Trinidadian filmmaker Damian Marcano directs his first feature with “Chee$e,” a project that almost seems tailor-made for the film festival circuit. It’s not very commercial or even predictable, but the film is so different that it’s easily distinguishable from similarly-themed movies.
Skimma (Akil Williams) lives in a remote Caribbean village and dreams about leaving home, someday. Longing to explore the world, his plans are halted when Rebecca (Yidah Leonard) drops the news: she’s pregnant. Torn between being a responsible father and giving into his wanderlust, Skimma decides to stay behind and make a new career for himself: the local marijuana supplier. As the word gets out that Skimma’s product is potent and of the highest quality, he starts to garner some unwanted attention.
While the film has been billed as a “stoner comedy,” it’s really not. There isn’t a ton of humor, but the snappy banter and some situations (Skimma is a skilled cheesemaker, so he takes to hiding his illicit product in bricks of it) are admittedly goofy and fun. There’s also a darkness to the film, especially when it’s played as a more serious crime drama. Somehow, this clash in tone works.
The film gives a real sense of what it’s like to live on the island, featuring cultural elements like authentic dialect (the film has English subtitles which are helpful) and supernatural visions rooted in black magic. It also has a handsome look and feel, with cinematography that perfectly complements the story. Williams gives a charismatic performance too, working in tandem with an equally talented supporting cast.
It’s noteworthy that not only did Marcano direct, he also served as the project’s cinematographer, screenwriter, and composer. It goes without saying that his personal touch is felt on every single frame, and “Chee$e” is the work of a confident, competent filmmaker.