Stepping Off the Precipice
The 5th Jamaica REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL will take place April 17-21, 2012. With that statement, the Jamaica Film Academy takes a bold step towards bringing another Reggae Film Festival to Jamaican film lovers and film screens. It’s always a bold step, almost a step off a precipice into the great Unknown, because we start out each year with nothing more than the will power, determination and pure blind faith that we will be able to actually present a series of film shows to an eager audience, and satisfy the patience and expectation of the film makers who have worked hard to create a piece of film art for their viewing.
Why do we do this?
People Who Love Jamaica
2008 Entry - CANADA
Because there are so many people who love Jamaica enough to make films about Jamaica, about the things that are special about Jamaica, about the people who make Jamaica great. These people — this big family of Jamaica lovers — stretches from Kingston to Negril, to Miami, New York, London, Birmingham, Paris, Vienna, Toronto, Hawaii, Rome, Tokyo, Tehran and parts still further. They all come together in film at the Festival to celebrate one small island in the Caribbean Sea that has impressed, inspired and influenced so many people around the world, that it needs a film festival all of its own to display the many ways its greatness is celebrated.
I am personally so proud to be helping them show how GREAT my little island is! No one asked them to make these films. Most of them did it just for LOVE of Beautiful Jamaica! And they have made such lovely films!!!
New Jamaican cinema
Then again, the JFA can’t disappoint the new breed of Jamaican film makers, who see at last opportunities to stop wasting their talent making beautifully photographed, technically excellent videos for un-memorable dancehall songs and singers, and instead try their hand at making good films to compete with the big budget cinema efforts of Hollywood, Bollywood and Henzellwood. Recording their ghetto lives in the concrete jungles of Jamaica, the Reggae Film Festival’s screening opportunities, recognition and awards have shown them that better will come from this opportunity to show their work and be rewarded.
Reinardo 'Mental' Chung
Self-taught animator Reinardo Mental Chung was almost unknown until the May, 2011 RFF screened his 8-minute ‘Bad Influence” and not only astonished the opening night VIP audience, but won himself the DIGICEL Animation Award. This led to jobs designing animated characters for Heinekin’s popular TV DJ/selector competition. His new animated series ‘Dutty Bwoy” has gone viral on YouTube with 800,000 hits.
Young actress Melissa Fearon starred in TWO feature films in 2010 and won herself the Best Actress award. She will appear next in a major feature by Paul Bucknor’s Firefly Films. Inner-city resident Kurt Fuller took a video camera he was using to film graduations and weddings and made a film about life in ‘Concrete Jungle – Kingston 12’ that made his name and future as a film maker.
Kurt Fuller (l) and lead actor DJ Singy
Playwright Ginger Knight’s film version of his popular roots play “Room For Rent” won 2011 Best Screenplay award, was immediately picked up for international distribution after years of waiting. The highly popular Make A Film In 24 Hours, sponsored last year by RBC Bank, ‘discovered’ film maker Amaziyah The Great in 2010, who shared the award with top professional Jay Will for his 5 minute film, then won the 2011 Audience Award for his entry “Stay Firm’, now being developed into a short feature.
These are just a few of the Jamaican success stories. International film makers have found benefits from their association with the RFF. The world premiere and first press publicity of the Spanish/Jamaican sports documentary “Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast?” took place at the 2009 RFF, and it went on to win international screenings and awards. US feature film “Wah Do Dem”, winner of the February 2010 Best International Feature award, received huge publicity when it was reviewed on the NY Times Front Page celebration of July 1 as International Reggae Day. Films like “Fire In Babylon” and “Rocksteady – The Movie” proudly display the RFF laurel on their websites and DVD covers.
Entries Already Coming In
Then there are the film makers who have already started sending in their films — the most surprising of which has come from Iran, an emotional documentary of one refugee family’s escape. “Home, Sweet Harlesden” documents memories of the first Caribbean immigrants to Britain, while Ethiopia will send the first feature film to be shown in Jamaica. These films will be screened in the new International Programme.
This year the Jamaica Film Academy is planning to specially honour Jamaican film director, cinematographer and screenwriter Chris Browne of “Ghetta Life” with a special programme of his early short films. It will be good if we get to do this, as Chris is such an unsung hero of the Jamaican film industry, whose work stretches way back.
Taking A Deep Breath …
These are some of the reasons that make me return again to this precipice, taking a deep breath as I prepare to do another Reggae Film Festival and praying with Faith that JAH has kept my wings fully operational.
Stokeley Marshall, RFF Legal Advisor; H.E. Ambassador of Spain Celso Nuno and husband; Roxanne Lindsay, Senior Vice President, RBTT/RBC, Kingston; Festival director BBH
Most of all I pray that right below the edge of the precipice is a huge, upholstered NET placed there by the Angels known as SPONSORS — those organizations that see the value of the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL as something good for Jamaica, and therefore a worthwhile way in which to promote their goods and services to a discerning and enthusiastic audience. We already have an international media audience online and in print, with magazines such as BILLBOARD and RIDDIM among our biggest fans. I just hope we can convince a few of these Angels to fly with the RFF again.
HERE WE GO AGAIN!
We have some good company up here in the rarefied atmosphere where dreams live. The Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, the African-Caribbean Film Festival of New York, Denise Jones of Toronto’s Caribana and Jambana, the young members of the Jamaican Film Industry, some equally young Ethiopian Film Makers and of course, the festival co-conceptualizer, Peter Gittins of Reggae Films UK.
So Yes, here we go again! For starters, a taste in Reggae Month! COME FLY WITH ME!