Barbara Blake-Hannah was a guest on the Conduit Show at www.e2onair.com in February 2011 when she mentioned the Reggae Film Festival slated to take place in Jamaica in May. At that time, I made a mental note to attend.
Fast forward to May 23 and I’m making my way from Harbour View by minivan, the poor man’s limousine to Mountain View Avenue and on to Studio 38 in New Kingston for the opening night of the fourth outing of the Reggae Film Festival.
Barbara was an attentive host to the dignitaries and celebrities from the arts and diplomatic corp. Front and center was the Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, Kelsa Nuno Garcia, one of the sponsors and patrons of the event. In her welcome address she explained her pleasure at being asked to support the event, as she went on to highlight the parallels between Reggae music, Jamaica and Spain.
Despite initial technical difficulties and a steady downpour, the spirits of those in attendance were by no means dampened. Radio personality Amber also co-hosted and kept things moving. The opening night selections showed the breadth of diversity of the films on offer for the six day festival. Proceedings got under way with a rather risqué short film written and directed by Antiguan poet Tamika Jarvis George. “Dinner” – a provocative, double entendre depiction with surprisingly professional camerawork, given the somewhat steamy scenes (and I’m not referring to the bubbling pots of ital stew featured in the film) was met with hoots and rowdy catcalls from the young ladies sitting behind me drowning out the frosty disapproval from the stone-faced sexual conservatives! When asked to explain the inspiration for “Dinner”, Tamika replied that it started life as a poem and morphed into a short film after receiving funding to bring her project to life.
The next short film, an anime (animation) portrayed gangsters, displaced loyalty and the fact that crime doesn’t pay. Written, produced and directed by Jamaican Reinardo Chung, “Bad Influence” provided a sharp contrast to the film that preceded it.
The feature movie for the night “Holding on to Jah” proved to be a thought-provoking documentary. Comprehensively tracing the connection between Rastafari, music, slavery, liberation and reggae, there were several interviews with culture reggae artists. The late Sugar Minott was heavily featured, as was the late Joseph Hill. Considering the reiteration of the ostracism faced by the early Rastas in 1960’s Jamaica, I was struck by the almost exclusive dominance of male voices in this film. Still “Holding on to Jah” is a documentary well worth seeing. Kudos to producers Roger Hall ((who was in attendance) and Harrison Stafford.
The Reggae Film Fest is growing, in addition to international submissions like main feature film – “RockSteady” – this year there were 11 submissions from Jamaican film makers. Spotted in the audience on opening night, judges Mutabaruka with his companion Jackie Amber Cohen, (both resplendent in red and black), Cordell Green, Head of the Broadcasting Commission, Co-founder of the Reggae Film Festival, Actor Carl Bradshaw and Dr. Michael Barnett. Dr. Carolyn Cooper, Audrey Hall (Dance Hall Queen actress), Cherine Anderson (actress and singer), Peter Gittens, (co-Director of the Reggae Film Festival) and amazing personality – Jungle George. Samuel Clayton, Mystic Revelation of Rasta Grounding creator was given a standing ovation by way of recognition of his accomplishments and steadfast struggle for African liberation.
The Reggae Film Festival was sponsored by an impressive list of businesses including Digicel and RBTT/RBC represented respectively by Sandra Ledgister and Roxanne Lindsay who reiterated their commitment to the festival with the former providing much sought after phone credits that were received by an appreciative audience.
A new and exciting feature for the film festival is the opportunity to submit short films shot in 24 hours with the entrants being given a topic and guidelines and expected to return with a finished short 24 hours later.
Some 30 odd years after the critically acclaimed Jamaican feature film, The Harder They Come, Jamaican filmmakers are entering a new phase ably assisted by the Jamaica Film Academy through their vehicle the Reggae Film Festival.