ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – It has been 10 years since The Sweetest Mango played for three months straight in Antigua and beat Hollywood movies at the local box office but the movie is still gaining new fans and causing a stir on the film festival circuit.
“We are blessed,” says Mitzi Allen, Producer and General Manager for HAMAfilms Antigua and one half of the husband and wife duo behind The Sweetest Mango. “What’s amazing to us is that this movie is 10 years old and we get asked to screen it all the time.”
The romantic comedy is playing until June 30th as part of the Island Hopping Film Fest organized by the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
Earlier this month the Antigua & Barbuda Association in Atlanta Georgia hosted a screening for the movie which received rave reviews from attendees. “We thoroughly enjoyed The Sweetest Mango and look forward to seeing more of your productions. You represent Antigua/Barbuda well,” said Dean Benta, one of the organizers on the HAMAfilms Antigua Facebook profile.
Directed by Howard Allen, the movie tells the story of how he and his wife Mizi met. “The idea for the movie came about after I read Howard the entry from my diary about when he gave me the grafted mango. It was called “The Sweetest Mango” and Howard said he thought it would make a great story for a film,” remembers Mitzi. “Fast forward two years and we decided to take the EC$50,000 we had saved to build our dream home and make the movie. The project eventually cost $350,000 including the marketing. Looking back we sometimes think we must have been crazy because we did so much of it ourselves. We produced documentaries, commercials and other TV shows to cover the cost of making this movie.”
Antiguan author D. Gisele Isaac wrote the script and the movie was produced with a local cast comprising of Centelia Browne, Denise Francis, Janil Greenaway, Julie Hewlett, Berni Isaac, Jermilla Kirwan, Omar Mathurin, and Mervyn Richard. Jermilla Kirwan played Lovelyanne Davies, a national returning from Canada, just like Mitzi had done shortly before meeting Howard. Omar Mathurin plays her love interest Richard Warren, a graphics designer by day with big dreams of being a recording artist.
Unprecedented for movies made in the region, the movie continues to bring attention to the filmmakers and the island of Antigua. It has since played on regional and international film festivals and aired on the Caribvision cable channel seen around the region and in the US on Direct TV.
“Howard and Mitzi Allen have not stuck to anyone’s script but their own,” says Nerissa Golden, a media strategist and family friend. “They want to tell stories from a Caribbean perspective about Caribbean people and that is what they continue to do. Their style resonates around the world because Caribbean people are everywhere and the people of the world love the Caribbean. It’s a winning formula for movie making.”
Ten years later, the filmmakers have four films under their belt. No Seed (2002) a political drama, and Diablesse (2005), a mystical thriller followed The Sweetest Mango (2000). The Skin, their latest project is presently in post production.
No Seed” (2002) will be showing in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday June 30th as part of Caribbean American Heritage Month. The screening will be at the Atlanta/Fulton public library on Margaret Mitchell Square from 6 p.m.
“Congratulations!! Wonderful! You set a great example for Jamaican and Caribbean film makers,” comments Barbara Blake Hannah, a filmmaker and founder of the Reggae Film Festival in Jamaica on Facebook.
“The film for us is successful because we inspired a generation of young filmmakers and made dreams come true for all those involved and opened the door to numerous possibilities,” says Mitzi. “In the future we want to help others tell their Caribbean stories as well.”
You can learn more about The Sweetest Mango, and their newest project, The Skin at http://theskinahamafilm.wordpress.com.
(1)Original movie posted for The Sweetest Mango
(2) Howard and Mitzi Allen, say they are blessed to be able to leave their dream every day and make movies for and about Caribbean people. The Sweetest Mango is celebrating 10 years and is still a film festival favourite.