The 5th annual JAMAICA REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL opened on Monday, April 16 with the start of the RBC Make A Film In 24 Hours competition. The Gardens of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel were neatly trimmed and flowering, as competitors arrived to register, then listen to words of encouragement from Chief Judge, Psychologist and Motivational Speaker Dr. Leahcim Semaj.“Why is it,” he asked, ‘that the story always ends ‘… and the hunter killed the lion? Because the hunter always tells the story. If the lion told the story, it would have a different ending. Go out now and be lions,” he advised, “telling your own story in 24 hours.”
Seven teams then set off to make their films and on Tuesday, April 17, 24 hours later, the team of 5 judges sat down to consider the entries and award their points. Eventual winner was “Take Me To the Ball”, with second place winner “Grow Jamaica, Grow” and third place to “Cyan’ Stay Suh” (Read complete story on RBC 24 Hours Competition HERE).
OPENING NIGHT The Opening Night of film screenings took place on Wednesday, April 18, in the presence of the Mayor of Kingston, Her Worship Mrs. Angela Brown-Burke; the US Ambassador to Jamaica, H.E. Mrs. Pamela Bridgewater, the Jamaican Ambassador-Designate to London, Hon. Aloun Assamba-ndombett and Mr. & Mrs. Ray McElrae, Second Secretary of the Canadian High Commission. Also present were Hon. Maurice & Mrs. Valerie Facey, , Dr.Marcia Forbes, PhD of Phase Three Productions, Mr. Wayne Chen, Chair of the Jamaica Employers Federation and wife Diana; the Chairman of the Broadcasting Authority Mr. Cordel Green, former Miss Jamaica Joan McDonald and sponsors representatives Mrs. Janice Murdoch of RBC Royal Bank, Jeanette Lewis of FLOW Communications and several filmmakers.
The Opening Night feature documentary was “SING YOUR SONG”, the tribute to singer and social activist Harry Belafonte whose Jamaican roots gave him hit songs “Jamaica Farewell” and “Day Oh, The Banana Boat Song”. Belafonte’s work as a leader of the US Black civil rights movement, his work with Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and his continuous fight against racism, were some of the issues highlighted in the film, which received great commendation from the audience.
The feature film WE, THE RAGAMUFFIN was screened in the presence of stars Mikey General and Bucky Ranks. The film, made in the 1990s by Jamaican director Dr. Julian Henriques for Britain’s Channel Four TV, this was the film’s first screening in Jamaica.
THURSDAY – SEMINAR Due to the surprising scheduling of the MARLEY documentary premiere in the middle of the Reggae Film Festival dates at a location exactly across the street from the Festival venue, the Jamaica Film Academy decided not to screen any films on Thursday, April 19. However, the afternoon was used to hold a Seminar on Scriptwriting. This was led by writers Amba Chevannes, a graduate of the University of the West Indies and the Tisch School of the arts in New York with a MFA in Dramatic writing, and Tanya Davies, a creative agent who teaches and consults in the field of Traditional, Digital and Interactive Media and is a lecturer at the Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica teaching TV Production, Writing for E-Media and Script writing.
FRIDAY NIGHT Film screenings resumed on Friday night, with the presentation of the CINE JAMAICA films “I RASTA” Director: Adrian Curry (Canada/JA) and the music videos “Cyan Lock Off the Dance” by Tillibop, “Juiceman” and ‘Babylon Trail”. It was followed by the music documentary STUDIO DRUMMIE ONE AND THE HISTORY OF ROCKSTEADY MUSIC. Legendary music icon Joe ‘Drummie’ Isaacs, the ‘star of the film, was present in Jamaica for the screening, as was director Guy Ragosta, plus several of the musical legends with whom Joe isaacs has worked. These included The Heptones and Marcia Griffiths, who shared memories of musical times past.
The Jamaica feature film ‘MISTAKE’ was screened, one of two features entered by young director Karret Barclay (only one was programmed).
The tale set in a rural ghetto where crime has power and life is cheap, is well filmed, directed and edited with a soundtrack that pays attention to the visual action. While the theme may be just another ‘badman’ story, Barclay shows he has full grasp of the cinematic medium to tell his story. (His other feature ‘CAUGHT WITH MI EYES” is the story of a man who goes insane when he finds his wife being unfaithful in their marital bed, and follows the madman’s crazy behaviour around the countryside, until he regains his senses, forgives his wife and returns to normal life.)
After screening the entries in the RBC 24 Hours competition, the documentary ‘FIRE BURN BABYLON’ was shown. Directed by Sarita Siegel (UK), it depicts the life now being lived by some Rastafari men relocated from Montserrat after the volcanic eruption to life in London, and how their lives have changed from pure Rastfari spirituality, to becoming petty criminals, with music as a hope for escape from their new, unwelcome lifestyle.
SATURDAY NIGHT The CINE JAMAICA films shown were the animated short “DUTTY BWOY” by Reinardo Chung, “RED, AMBER, GREEN, Director: Christopher Byfield, third place winner of the 2011 RBC 24 Hours Competition and eventual winner of the 2012 CINE JAMAICA AWARD – SHORT FEATURE (under 30 mins). The film about three boys earning a living at Kingston’s stop light was a winner in another local film competition. Also shown was ‘CAMARIAH’S WAY” a film by Craig ‘Amaziyah the Great’ Kirkland , who has participated and won previous 24 Hours film competitions.
The documentary ‘WITH FIDEL, NO MATTER WHAT” by Goran Radovinovich (Serbia), a documentary without commentary that shows a day in the life of 3 Cubans, in preparation for celebration of May 5th, Revolution Day, was screened. Comments from the Jamaican audience showed surprise at how simply Cubans live without complaining, saying that the film showed good reasons to admire the Cuban revolution.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBCVpQk7bQU] The feature film ‘BLIND SHOTTA‘ was shown, in the presence of Director Diavallian Fearon and several of the actors who starred in the film. The comedy about a blind man in the ghetto who decides to become a ‘don’ even though he can’t see where to fire his gun, had the audience in stitches, and talking about it after the film ended.
After screening of the entries in the RBC 24 Hours Film competition, the feature film THE INCREDIBLE BANANA, directed by Paulette King (JA/USA) was shown. The story of a wealthy man who loses his job, his big house and possibly his high-maintenance wife and family, but saves himself by remembering an old Jamaican proverb, was much appreciated by all who came to see the director’s first feature film.
AWARDS NIGHT Torrential rains that pelted Kingston on Sunday, April 22 caused an emergency move of venue from the Gardens to the Jamaica Pegasus Ballroom, where the Montego Suite was hastily converted into a new venue for the Awards Ceremony. Decorator Scheed Cole of Props & More rescued and repaired the signature clapper-board screen and film-reel sculpture to create a beautiful backdrop to the Awards.
The night began with a welcome to the Sponsors and to Guest of Honour, Jamaican filmmaker CHRISTOPHER BROWNE. First the final CINE JAMAICA -Short Feature entry, “6AM” by Director Wayne Benjamin, in which the Devil offers to buy a man’s soul. Then JFA Executive and Reggae Film Festival Director Barbara Blake Hannah invited Christopher Browne to take the Seat of Honour, while she read his Biography. (Read Christopher Browne’s bio HERE.) Next his short film “ENTRY DENIED” was screened, to much applause from the audience at the end. Chris Browne then spoke a few words, encouraging new young film makers to continue honing their craft. He advised them to get as much training as possible and continue following their dreams.
The films in the RBC 24 Hours competition were shown, and Awards presented. (See Judges REPORT of RBC 24 Hours Competition HERE) . Thanks were expressed to Sponsors of competition Second Prize Couples Tower Isle Hotel and to Phase Three Productions which sponsored a special prize of a two-week internship with their company.
The Awards for the 2012 JAMAICA REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL were then presented. Mrs. Blake-Hannah announced that the JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY was presenting a REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL -JAMAICA 50 HONOUR AWARD to Harry Belafonte, subject of the documentary film ‘SING YOUR SONG’. (See list of RFF 2012 Awards HERE.)
After the presentation of Awards, a leter of greetings and apology from film producer/director/actor Giancarlo Esposito was read in which he explained that rehearsals for a new play prevented him from attending the Reggae Film Festival as agreed. Then the feature film ‘GOSPEL HILL”, produced and directed by Giancarlo Esposito was screened to close the nigh.
The 5th JAMAICA REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL was historic, because for the first time more than 60% of the Festival films were Jamaican, with all four feature films by Jamaican directors. The Jamaica Film Academy is pleased to see its objective of developing the Jamaican film industry being accomplished.
JAMAICA REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL – PROUDLY CELEBRATING JAMAICA 50 IN FILM.