Region’s literary giants putting weight behind Caribbean film industry

FAsolomonBRADES, Montserrat – Several of the region’s top authors are putting their weight behind the Caribbean’s fledgling film industry and this support is being welcomed by filmmaker and festival founder, Frances-Anne Solomon.

Over the weekend, it was announced that celebrated Caribbean poet/historian/cultural critic Kamau Brathwaite will host a selection of films from the Best of CaribbeanTales Film Festival 2010 (CTFF), at New York University from April 26th to May 1, 2010. The four day mini-festival is part of Marassa 10 2010 : A Festival of Caribbean Film, Story and Imagination, that will take place at the Institute of African American Affairs, 41 East 11th St., 7th Floor.

“I am delighted to be able to present the best of the best of our Barbados 2010 line-up at NYU. It is an honor to be hosted by Dr. Kamau Brathwaite who is a Caribbean icon, having contributed so much to deepening our understanding of ourselves and our culture,” said CTFF founder and director, accomplished British/Canadian-Trinidadian filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon.

Frances-Anne Solomon, the director of the multi-award winning film A Winter Tale, several documentaries and the popular Lord Have Mercy comedy series said, being able to bring a mini version of the Best of CaribbeanTales Film Festival to New York is due to the “foresight and vision of Dr. Kamau Brathwaite who is an icon of our culture, and clearly sees the cultural importance of the development of a film industry.”

Solomon says the requests to bring Caribbean films to different parts of the world, has been a constant since the inception of her CaribbeanTales Festival in Toronto, five years ago.

kamua brathwaite“Wherever there are populations of Caribbean people there is a thirst to see Caribbean stories. The explosion of exciting films and festivals like ours has generated great interest.  It makes sense that the festival, which began as a festival of films from the Caribbean and its Diaspora would travel the world effortlessly,” explained the filmmaker.

“The Diaspora is part of our Caribbean Story. I am British and Canadian as well as Trinidadian, and many of my friends share multiple “nationalities”. We come from Africa, India, China, Europe, Lebanon, and there is this constant restlessness, constant movement of Caribbean people, we don’t seem to stay in one place, we are almost nomadic,” she continued.

“In 2008 Barack Obama named June Caribbean Heritage month to recognize the contributions of millions of Caribbean immigrants to the US. So after several decades of “disguising  ourselves” as African Americans, or African Canadians, or as Black British, Caribbean people everywhere are able to stand tall and acknowledge the richness of our heritage that has given us several Nobel prize winners, high achievers, major figures in every field internationally.”

Barbados-born Dr. Brathwaite is currently Professor of Comparative Literature at NYU. Since the 1950’s he has authored many outstanding ground-breaking works, including poetry and non-fiction, and awards recognizing his achievements include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Fulbright Fellowship, and recently, the Griffin Prize for “Born to Slow Horses”. He is best known for originating the concept of Nation Language to describe the indigenous Caribbean languages of peoples descended from slaves. His contributions to a discourse on contemporary Caribbean and Afro-centric culture are without parallel.

George_Lamming____2003Noted Barbadian author George Lamming, who gave the keynote address at the first Best of CaribbeanTales Film Festival and Symposium in February, said “There are times where writers are sometimes genuinely asked ‘What do you do?’ and . . . this is where [Caribbean films] can contribute significantly to the creation of an ambience, an environment of mutual awareness and respect, which will make it impossible to question what do you really do.”

He added that “we have to try and create an environment in which artists are citizens and workers. And their social role should be visible in the process of that work. A social function has truly been fulfilled if such work helps to create an awareness of a society that did not exist before, or to inform and enrich an awareness which was not very deeply found. [Caribbean] films return the society to ideas of experience which remain largely invisible between citizen and citizen in the normal course of [living] together. They return the society to itself by letting us see the society talking to each other, about each other.”

“I am very excited to see giants of our literature – Brathwaite, [Derek] Walcott, Lamming, to name a few – excited and prepared to throw their weight behind our new fledgling film industry, to help us as much as possible, because they see its vast possibilities, and their support  gives our work a weight and legitimacy beyond mere “entertainment”,” Solomon says.

The filmmaker is also happy for the exposure that will come to the works of many talented filmmakers in the region at the upcoming festival in New York. The stellar collection of films to be screened, include six feature films and several shorts.

On Wednesday April 28 at 6pm, the Opening Film is Stephanie’s Black’s masterful “Africa Unite”. Part concert tribute, part Marley family travelogue, this electrifying film follows the Marleys on their first-time-ever family trip to Ethiopia to commemorate Bob’s 60th birthday. Stephanie Black will be in attendance to participate in a talk-back after the film. This will be followed at 8pm by “Calypso Dreams” (dirs Geoffrey Dunn and Michael Horne). Executive produced by music legend Eddy Grant, with narrative commentary by David Rudder, this authoritative documentary captures riveting performances and original interviews with a host of legendary Calypso performers, including the Mighty Sparrow, Calypso Rose, Lord Superior, Black Stalin, Mighty Bomber, Lord Blakie, Singing Sandra, Mighty Terror, Lord Kitchener, Lord Pretender, and Harry Belafonte.

The entire list of movies for the NYU event can be viewed at http://bestofcaribbeantales.wordpress.com.

Solomon added that there are many on the regional film scene that we should keep an eye on. “I don’t really want to name people as better than others… but it’s an exciting time because you really feel anything can happen. These developments have given a new energy to the work of long time filmmakers like Christopher Laird, Horace Ove, and others who are all busy producing new work. In addition, there are so many younger people especially in Trinidad, who have grasped the opportunity of this industry by the collar and are prepared to really go for it.

“Watch out for Larc Trotman in Barbados, Lisa Wickham, Renee Pollonais, Jimmel Daniel in Trinidad, Mary Wells, Ras Kassa, Storme Saulter in Jamaica, Mitzi and Howard Allen in Antigua, Charles Officer in Canada, Kolton Lee in the UK, to name just a few. I can’t wait to see how it develops.”

Also this month, CaribbeanTales partners with the Festival International du Film Panafricain in Cannes, France to bring a number of Caribbean titles to screens there.

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ENDS

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