Amanda Sans Pantling is a director, screenwriter and producer working in the field of creative documentary. With a background in journalism, her work has taken her across the globe. She has written and directed a number of films, both for cinema and TV, among them “Songs of Redemption”, awarded at several international film festivals. Based between Barcelona (Spain) and Jamaica, her films address a wide range of topics, with a special focus on social, cultural and artistic issues. She also enjoys exploring the Jamaican culture and society. “Last Street” is her fourth film shot in the island.
Based in the heart of Jamaica, the short film Last Street is about the aftermath of the controversial extradition of the infamous drug lord Christopher Dudus Coke to the U.S. Last Street unveils a real truth that links a culture of violence to masculinity in Jamaican youth. Former gangsters from Denham Town, Dudus’ previous stronghold, have become violence interrupters, a type of mediators who attempt to put an end to the senseless violence happening in the inner-cities of Jamaica.
The film will be showcased in Toronto at the 14th Annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival (CTFF) on September 18, 2019. We caught up with Amanda Sans Pantling as she prepared for his visit to CTFF.
Tell us about your background, your connection to Jamaica and How did you get started in filmmaking?
My career started as a journalist working for different media in Spain and working across the globe. Soon I started to feel that the journalistic language was a bit limited to explain stories the way I wanted. Journalism has given me a great background when I research and write my films, but documentary filmaking is a better language for my storytelling. I feel more free and it is more creative. I studied documentary filmmaking in 2004 and since 2005 I have been directing documentaries for TV and cinema. In 2007 I visited Jamaica for the first time. I was then working for a Spanish TV station and we shot there a chapter of a entertainment programm. While being there I found out a great story. In the General Penitentiary of Kingston, inmates were being rehabilitated through reggae music. Producer Nando Garcia Guereta had been following the story and decided to produce it. The film, Songs of Redemption, became a big success in film festivals and pretty recognized in Jamaica. I fell in love with the country and its people and got really curious about its society and culture. I have never met people as creative, fun and resilient as the Jamaican. For me, as a fimmaker, Jamaica is a gold mine full of stories. Since then I have directed 3 more film, being Last Street the last one.
What was your biggest challenge in directing films?
The biggest challenge is to give birth to the story and to build the trust with the characters. Documentary filmmaking always has a long term approach. You are asking people to open to you and share their lives and feelings and contradictions. And that is so intimate. And you are also asking them to share it with the rest of the world. In the process, you always find rocky roads, things happening that you did not expected and you have to quickly adapt to it and adapt the story to that. When doing documentaries you are taking decisions every day, you are following a script but life does not always follows it. Reality can be so unpredictible. You can´t control 100% of the film when doing documentaries that are 100% based on real facts.
What you want the audiences to say after leaving a film you directed?
I normally try to combine humour and drama in my films, because that is what life is about. So I love to have impact and make people think and sensitize them about a specific reality but I also want them to have fun. I am specially interested in things and people living at the margins of society. They´re normally so stigmatized…and there´s always two sides of the story. Like in Last Street. Youngsters killing for silly and nonsense reasons but undergoing a huge trauma and many abuses too, trapped in a dead end street.
What is your next project?
My next films is called Postwar Album. Is a film that is based on the photographs that the Spanish photojournalist Gervasio Sánchez took in Sarajevo (Bosnia Herzegovine) while the siege took place between 1992 and 1995. He portrayed many children surviving during the war and we are going to come back together to find them and see how their lives are now and how a war has long term consequences on a society.
What advice do you have for young directors and filmmakers?
You are going to get many ¨no´s¨ in you career. But if you truly believe in your story, in your idea, follow your guts and fight for it. The road can be really frustrating but you have to fight for it. Get advice from people you respect and trust, maybe your idea is not as great as you thought and sometimes it´s good to go through a critical process. Listen to them but overall listen to yourself. And find the right producer. Someone that treats your film like their own baby too and not just as a product, someone that has a similar sensitivity as you have. And last but not least, always write the story before you shoot. A lot of footage does not necessarily mean a better film. Have in mind what you really need for the story and go for it!
Thanks for your time and all the best.