Film run-time: 15 minutes | Starring Errol Sitahal, Sanjiv Boodhu, Susan Hannays-Abraham
Written and Directed by Ian Harnarine, Exec. Produced by Sohail Bastani and Spike Lee, Cinematography by Spencer Kiernan
“Doubles with Slight Pepper“, a 2011 short film by Ian Harnarine, is a story about reconciliation, the resurgence of filial affection, and the enduing of patriarchal wisdom. Dhani is a self-described “coolie” who makes a meager living selling Doubles, a popular Trinidadian street food. When his long-absent father shows up unannounced just before Christmas, he is forced to confront their past and the reason for his arrival.
Characteristic of redemptive tales and estranged family relations, Dhani is skeptical when his father, Ragbir, offers to sign over the house in which he and his mother live, a property that he had built himself. Likewise, Ragbir is not without motive in his action to reconnect with his family, after a lone emigration to Toronto, Canada; he suffers from a rare blood disorder, and desperately needs a donor, which he sees in his son.
Despite the ostensibly forthright reason for his reappearance in his forsaken family’s life, Ragbir teeters between two sides of a dualistic objective: the need for familial support in the wake of deterioration, and the want for familial love in the course of dying. While materially dependent on Dhani for his blood and his ex-wife for her food, Ragbir also wishes to spiritually demonstrate his reform, by imparting knowledge to his son in a revision of recipe, and by a concession of remorse for his abandonment of family.
In a twist of poetic justice, when Dhani finally softens to his father and accepts the role of donor, he is informed that he is incompatible and must look for another person who can donate. Although left as an open-ended question, judging from Dhani’s reaction to this news, there is a high likelihood that Ragbir will not find a suitable candidate in time. By this turn of plot, the film takes on a counsel of time—there is preciously little of it, and what remains may be best used to untether moments from our stream of consciousness, to seal as memories for posterity.