The Sweetest Mango

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

HAMAfilms’ The Sweetest Mango still a hit 10 years on

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.

ENDS

Caption:

(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.