It is hardly surprising that the graceful film Live Cargo reminds us of on-screen poetry. While shooting his first feature-film, director Logan Sandler spent his evenings before going to sleep reading the collection of poems from Soleil Cou Coupé, by Aime Césaire.
Shot in black and white, Sandler’s new film vaguely reminded us of the sensual film Soy Cuba by Michail Kalatozov. However, Live Cargo has its own unique voice. The film tells the story of Nadine and Lewis who, in a state of mourning, retreat to the small island in the Bahamas where Nadine spent most of her childhood. Through incredible cinematography and an emotional storyline, Live Cargo offers an insight into life in the Bahamas like we have never seen before.
Similar to his protagonist Nadine, Sandler spent most summers and winters of his teenage years in the Bahamas. His memories formed a solid foundation for his extraordinary first feature film.
[RMA] Watching your film, I wondered how important other art forms are to you.
[Logan] I came to film as a realization that my love for other art forms could be put together in a sense with cinema. I love photography and I love poetry. From Rimbaud to the lyrics of Jim Morrison.
[RMA] You could almost say that Live Cargo is a film with two different storylines. One is the story of Nadine and Lewis. Their story is emotional but also sensual and moody. Is there any particular poem you referred to?
[Logan] While I was on set I would always return to poetry. Before I went to sleep, I would read a collection of poems called Soleil Cou Coupé by Aimé Césaire. The title of the collection translates to Solar Throat Slashed. Césaire is a brilliant author, who was born on the island of Martinique. His work often touches upon colonialism in The Caribbean. He’s very original and surreal. I don’t know if there is a direct reference but in an abstract sense this collection was alive within me.
When I wrote the script with the film’s co-writer,Thymaya Payne, we had one book in the writing room that we would refer to. That was The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Interestingly enough, we went to the island Bimini for location scouting. It was there that we learned he had lived there for a few years. His time on the island inspired many of his most famous pieces. Immediately after leaving the island we reached out to Dree Hemingway, his granddaughter, for the roll of Nadine. It felt meant to be. Coincidence? Maybe not, but there was some type of greater force at play. It kind of came to us.
[RMA] How did the script develop?
[Logan] Thymaya Payne was my mentor at the American Film Institute. We were talking one day and I started telling him about this idea for a movie, set in the Caribbean, specifically the Bahamas, where my family has a house. He was very intrigued. About three months later, we went down there to write. We already wrote an outline in L.A., which we threw away as soon as we set foot on the island. It didn’t feel authentic to the place. It’s difficult to write something for The Caribbean when you are not there. We wanted to listen to the island and to its people. I think we made the first draft of the script in nine days. It came out rather quickly.
[RMA] In another story we get to know some of the local inhabitants of the island: island authority Roy, young Myron and corrupt Doughboy. They have delicate power-relationships. Would you consider The Bahamas like a miniature world, or do the islands have their own unwritten rules?
[Logan] There is a line in the film by the police officer when he is speaking to Roy, that comes to mind. He compares the out-islands to the Wild Wild West. I’ve heard that comparison from many locals during my time spent in the Bahamas. It definitely has a lawless atmosphere. The Bahamas are also often referred to as the cowboy islands. There isn’t much police on the smaller islands. And with that, some of those islands also have a history of trafficking.
Being in the Bahamas for so long, you begin to see different sides. On one side, it is a place for reflection. For the visitors and for the locals too. There are not many distractions and we are not constantly on our cellphones and on Wi-Fi. But the island is more than that. What intrigued me about the Bahamas, is that these islands have a reputation to many that there is only happiness and vacation time, which is not true. Like any place, there is more to the islands than meets the eye. Although, we do end the film with a sense of hope. I guess, in order to find the light we have to go through darkness.
[RMA] Like a hurricane?
[Logan] The storm was needed for the film. If you want to tell the story of the tropics, you must include the volatile weather. I love storms. It’s works great as a physical force, but also as a metaphor with many different meanings.
Interview: charlotte van zanten