feel to it. Do you think it is important to explore more science and fantasy films in the Caribbean and why? What cultural perspectives can the Caribbean bring to that film genre?
The Caribbean has its own spirituality, mysticism, fairy tales that is built into its specific culture and way of thinking. For the construction of our dreams, we shouldn’t neglect cinema as a major medium in people lives today. The science fiction genre is not prominent in our movies yet, but our literature already is invested in the field of Magical Realism. Being a crossroad of the world, our countries in the Caribbean are carrying fresh evolving movements of thoughts. With the cultures we have, we should invite the world to share our life experience in our stories.
Back in 2005, I secretly was planning to develop “Trafik d’Info” as a series of shorts. My country couldn’t really follow the concept at that time, I’m beginning to have props from them only now, 10 years later. So the idea is still in the air and needs to be broader than only Guadeloupe.
7) What are you currently working on and what type of films interest you as a filmmaker?
I’m working on a documentary now, based on the life of a musician. I’m interested in all types of films in general, they could be science fiction, autobiographical, historical, thrillers, political, comedy or romances of life.
8) Since my blog is called Futuristically Ancient, in what ways are you and your film futuristic and ancient, especially with the line of “looking forward” and the ending of the film?
There is an expression that one of my mentors used to cite and that defines “Trafik d’Info:” “Nonm jòdi sé yè a nonm dèmen,” which means “Today’s man is yesterday’s one of tomorrow’s.” So being raised with this thought and other ones, we should always keep in mind that we today are the legacy of yesterday, and our future moves should be printed with that. We must not forget neither that we are combinations of Past, Present and Future. “Trafik d’Info” as you said so, incites viewers to always look forward but the end is a return to the essence of life, the love and respect of mother nature. We have from my perspective that combination inside of us.
Stanislas also has interviews in Caribbeing, Afrikadaa‘s Afrofuturism issue (in French) and Caribbean Beat Magazine. He has directed other films, like Nou Yorkers and several music videos, which you can view here. Below is the trailer for “Trafik d’Info.”