Press Releases

Antiguan Film, The Skin makes its UK debut

The Skin-LondonLONDON, UK – The Skin by HAMAFilms will make history this week becoming the first feature film from Antigua & Barbuda to be screened in the United Kingdom, when it premieres on Thursday, December 18, 2014.

Filmed on location in Antigua & Barbuda, The Skin, which stars UK actor Jeff Stewart and the legendary Jamaican actor Carl Bradshaw will premiere at GATE Picture House in Notting Hill, London at 6pm.

Ron Belgrave, Head of Sankofa Televisual, which has the rights to distribute the movie in the UK, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Australasia and Africa said he was “thrilled to have The Skin as part of this newest Caribbean film series in London.

“The story is wonderfully, made and a joy to watch but also brings out an alternative side of the Caribbean, steeped in cultural references, that we rarely explore. And with notable actors like Jeff Stewart and the legendary Carl Bradshaw it will be a treat for UK audiences,” said Belgrave.

The Skin tells the story of a young couple played by Aisha Ralph and Brent Simon, who are about to lose their home when Michael (Simon) discovers an ancient vase and sells it to an antique dealer. There is little time to celebrate when strange things begin to happen and a Jamaican mystic (Bradshaw) tells them the ancient relic is not a blessing but a curse.

“The UK market is one we were always keen on, especially reaching Caribbean audiences,” says Writer/Director Howard Allen. “We took more risks with this fourth project but they have paid off. Bringing in Professor Torianno Berry as the Director of Photography allowed me to focus on directing and telling the story the way I wanted to. We were also able to make good on a longtime dream to work with Carl Bradshaw. Having Jeff Stewart and Peter Williams on our cast helped HAMA to tell An Antiguan story with international flare.”

“The film has been shown in LA, Washington, Toronto, Atlanta, New York, Belize, in Trinidad and other Caribbean islands. However, this is our first screening in the United Kingdom and we couldn’t be more pleased,” declared Mitzi Allen, Executive Producer of the film.

Actor Jeff Stewart will be at the London premiere for the Q&A which follows the screening. Carl Bradshaw and Stewart were guests on Sunday evening on BBC London with radio host Dotun Adebayo to discuss their roles in the film.

“Following on from the Caribbean visibility seminar held exactly a year ago it is great that we have been able to get more interesting stories, from dramas to comedy and from the young to the mature on screen for the world to see. London is also becoming more of a focal point for the global film industry and it is important for all to be able to appreciate not only the quality but also the potential of filmmaking coming out of the Caribbean and the British-Caribbean community,” noted Belgrave.

Learn more about making of The Skin and other projects by HAMAFilms by visiting their website at www.hamafilms.com.

Continued Parental Involvement is Key to Protecting Children online, says Tech Expert

Denzil West - Director of DITES
Denzil West – Director of DITES

BRADES, Montserrat – Online safety of our children should be an extension of the principles and values we use in daily life, says Denzil West, Director of the Government of Montserrat’s Department of Information Technology and eGovernment Services (DITES).

Raising Children in an ICT-Driven World was the topic of Wednesday’s After Work Chat led by West, who is also a member of the National ICT Council, the host of the ICT Week activities, which began on Monday November 10, 2014.

“Safety in the online world is not much different from the “real” world. The digital world is a new way for our children to be exposed to danger,” he told the group gathered at The Lyme. “What is different is the ubiquitous nature where they are connected to multiple devices everywhere you turn.”

Now that homes have gone from one computer in a central space where parents could keep an eye on what children were doing, to laptops, tablets, and smartphones which children can take to their bedrooms, it is important that parents have an agreement on how the devices are to be used, suggested the speaker.

“We still need to be able to tell our children to put down the tablet or phone. We can’t blame the technology when we are the ones who allow them access to it. Parents must be involved in what they are doing,” said the father of three. “Make internet time about family, discovery and interaction.”

The director said what they recognized with the introduction of the secondary school’s laptop programme in 2012 was that the parents didn’t understand the technology and so students were able to take hold of the computer, get administration access and block their parents from using it.

West encouraged the group to force themselves and to push parents and teachers to understand the technology so they could have control of it. “When we asked for parents to pay a portion of the cost of the laptop it was so they had a stake in it and would claim ownership of it.”

He added that with the advent of social media, parents need to know who their children’s online friends are, recognize it is possible to be cyberbullied and what that means, and have clear rules as to how they are to behave online and when they have access. “Just as in the past your parents had to know who the parents of your friends were, it is still necessary in the virtual world.”

West shared several templates of online contracts which parents can use as the basis of agreements with their children to define the rules of their behavior on the internet. “At what age do you give your child free access and no longer need to know their passwords? What are they allowed to post online? Children must be aware that not only shouldn’t they post nude or other compromising photos online but that with geotagging, it is possible for someone to find out exactly where they live and become a real danger to them.”

The expert said the new modems with integrated wifi routers now offer parental controls which can be enabled to filter and block children from accessing certain websites and setting cut off times when their devices will no longer have internet access. “Every device has a unique identifier called a MAC Address and so without taking the device away from your child before bed at night, you can control how long and what they can access on the internet.”

West said it was important that parents have solid relationships with their children offline in order for the same practices to be extended into a digital world.

Dr. Samuel Joseph reflected for children today there is no longer a difference between what is the digital and offline world, and it was critical they recognize that whatever goes on the internet stays on the internet.

Youth Officer Loni Howe agreed, noting that employers on island were now using the internet and Facebook to check whether they wanted to hire a young person and negative online behavior was now playing a major role in whether they were able to get a job.

The audience was admonished to find out where their children went online and to understand the technology so they wouldn’t be bamboozled.

This is the first year that the National ICT Council in partnership with the Ministry of Communications & Works is hosting ICT Week. Activities close out on Friday, November 14 with the school poster competition.

Montserrat is not really open for business if local companies are not online says, entrepreneur

Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.
Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.

BRADES, Montserrat – When the main conduits of information and services are through government websites, it sends the message that we are not really open for business, says entrepreneur and media strategist Nerissa Golden.

Why Local Business Need to Get Online was the topic of Tuesday’s After Work Chat which is part of the ICT Week activities, organized by the National ICT Council and the Ministry of Communication & Works.

Golden asked the audience where online did they search for information before choosing to visit another island, purchase a phone or a pair of shoes. The response was consumer sites such as Trip Advisor, and looking at reviews on a shopping site not related to the primary developer of the product or service.

“You expect the company to tell you that their product is the best,” said an audience member. “I know the tourist board is going to only put positive things about their country and so you would need an independent source to tell you the truth or to share another perspective.”

“Exactly,” agreed Golden. “So when we cannot visit the website of our local supermarket, a lawyer or an accountant what does that say about whether we are serious about doing business in the global marketplace?”

Audience members agree there was a tacit arrangement between business owners that certain prices are the same across the board so many did not see the need to advertise or go online. However, Golden shared that all it would take for that to change is a newcomer in the game who sees a way to connect with customers more consistently and effectively, to push the competition out of the running and leaving them to play catch up and get online.

“You can’t look around you and believe that everything will stay as it is. A supermarket in the North can pull customers from the South with the right marketing strategy and with a regularly updated site which allows someone to place an order for delivery and pay for groceries with their credit card. Sending out an email of your weekly specials may be what you need to build customer loyalty and gain ground in this marketplace.”

The strategist shared several ways companies can get online affordably and also suggested that companies could team up to share the cost of hosting and maintaining a web space. They were also encouraged to keep the sites updated to maintain top rankings in Google searches, utilize social spaces such as Facebook and Instagram depending on their industry.

Golden cautioned business owners from relying solely on social media or free web spaces to promote their businesses as they could lose access to their data since they did not own the website. “It needs to become a budgeted item that you register your domain name and pay for hosting just as you would allocate funds for the rent and other utilities. It is also a long term investment but one that is needed not only for your business but for the island as it raises the volume of what Montserrat is saying globally.”

A business woman shared her concern that although she recognizes the need to be online the costs involved with setting it up and maintaining the space was a challenge.

The Honourable Minister of Communications & Works Paul Lewis who was in attendance requested that the tech savvy attendees begin to offer affordable web services to local companies to help more of them get online.

Golden also suggested that business owners move away from the idea that they must do everything themselves and bring their children who are much more comfortable with the technology into the business. “We have to shift our thinking from being so individualistic and think about the legacy we want to build for our children and their children. With that type of thinking we have to be open to bringing our children in at an early age and sharing the vision with them and getting them involved in building the business. Handling the technology and helping you to get online is one way they can bring immediate value to your business.”

Critical Elements Missing for Montserrat to become an App Development Hub, says Lavabits developer

Dr Samuel Joseph
Dr Samuel Joseph

BRADES, Montserrat – Several critical elements are missing from the equation if Montserrat is to become a mobile application development hub, says Dr. Samuel Joseph of Lavabits.

Dr. Joseph, CEO of Lavabits, a local software development firm was speaking at Monday’s After Work Chat organized by the National ICT Council as part of ICT Week activities.

He noted that the top companies across the globe didn’t exist 10 to 15 years ago and that Montserrat needed to keep pace with the new technologies which have changed how we live and do business. Playing devil’s advocate the developer said Montserrat couldn’t become a mobile app development hub as it was missing the key factors that created Silicon Valley and other software development centers.

“The development hubs at Silicon Valley, Boston and Seattle have this in common. Top universities in close proximity from which the brightest minds have converged and are constantly challenging the status quo. They also have people with a lot of money around them and willing to invest in the process to develop the next Google or Facebook.

“Montserrat would have to import developers and we do not have people who are willing to invest in research. The Government cannot fund it and they also don’t have the ability to pick the right companies to invest in,” explained Joseph.

The developer said another key reason is that Montserratians as in many other Caribbean territories subscribe to a very linear method of thinking. “We reward people who follow the rules. We continue to protect the old industries but they must die for new technologies to take over. Start-up hubs need a liberal environment to flourish. They develop in spaces where strange ideas are allowed to be birthed and then strange solutions are sought. We are not willing to let go of the idea that tourism is the answer although we can see from neighboring countries that they are in financial trouble although they are welcoming millions of tourists every year.”

Joseph noted that Montserrat’s economy was small and without a vibrant private sector, calling it a false economy as it was driven by international donor funding. He added that the OECS Economic Union and the CARICOM Common Market also did not encourage cross-border collaboration and getting products to market would be a challenge because of the various regulations and different central banks which would need to give approval.

“The government would need to give money and forget about it but as they are run in five-year cycles, they would want to see success by the next election. There needs to be the political will for Montserrat to have a chance in this sector. Our education system also needs to be changed, mentors with experience would need to be available to guide the entrepreneurs through each phase,” the developer told the gathering.

However, Joseph believes there is still opportunity for Montserrat and other Caribbean islands to play a part in the software development sector.

“No major technology has come out of the Caribbean which means it is still there to be done. We have to decide we want to make money and not just enough for ourselves but to invest in others. Google, Facebook, Snap Chat and the other tech giants were funded by other technology entrepreneurs who understood the system and were willing to support the next big thing.

“What is needed he said is an institution to gather like-minded and brilliant developers within the same space to collaborate. They would need access to professors, lawyers, marketers, accountants, and funders. Nine out of ten of the ventures will not make it so a different funding system is needed. Banks won’t fund start-ups. You need venture capitalists who will take a share in the company. All you need is one company to succeed which will make up for the nine which fail,” Joseph declared.

He said developers need to look at the problems which need to be solved within the government and private sector. Find a solution and then package it for marketing across the region and globally.

This is the first year that the National ICT Council in partnership with the Ministry of Communications & Works is hosting ICT Week. Activities continue until Friday, November 14.

Antiguan Author Releases Award-Winning Novel, Musical Youth

MUSICAL_YOUTH_Cover-webBASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Teen readers in the Caribbean and the world will have one more book to read this week when the award-winning Musical Youth by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne C. Hillhouse is released. The book, which placed second in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, follows one eventful summer in the life of a group of Antiguan teenagers. According to the book’s blurb, guitarist Zahara and Shaka, a musical genius find love and challenges as they take part in a musical that they must get right by the end of the summer. Readers will be drawn in by the book’s cast of interesting characters and will love the musical thread that runs through the story.
The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is administered by CODE, a Canadian NGO with 55 years of experience supporting literacy and learning in Canada and around the world. As a second place winner of this award, Musical Youth will be distributed throughout the Caribbean to libraries and similar learning institutions. In addition, CODE supports professional development of writers and libraries. One of the first events connected to Musical Youth will be a free workshop for adult and teen writers this November in Antigua. The first place winner is A-dZiko Simba Gegele of Jamaica with her novel All Over Again and third place was won by Jamaican author Colleen Smith-Denis with her novel Inner City Girl.
“This is an important book,” comments a representative of the publisher, CaribbeanReads Publishing, “because Caribbean teens will be able to see themselves in the young people in the story and relate to it. There are few books that achieve this goal and that’s why we are so excited to be a part of this and of Joanne’s success.”
On their website, the administrators of the BURT Award describe the book as follows: “Musical Youth is a beautifully crafted novel with the leitmotiv of music running throughout it. This is a powerful and credible story of young love between two likeable heroes.”

Joanne C Hillhouse, author of Musical Youth. (Emile Hill Photo)
Joanne C Hillhouse, author of Musical Youth. (Emile Hill Photo)

This is Joanne C. Hillhouse’s fifth publication. She has won fellowships to Breadloaf, Callalloo, and the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute and has been awarded a UNESCO prize as well as the David Hough Literary Prize. She runs the Wadadli Pen Writing Programme to nurture and showcase creative works by young writers in Antigua and Barbuda. Her other publications include The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!
Musical Youth is available online on Amazon in both print and kindle formats and in some bookstores. Learn more about Musical Youth and the author Joanne C. Hillhouse at www.caribbeanreads.com .

About CaribbeanReads
CaribbeanReads is a boutique publishing company which provides affordable modern literature for children and young adults which engages the imagination and celebrates our heritage.
For more information contact: Carol Mitchell – info@caribbeanreads.com