“Echos From the Plantation” sending echoes through Townsend Harris

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Various events at Townsend Harris expose the student body to new cultures and ideas. Annual cultural exhibitions like the Festival of Nations are native to our school, but last month, students were introduced to a new cultural display.

On January 18, an intimate screening of the Guyanese documentary-drama film “Echos From the Plantation” was held from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM in the auditorium, and was open to the public. The word “echos” in the title is intentionally misspelled to represent a single resonating echo instead of a group of many “echoes.” The film commemorates 180 years of Indians in Guyana, narrating a rich history taught from generation to generation until it reaches a young Indian Guyanese girl.  

The film has been praised in the academic world since its world premiere in April 2018, and it received an invitation to the Charlotte Asian Film Festival at the University of North Carolina. Townsend Harris secured a viewing through the collaboration of senior Shivani Persaud and music teacher Dr. Mariko Sato.

In the summer before Shivani’s junior year, director Kishore Seunarine asked her to play sitar for the original movie soundtrack. After several months working as part of the production, Shivani always knew she wanted to share Echos with Townsend Harris. “The Caribbean is a region not often studied in official curriculums, and given that we have a significant Caribbean and South Asian population, I felt that it was somewhat necessary to give a piece of ourselves to the community in this way,” Shivani said.

However, it wasn’t until a chance conversation with Dr. Sato that a movie screening at THHS became a real possibility. The two were discussing immigration and history from the film when “[Dr. Sato] almost immediately asked about screening it at Townsend,” Shivani recalled. After a period of planning, Seunarine was all set to make his visit.

The screening was followed by a Q&A session between production team members and inquisitive students. In addition to Seunarine, lead actress Satwika Reddy and featured singer Anjali Paray sat on the panel, supported by Dr. Dharmendra Ramdehal, a prominent member of the Guyanese community.

Senior Sarah Deonarain described the Q&A as “fantastic and insightful.” She added, “I learned a lot about my culture and how to approach it. I gained a sense of pride and learned how to deal with issues of racism, self-loathing, and superiority in my culture.”

“I was impressed with the level of attention that the audience was paying,” Seunarine noted. “Everyone was attentive, and no one was on their phones – which you would expect with a youth-oriented event. The true appreciation of the event from the audience came with their participation in the Q&A panel and the conversations during breaks.”

Attendees left the film with their own emotional echoes and personal insights, regardless of their ethnic background. Senior Max Kurant said, “[Echos] brought tears to my eyes at multiple parts when I watched it. It was able to invoke such heavy emotion in me.”

Junior Dropati Sanichar found that the film “brought back nostalgia and cultural familiarity from my visits, but watching [Guyana’s] history brought me almost to tears and I personally felt the sorrows of my ancestors that impacted me deeply, seeing what we went through.”

Max summed up the sentiment: “More than anything, this movie felt very genuine, the event was very well put together, and it’s an experience that I know I won’t forget.”

The event was made possible through a collaboration between The Phoenix, Caribbean Club, Anime Club, Asian Culture Society, THHS National Japan Bowl Team, Chorus, and AP Music Theory class.