Musical producer

Meet the producer behind the documentary Ian Alleyne

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Ian Harnarine, director of Party Done, a documentary about TV show host Ian Alleyne. – Photo by Elizabeth Harnarine

You’ve seen him jump from channel to channel with his TV show Crime Watch. You’ve seen him take advice from the public and help solve crimes. You saw him weep and rage. But who is Ian Alleyne?

That’s one of the things you can find out with the theatrical premiere of filmmaker Ian Harnarine’s 47-minute Alleyne documentary, Party Done.

“The story focuses on how he does the controversial show Crime Watch. It’s also a portrait of him. Hopefully we understand why he does the things he does and hopefully we see it in a different light.

Born in Toronto, Harnarine is the child of two Trinidadian parents who still have strong ties to her family at TT.

He explained that in May 2008 his grandfather was murdered in Tabaquite. He and his family came to TT for the funeral and felt the police didn’t care and the community was unwilling to help the police.

“To this day, the crime is still unsolved, so my family never got justice. It really made me think about what was happening in Trinidad when it comes to crime. I continued to follow what was happening.

Harnarine started hearing about Alleyne and her TV show around 2010.

“He was doing things that a lot of people wished they could do themselves or they were glad someone was doing it. He names names, calls people, tries to make a difference. That’s what I first found it really interesting.

He started watching Crime Watch clips on YouTube and Facebook in 2014, and then Alleyne started streaming live. He said it connected the Diaspora to what was happening at TT and he watched it every day of the week.

He described the show as multi-faceted and said there was no doubt Alleyne’s desire to make things better in TT.

“For better or for worse, a large part of the country still really trusts him, unlike the authorities. He gives his phone numbers on air and you can call and he will answer. I think it’s really interesting. He gives his speech.

Ian Alleyne on the set of Crime Watch. –

He said people loved or hated Alleyne, which piqued his interest as a filmmaker, so he started planning the film in 2015 but couldn’t get in touch with Alleyne.

Finally, in 2019, he booked a flight for TT, went straight to the Crime Watch studio, and spoke to Alleyne about the documentary after the show. Alleyne agreed to do so, so Harnarine’s cinematographer flew out to TT the next day and they began filming for several months until January 2020.

Although Party Done had its world premiere at the 2021 Third Horizon Film Festival in Miami and screened at the TT Film Festival, Harnarine is very excited about the film’s first theatrical release.

“Film festivals are wonderful because it gets a lot of excitement, but at the end of the day, you only show it for a few days at a certain time or people will miss it.

“While it’s an opportunity to make it much more accessible to a wider audience and get more people to actually see it. It really is a dream come true for the project.

He hopes people will set aside their preconceptions about Alleyne, look at him differently, and take him and Crime Watch more seriously.

“I think he would admit he’s a showman. He is determined. One thing I took away from him is how aware he is of what he’s doing all the time. In the show, he is the one who takes care of everything. He makes every choice.

“To be honest, I’ve never seen a program like this. It’s incredible. He is so aware of the camera and the power he has. As such, I don’t think people give him credit for his intelligence and understanding of what he’s doing.

As a young man, Harnarine first dabbled in science. He holds a BS in Physics and Astronomy from York University and an MS in Physics specializing in High Energy Nuclear Physics from the University of Illinois which he graduated in 2005.

Ian Alleyne in a scene from Party Done. Photo courtesy of TT Flimco. –

“While I was there, I really started to wonder why there weren’t stories of people who looked like me and my family or showed our culture, and why I didn’t had never grown up with stories like that. It got to a point of frustration where I said I’m going to try telling stories now.

He applied to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to study film production and graduated with an MFA in 2011.

“The change seems big, but it felt very organic at the time. Also, I had no responsibilities so I decided to take a chance. The research I was doing was really fascinating, but the day-to-day consisted of sitting at a computer for 12 hours a day analyzing data, running models and simulations. I couldn’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life.

One of his professors at NYU was the famous American director Spike Lee. Harnarine said Lee taught him that he had to work really hard and how to focus on the story and the character in a movie.

Lee was also very supportive of her work and produced her thesis film, Doubles with Slight Pepper, which was filmed in Trinidad.

Doubles With Slight Pepper had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and won Best Short Film. It also won Best Live Action Short Film at the 2012 Genie Awards (The Canadian Academy Awards), was featured in the NY Times, and was licensed in Japan.

Additionally, Harnarine co-wrote a movie script with Spike Lee called Time Traveler which has yet to be made into a movie, and he does a lot of work for Sesame Street. There he made what amounted to an autism music video that was nominated for an Emmy Award.

“One of the great things about working with Sesame Street is that they really care about diversity, and supporting and showing other people on screen.”

In 2018 he made another short film about a Trinidadian woman in New York called Caroni which also premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. And he recently wrapped production on the feature version of Doubles With Slight Pepper which was filmed in Toronto.

Harnarine told Sunday Newsday he grew up in many Trinidadian families in Toronto, which also has a huge West Indian population. He visited his family every weekend, ate chicken pelau, roti and other Trini dishes, and heard stories about the TT, so he grew up with Trinidadian culture.

“The reason I’m drawn to these films is that they are the stories of my family. Every film I made was a story that was told to me or something that I experienced myself.

He stressed that it was important for the wider community to support the film so that other filmmakers could have similar opportunities in the future.

“There’s just really great, high quality work being done in TT by local filmmakers telling local stories. I think everyone agrees that we need more.

Party Done will screen along with The Forgotten Boys, a documentary that follows Debbie Jacob, an English teacher and journalist who transforms the lives of three inmates, at MovieTowne, Port of Spain and San Fernando from March 17-30.