The Sweetest Mango Gets Sweet Treatment in the UK

LONDON, UK – The UK’s love affair with the films by Antigua & Barbuda’s number one filmmaking duo continues.
On Saturday, July 25, 2015, The Sweetest Mango, which was the first feature directed and produced by Howard and Mitzi Allen of HAMAFilms was screened at the London #CaribbeanSummerSeason of Films.
Released in 2001, the romantic comedy is based on how the filmmakers met and fell in love. Following the screening at London’s Bernie Grant Arts Centre, the audience got a further treat with a Q&A discussion with Howard and Mitzi, along with UK actress Julie Hewlett (Eastenders, The Bill) live by video link from Antigua.

Photo of Mitzi and Howard Allen on screen during the Q&A which followed the screening of The Sweetest Mango. Photo by Hakeem Kazeem
Photo of Mitzi and Howard Allen on screen during the Q&A which followed the screening of The Sweetest Mango. Photo by Hakeem Kazeem

The film, which is now archived in the TIFF Bell Lightbox Film Reference Library, tells the story of Lovelyanne ‘Luv” Davies, who returns from Canada to Antigua and her struggles to adjust to life on a small island. It follows her professional turmoil and personal drama, including being caught in an unexpected love triangle.
In a discussion that was both entertaining and informative, Mitzi, Howard and Julie spoke about the professional and financial challenges of filmmaking in Antigua. They have addressed it by not building in Hollywood-style costs but by minimizing overheads and ensuring that monetary returns can be met through local businesses and audiences.
They also spoke about how awareness is growing in that film and television are important exporters of culture. Discussions also touched on the varying outcomes and experiences that people have when they travel “back home” for love; the expectations on women to “marry up”; how some traditions hold back women’s independence; and how the diaspora is treated when they return and the struggle to find the balance between being modern efficient societies and retaining a sense of “Caribbeanness”.
Ron Belgrave of Sankofa TV shared with Mitzi following the Q&A “It was clear, from the way the audience engaged, that what you (and Howard) achieved with “Mango” was not only significant in terms of setting a platform for a new quality of filmmaking in Antigua but has helped in a broader social debate in helping the Caribbean to pursue its rightful place in the 21st Century.

“In addition – and this is again clear and naturally/effortlessly derived from your relationship with Howard – one aspect that people really like is the supportive and positive ambience between man and woman in your films. In a way, some might say that is to be expected in a romantic film like Sweetest Mango but where it often has more impact is where it is not necessarily expected (such as in a supernatural thriller like The Skin). The audience at the BFMIFF screening of The Skin on 5 July commented particularly on how they appreciated the way the couple interacted with each other in that film.”

Howard and Mitzi’s next project is a drama called “Deep Blue” about a marine biologist that helps a fishing village threatened by environmental/climate change (as a topical issue affecting Antigua & Barbuda). The film is expected to be released in summer 2016.
Julie also stars in “Deep Blue” and frequently travels back to the UK where she is available for British-based acting projects.
The #CaribbeanSummerSeason for 2015 continues every Saturday evening (7pm) until Carnival weekend at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. Details at www.sankofa-tv.co.uk

Antigua movie draws Caribbean audience at UK Premiere

Ron Belgrave, Sankofa Televisual; Howard Allen, Director of The Skin; and Actor Jeff Stewart at the London premiere of The Skin on Thursday, December 18, 2014.
Ron Belgrave, Sankofa Televisual; Howard Allen, Director of The Skin; and Actor Jeff Stewart at the London premiere of The Skin on Thursday, December 18, 2014.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – The reviews from the London premiere of the homegrown movie The Skin are coming in and they are good.

The movie made history recently as the first feature film from Antigua & Barbuda to be screened in the United Kingdom. Through their first distribution deal with Sankofa Televisual, The Skin by HAMAFilms Antigua premiered at the Gate Cinema on Thursday, December 18, 2014.

“I was so pleased that the film’s director, Howard Allen, was able to make it to London for the screening, and he was able to meet up again with actor Jeff Stewart and that the audience could also enjoy the Q&A with the producer and cast live by video link to Antigua. Now that we have taken this first step in establishing Caribbean films as a legitimate genre in their own right. We plan to continue showcasing the breadth of talent from the Caribbean and the diaspora,” said Ron Belgrave, Head of Sankofa Televisual.

The audience was a mix of Caribbean Nationals and some Antiguan friends and family who came to support the producer.

Denise Bingham who was in the audience said “to be honest the quality of acting and story and content was so much better than the British stuff shown. It was a proper film and everyone there really loved it. The directors chat was quite cool. Your co-star was ace! The clips of the island were lovely.”

Tom Pritchard of the UK who was an intern on the production ended up getting a small part in the film. He commented on Facebook that it was a “Great movie. Caribbean film at its very best. I feel very proud to have been part of it. Even my Liverpool FC tattoo makes its debut.”

Actor Jeff Stewart, who plays a quirky sailor and antique dealer in the film resides in London, was able to be at the premiere of the film and participate in the Q&A after the screening. Joining the chat live via the internet were Aisha Ralph and Brent Simon and producer Mitzi Allen.

The HAMA team admit that they can no way take credit for the extent to which this film and previous ones continue to gain exposure. Howard was able to travel to the UK screening through the sponsorship by the Ministry of Culture.

“The Government of Antigua & Barbuda has been a staunch supporter of our work since the first film and that has allowed us to promote the film to audiences which may have not been on our radar,” said Howard. “I’m pleased that the audience enjoyed the film and I’m looking forward to seeing how far the film will go with Sankofa Televisual. This step takes us closer to the South African Market”.

Building a relationship with Sankofa Televisual is a new step for the movie making couple. They have given the company the rights to distribute the movie in the UK, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Australasia and Africa.

Other films by HAMAFilms are The Sweetest Mango, No Seed and Diablesse. Learn more about making of The Skin and other projects by HAMAFilms by visiting their website at www.hamafilms.com.


Caption: Ron Belgrave, Sankofa Televisual; Howard Allen, Director of The Skin; and Actor Jeff Stewart at the London premiere of The Skin on Thursday, December 18, 2014.

Publicist: Nerissa Golden, Goldenmedia


Email: nerissa@goldenmedia.co

Legendary Filmmaker Neema Barnette takes Antigua Lit Fest Beyond the Screen

Bishop T.D. Jakes, Award-winning Director Neema Barnette and actor Blair Underwood on the set of Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day.
Bishop T.D. Jakes, Award-winning Director Neema Barnette and actor Blair Underwood on the set of Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day.

Antigua & Barbuda – This August, the Antigua & Barbuda International Literary Festival will proudly host Beyond the Screen an event in collaboration with HAMAfilms and goldenmedia. Legendary and award-winning director Neema Barnette and her husband screen actor Reed McCants will share their wisdom and experience of filmmaking at a series of workshops and special events around Antigua from August 14th to 17th, 2013.
Throughout the four-day event, there will be workshops aimed at writers and novelist who would like to turn their work into viable screenplays. Acting for Film, Digital Filmmaking and Distribution through New Media will be conducted by actor Reed McCants a 20-year veteran of the art form.
LoosedNeema Barnette will facilitate From Script to Screen on Wednesday, August 14th and host a special dinner and discussion event on Friday, August 16th. One of the highlights of Beyond the Screen will be a special screening of Barnette’s most recent film T.D. Jakes Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day starring Blair Underwood. Reed McCants is also featured in the film.
Organiser of the Antigua & Barbuda International Film Festival Pam Arthurton welcomed the creation of this new event, which will allow for a smaller version of the ABIFF to be held this year.
“Apart from the financial constraints, what held us back in previous years was that the film festival did not have enough volunteers and collaborations. I think if we had more volunteers we could have made the 2012 festival happen, which is why we are very happy to collaborate with HAMA and goldenmedia. This is the rebirth of the Antigua & Barbuda Literary Festival and Beyond the Screen will be a component of this event for the foreseeable future,” Arthurton stated.
HAMAFilms Director Howard Allen said the creation of Beyond the Screen is one of the ways his company has always envisioned giving back to Antigua & Barbuda and also the wider Caribbean.
“Telling our Caribbean stories remains the focus of HAMAFilms and this new event will allow us to work with Neema who has become one of our mentors. This is an opportune time for aspiring filmmakers and writers to learn how to make that transition from a story to a screenplay and the process of making their own film,” Allen said.
Neema Barnette is an American film director, and the first African-American female sitcom director. Barnette was the first African-American woman to get a three-picture deal with Sony. Her work includes a mixture of film and television. She has directed television programmes as such as The Cosby Show, A Different World, Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, Diagnosis Murder, China Beach to name a few.
She has won numerous awards, honours, and nominations, among them an Emmy Award for her after school special To Be a Man, two NAACP Image Awards, and a Sundance Film Festival Award for her film Civil Brand. She owns her own production company Hope Entertainment and is also a professor of film at the UCLA School of Film & Television.
Beyond the Screen is being supported by Carib World Travel and the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority. To get the full schedule of activities, fees and venues for Beyond the Screen, visit www.trulycaribbean/events .