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Thursday 18 Jul 2024

Pitching Justinio and Jolanda
David Simmonds

Left to right, Jolanda, Justinio and Geraldo.

Memo to Steven Spielberg from David Simmonds

Justinio and Jolanda, the movie, is better than a Shakespearean tragedy; it is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. You could make it into a movie bigger than Citizen Kane, thus making yourself a bigger star, artistically, than was Orson Welles. Here is the plot summary.

Justinio is the first-born son of Pietro and Margherita. Pietro, now deceased, was a wealthy man who in mid-life entered politics and became ruler of the land of Canadensia. His operating slogan, derived from a strict Jesuitical education, was “reason over passion,” although he was sometimes inclined to play the game of politics at a less than cerebral level. Margherita was the opposite: life was about following your feelings, and love and passion trumped reason. The marriage, initially a fairy tale, was not a happy one.

Nevertheless, Justinio enjoys an interesting childhood. He travels widely, with his father, meeting heads of state from around the world. He met the feared, cigar chomping revolutionary Fidelio Castrato.

As a young man, Justinio returned to national limelight, in his own right, when he delivers a stirring eulogy at the funeral of his father. Earlier, he comforted his parents at the funeral of his youngest brother, killed in a skiing accident. Justinio was born to comfort others.

After several false starts in adult life, including stints as a high school drama teacher and alehouse bouncer, Justinio resolves to follow the example of his father and enter politics. Because of his good looks, pedigree and intention to do politics differently, he wins the leadership of his father’s old party. With little experience on the job, apart from winning a boxing match, he then takes on the wily leader of the ruling party and bests him in the general election, thus becoming prime minister. “Canadensia is back,” he assures the world.

Justinio owes much of his success to his right hand man and lifelong best friend, Geraldo, whom he appoints as his chief of his staff. In fact, some say Geraldo is the puppeteer. Justinio is merely puppet.

At the outset of his term, Justinio makes extravagant statements about the importance of reconciliation with indigenous peoples and operating a feminist administration. He recruits Jolanda, an accomplished indigenous female, whom he puts in charge of administering justice. He also recruits Gianna, a physician, whom he puts in charge of heath care. Jolanda and Gianna work together on several matters and form a tight friendship.

One day, a business, with its base in the home town of Justinio finds itself in legal trouble. Allegedly, the company offers bribes to secure foreign contracts and ends up in court, facing criminal charges. The government department run by Jolanda prosecutes this business.

The company, so charged, convinces Justinio that its conviction will ruin its chances of obtaining future work in Canadensia; many people will lose their jobs as a result. The company wants to make use of a permitted form of agreement to make reparations that will not result in a criminal conviction. Justinio makes known his view that following such a course would be a good idea.

The decision to make such a deal lay outside the authority of Justinio. A constitutional convention states that prosecutors must be independent decision makers, free from interference. Jolanda has the power to stop the prosecution and order officials to into such an agreement, if she puts the reasons for her decision on the public record; she makes a considered decision not to do so.

Justinio is not inclined to take no for an answer. He dispatches Geraldo and Michele, the head of government staff, to try to get Jolanda to change her mind, but she stands her ground. At one point, Jolanda warns Michele his intervention is crossing a constitutional line.

Justinio subsequently reorganizes his lieutenants and moves Jolanda to a position of lesser responsibility. Jolanda accepts the post with some reluctance, penning an unusual teaser note defending her record. The note triggers a major newspaper story, stating Jolanda views her demotion as punishment for not bending to the wishes of Justinio, with respect to the company and the agreement.

Justinio calls the allegation false and says that Jolanda must have found his conduct appropriate because she has accepted the demotion. This prompts Jolanda to resign her new position the next day. Geraldo, sensing he is accountable for the fiasco and wanting to preserve his friendship with Justinio, resigns his position as well.

Jolanda, Geraldo and Michele must appear before a legislative committee to testify about the brouhaha. Michele annoys some members of the committee with her testimony; he then retires, realizing he no longer has the confidence of all members.

Gianna, not satisfied that Justinio has been entirely forthright with the public, then resigns her position in solidarity with Jolanda. She says to a journalist that there is still more to know of the affair. This arouses the journalist; they are as piranha when an animal stumbles into their water.

Jolanda next reveals she has kept a recording of her telephone conversation with Michele, made without his knowledge. Public opinion divides on the appropriateness of the move. Justinio uses the moment to banish Jolanda and Gianna from his entourage.

The events end the careers of Geraldo, Michele, Jolanda and Gianna. Justinio stands alone, smelling a single rose stem as he contemplated his fate at the hands of a disillusioned electorate. A portrait of his father similarly smelling a single rose looks down on him.

Memo from Steven Spielberg to David Simmonds

Sorry, this is too over the top to make into a movie. Try pitching it as an opera instead.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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