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The Lions of the Sea


Script written by Jessi Thind | Review by Antonio Rozich 

[dropcap]You[/dropcap] know a script for a feature film is good if it reads like a novel. This sentence is a short technical review of the script for the film ‘Lions of the Sea’ by Jessi Thind. At every point of the script where the story takes place, the characters are easily remembered, and dialogs are effectively delivered. What’s even more important, there is no ‘extra fat’ to the script. Each scene serves the purpose of moving the story forward and as the script has more than one sub story, you can safely presume this isn’t an easy task, but Thind pulled it off.

Now, let’s get to the more important stuff, the story itself. ‘Lions of the Sea’ is based on a real-life event that took place in the year 1914. In 1914 the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru sailed from Hong Kong, China to Vancouver, Canada.  What was this particular ship carrying you might wonder? People. People from The British Raj, who were in search for a better life across the sea. As back then both Canada and India were under the rule of the British Empire, all people on the ship were British subjects promised free land to work on in Canada.

Without spoiling anything and by giving you a quick history lesson, Lions of the Sea is about two groups of people. It is about the people who were on the ship and were in search of a better life and about the citizens of Vancouver, Canada who had mixed opinion of Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus found on the ship entering Canada.  You can already presume what’s the initial drive of the story is. Isn’t it intriguing how more than often history gives us stories which we can easily relate to the present?

Indeed, Jessi Thind the script writer surely knows this, which is probably one of the reasons why he decided to turn the Komagata Maru incident into a feature film script. Thind also decided to include a decent number of characters in the script, most of them being real people who, were involved in this incident – from H.H. Stevens, who was a Canadian politician and a heavy opponent of the Asian Immigration to Gurdit Singh who played a vital role as one of the passengers.

It’s wonderful to see how Thind managed to give each character his respective “soul” if I can call it like that. Neither one of the main characters and the side characters feel unnecessary, they are like correctly placed chess pieces just waiting for the game to start. Each pawn does what pawn was meant to do and the queen and the king perfectly fulfill their respective roles. No matter if you watch a film or read a film script, if at no point you feel like you’re pulled out of the story and back into the reality, you know the story is good. Thind managed to do this with the script and it would be more than interesting to see how this would work out as a feature film.

Of course, a short film isn’t the right medium for a great story such as the one of the Komagata Maru incident. The script is 120 pages long which would roughly mean, the film would take around 2 hours – a true historical journey of epic proportions. Now, people might think to themselves how we already have a lot of movies based on real life events, in fact, each year, a couple of new movies are made. Just remember WWII and how many movies we have, so why do we need another one?

Well, the answer is quite simple actually and I can give two reasons. First, most of the history movies that find their way to mainstream are about the West and the hardships the West lived through, Hollywood is simply full of them. This seems like a quite unbalanced situation, don’t you think? As you’re reading this, Dunkirk is running in theaters world wide. Thus, films like Lions of the Sea would be a nice refreshment to this current situation we have. It doesn’t actually matter if the film reaches mainstream or not, although if the decision was made, it most likely would.

Second, the story of the Komagata Maru incident is a fascinating story all by itself and the way Thind portrayed it in the script only brings it to a whole other level. I can say without a doubt that Thind managed to take an already good story with high movie potential and bring it few steps further.

You see, when you take a real time event like this one, you might think you don’t really have any freedom with how to shape or present the story. Well, this is wrong. You actually have quite a lot of freedom. Will you present the story from the point of view of one side or the other? Who will be your protagonist and who will be your antagonist? And finally, will you add something completely new to the already existing story?

The final option is the most dangerous one, but it can also be the most rewarding one. The reason why it is dangerous is that you can easily get lost in historical facts and wrongly present something; which if we are being completely honest, doesn’t play a huge role actually. Let’s just remember a couple of movies that came out in the last 5 years and their historical accuracy. I give you the ability to choose.

The reason why it is the most rewarding option is the writer can directly give the film a completely new message, same as the director can with proper work make a mediocre story into a great one. Thind managed to add that little extra to this story. Instead of being just another mediocre presentation of something that happened, Thind added emotions and opinions that go far beyond just the story of the Komagata Maru. Thind added a message which doesn’t feel like it was put there by force, nor does it feel like a cliché. It’s simply a message worth spreading amongst people.

Now it’s all up to the right people to realize the potential of this story and deliver it in its full visual glory. The rest as we all know will be the history on which the stories are created.


While he isn’t writing for Cult Critic, Antonio Rozich is working as a copywriter for a filmmaking startup called Try Cinema. Besides his usual copywriting, he also helps filmmakers with their screenplays by editing them and finding the ways to improve the initial filmmaker’s idea. When all of that is done, he turns to his true & original love: writing flash fiction, which he posts regularly on his site Syeta Stories.



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