The 4th Jamaica REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL was held May 23-28 at Studio 38, New Kingston. The venue was a tree-covered open courtyard in the PULSE modelling agency complex, decorated by Props & More with a film theme including a massive reel of film and smaller reels hung around the open courtyard. The stage was divided into performance and screening halves, with films shown on a screen designed like a clapper board, while banners promoting the event’s sponsors provided a backdrop for photographs of the many celebrities and VIPs attending. A bar offering a wide variety of drinks, and a spacious yard that encouraged socializing, made the venue was a perfect home for the week-long event.
Declared a success by the Jamaica Film Academy organizers, the Festival accomplished several of the JFA’s goals for increasing and improving the Jamaican film industry, and included important cinematic moments. These included:
* The entry of 11 Jamaican films, an increase from 2 in inaugural year 2008;
* The emergence of a strong body of Jamaican animators creating work that is both amusing, as well as thought-provoking;
* The high quality and increased participation in the Make A Film In 24 Hours competition and its sponsorship by RBTT/RBC Bank;
* The large number of entries from European countries including Britain, Spain, Poland, Slovenia, and the surprising entry from Tehran, Iran;
* The ‘discovery’ of new Jamaican director Vanessa Phillips, winning both the RBTT/RBC 24 Hours Film competition and the Best Short Feature awards’
* The presence of film makers from the USA, UK, Canada, Antigua, Spain including Hollywood actor Cedric Sanders
* The sponsorship support by the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, DIGICEL, SUGASHAK RECORDS, IRIE-FM and international companies REGGAE FILMS UK, H&H Pictures In Motion andTait Computer Services.
MAKE A FILM IN 24 HOURS The festival opened on Jamaica’s Labour Day, May 23 with the start of the RBTT/RBC Make a Film In 24 Hours competition. Fifteen teams of young film makers, some experienced, others first-timers signed in and waited to learn the ‘element’ that had to be included in each film to ensure no one had started their film before time. This year’s ‘element’ was: SOMETHING MUSICAL and with this in mind, teams set off. They were certainly inspired by the prize of JA$50,000 offered to the winner by the Bank as part of its on-going support of the creative arts and especially of emerging young talent. The following morning 12 of the original 15 returned with completed films, which were then sent to a judging panel composed of the festival’s international film guests, Cordel Green, head of Jamaica’s Broadcasting Commission, and Festival Director Barbara Blake Hannah. The entries were screened each night of the Festival and as it was too difficult to select only five finalists, six were chosen for the final cut.
The Opening Night ceremony was hosted by Jamaica Film Academy Chairman, celebrated actor Carl Bradshaw who starred in the historic Jamaican film THE HARDER THEY COME. He spoke of the link between music and film, saying “Film is a composition of sight and sound. We Jamaicans have conquered the world with our sounds, now it is time to do it with sight.” Guest speaker Spanish Ambassador H.E. Celsa Nuno Garcia, reminded of the historic links between Jamaica and Spain, pointing out that her country now hosts Rototom Reggae Sunsplash — the world’s largest reggae festival. “The potential of Jamaican culture has not been economised and exploited fully yet, and the combination of the film industry and reggae holds an endless array of possibilities.” RBTT/RBC Senior Vice President Roxanne Lindsay spoke of the Bank’s support of film festivals in Trinidad and Toronto, Canada, saying how pleased she was to add Jamaica to this list. Also present was Dr. Maria Smith of the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO and DIGICEL’s Sandra Legister who added her company’s endorsement, while Rastafarian Elder, Bro. Sam Clayton of the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari who was featured in one of the night’s documentaries, brought Ethiopian blessings.
Film screenings began with the animated film BAD INFLUENCE by self-taught Jamaican animator Reinardo Chung. This short tale of a would-be gunman is told with 3-dimensional, all-action movement, a rich dialogue and a stunning conclusion to the story, and received loud applause that showed why it won the DIGICEL Best Animation award. This was followed by HOLDING ON TO JAH, the one-hour documentary by US director Roger Hall that uses interviews, music and historic footage to tell the story of the birth and growth of reggae from the people and beliefs of Rastafari religion. Several Rastafari in the audience included dub poet Mutabaruka and Elder Empress Sister Mitzie.
US feature film ROCKSTEADY – THE MOVIE starred Cedric Sanders (THE SOCIAL NETWORK) as a Jamaican-fathered young man who tries to become a stock car racer to pay his mother’s mortgage. This film found favour with the audience, thanks to Sanders screen presence, as well as the rocking reggae soundtrack by Steel Pulse — whose lead singer David Hinds has a supporting role andwhich won the SUGASHAK Award for Best Soundtrack. Both Sanders and the film’s director Mustapha Khan attended the Festival, bringing some Hollywood stardust to the event. The short feature DINNER by Antiguan director Tameka Jarvis-George was shown next. This video-poem about a woman’s anticipation of her husband’s homecoming and dinner preparation, raised some eyebrows due to a small moment of implied sexual intimacy, but this in no way affected the positive reception given the director of her film.
FESTIVAL NIGHT 2 To the great regret of the Festival organizers, Antiguan film makers Mitzie and Howard Allen were unable to attend and screen their new feature THE SKIN and their earlier film THE SWEETEST MANGO. The claymation animated film TRIBUTE TO PETER TOSH by UK director Scally Ranks was shown. This unique stop-motion technique using clay figures of the artist brought a humourous, yet serious side to the reggae hero’s words about Emperor Haile Selassie, and was punctuated by snippets of Tosh’s songs. This was followed by Jamaican director Wayne Benjamin’s short film THE CROFT — the first episode of what he described as a horror TV series. A film script-writer drives to the mountains to restore his writer’s block, and finds a mysterious apparition is following him.
Spanish director Jep Jorba, who attended the first Reggae Film Festival in 2008 with his film RICO RODRIQUES – THE LEGACY, returned this year thanks to sponsorship by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, with his documentary INTENSIFIED – COME FORWARD, narrating the history of the British band that revived interest in Ska in the 1980s and inspired the birth of scores of European ska bands. This was followed by VISION OF PARADISE, an introduction to a film on Lee Scratch Perry. Then came the film INVITATION from Iran, which follows a family emigrating reluctantly from Tehran to Baghdad, Iraq. Narrated by the young woman who filmed it using a cameraphone, the film gives a revealing look into the family’s journey through war-torn territory that is more graphic and emotional than any CNN or AlJazeera news story.
FESTIVAL NIGHT 3
After the 24 Hours Film entries were shown, the evening screened HEAVEN & HELLSHIRE, a short picture-poem about the popular Kingston beach by US director Sugar Cane, who also attended and entered the 2010 Festival. This was followed by the BBC documentary REGGAE BRITTANIA, directed by Jeremy Marre, a history of the influence of reggae in Britain and how the music has impacted on race relations and social interaction. The film shared the UNESCO Honour Award for Best Documentary with Friday night’s cricket documentary FIRE IN BABYLON. Technical problems cut short the night’s film screenings, which were to have included BEYOND BABYLON by Polish director Michael Szydlowski, SUPERSTONIC SOUND: THE REBEL DREAD by UK director Raphael Erichsen, and THE CASE OF THUGGY THUGGY RUFUS, a US feature directed by Stephanie Slade. (All films had previously been screened for the judges.)
FESTIVAL NIGHT 4 The Children’s Programme was held at 2 p.m. this year rather than last year’s 10 a.m. slot. Due to the extremely limited festival budget that did not enable press advertising, the event was not attended by many persons to view the film MADE IN TRENCHTOWN – a documentary by Dutch film social worker Esther Magdenberg about her work setting up a library in Trench Town. The film KIDS PARADISE – THE GREAT LOST TREASURE HUNT — a children’s TV drama by Festival Director Barbara Blake Hannah, was also shown.
The evening’s films began with a live performance by reggae artist Marcus I, who was later featured in the Brazilian documentary VIAJAH. The animated CABBIE CHRONICLES by Alison and Tabois Latchman, which is a running feature on Jamaican cable TV, roused roars of laughter with its simple 2-D images and wickedly funny script. Playwright Ginger Knight’s play-to-movie ROOM FOR RENT, with rib-tickling performances by Volier Johnson and Deon Silvera, was appreciated by all, including veteran Jamaican actor Munair Zacca, who attended all the festival screenings.
Hawaii-based US director Joe Trivigno, whose 11 MILES TO PARADISE was screened at the 2010 Festival, returned with FROM KINGSTON TO CALI, a concert documentary featuring reggae icon Jr. Reid performing to a full house in San Francisco on a tour of California. This was followed by one of the Festival’s controversial entries, DAVID IS DYING by UK director Stephen Lloyd Jackson. This story of an HIV-infected upper-class Black stockbroker contained a shocking scene that merited its midnight screening. Though not strictly a ‘reggae film’, the film’s entry was accepted by the JFA because of its excellent production values, unusual script, good direction and also a stunning performance by the lead actor that won him Honourable Mention on Awards night.
FESTIVAL NIGHT 5
The full house attendance on Friday, May 27th showed that despite the lack of press advertising, the word-of-mouth promotion of the festival, plus its continuous reporting in the social media Facebook and Twitter, had brought out film lovers to see three of the most talked-about films of the festival. This was the night when the six 24 Hours film finalists were screened to the audience and a popular choice selected. The films were followed by another of Jamaica’s new animation cartoons, JERK CHICKEN by director Samuel Stewart, in which the chickens fight back and which received a standing ovation from a laughing-out-loud audience. This year’s Reggae Film Festival has shown that there is Jamaican potential for a Disney or Pixar-type feature film. Coretta Singer, whose breakthrough, award-winning KINA SKY was the only animated film in the2010 festival, was a proud ‘godmother’ of this year entrants.
New record company Sugashak Records of Mango Valley, St. Mary, presented a live showcase of their artist KeKe-I, who gave a well-received performance backed bya live band of reggae professionals. Sugashak handed out rustic bags filled with CDs, press releases and organic soaps made in their Mango Valley country village.
The next documentary, FIRE IN BABYLON, was in the news that week for holding the top sales position for sports documentaries on Amazon.com. Directed by Stevan Riley (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND), the film recounts the exploits of the winning West Indies cricket team of the 1970s that was faced with a barrage of racism, but used its bowling fire-power, batting expertise and racial confidence to overcome the English and Australian cricketers and make themselves everlasting Caribbean heroes. Laced with references to Rastafari, Black Power and the politics of the 70s, the film is a conscious tribute to a great moment in Black Caribbean history that deserves its Honour Award as the Outstanding Film of the Reggae Film Festival.
The midnight movie was BUBBLIN’, directed by US-based Denise Campbell. A story of a single-mother country girl who turns to ‘bubblin’ (dirty dancing to lewd dancehall music) in seedy nightclubs to support her fatherless daughter, the film nevertheless captures accurately what life is like for women like the film’s lead character. Controversial because of its subject matter, visual content and use of unlicensed music, the film nevertheless showed that Campbell is a capable director.
L&SHarmony, daughters of reggae superstar I-JahMan Levi, performed life to open the Awards Presentation. The full list of Awards is attached below. Then long awaited announcement of the winner of the RBTT/RBC 24 Hours competition was no surprise, as those who had seen it were unanimous that WHAT IF? by Vanessa Phllips was the winning film. The young film maker, previously unknown, showed that she is a major film talent capable of writing, directing, producing and acting in well-made productions. She was definitely the talk of the Festival, receiving several offers of interest in whatever productions she undertakes next. The winning film was shown, then given a choice of winning films, the audience unanimously called for the cricket documentary FIRE IN BABYLON. The night and the Reggae Film Festival 2011 ended on a high and positive note.
Thanks first to our sponsors RBTT/RBC whose support of the 24 Hours Film competition strengthened our ability to present the event. Special thanks to RBTT/RBC executives Annette Atkinson and Karen Watson Pink. Thanks to DIGICEL, especially executives Karl Donnelly and Marketing officer Sandra Legister. Thanks must be given to all the Festival guests who travelled to Jamaica for the event: Festival co-director Peter Gittins from England, Jep Jorba and Mark Maldovar from Spain, Jungle George Tait from Canada, Roger Hart, Cedric Sanders and Mustapha Khan from the USA, Tameka Jarvis-George and sister Toya from Antigua, US-based Jamaican film maker Wayne Jobson and BILLBOARD Magazine journalist Pat Meschino. Thanks to all our audiences whose support showed we had done a good job.
Thanks to Spanish Ambassador who hosted the Festival guests for lunch, and Paul & Oriente Issa who hosted a splendid dinner party for the Spanish film makers and gave a prize of a weekend for 2 at a Couples Hotel to the runner-up in the 24 Hours competition. Thanks to those who gave their services freely for the success of the event, especially Teena Marie Tucker and Wendell Richards, co-ordinators of the RBTT/RBC Make A Film In 24 Hours competition; Amaziah The Great, Jollywood Productions and Jungle George Tait, for their photographs of the event; Reinardo Chung, for digital design services; entertainers Marcus I, L&SHarmony and KeKe-I; the behind-the-scenes support of Chris Kaufman and Hailond Nottage of Sugashak; the personal interest and help given by H&H Pictures In Motion; and the work of production assistants Eric ‘DonRico’ Dixon and Granville Shields.
My thanks especially to my son Makonnen Blake Hannah, who has always been the main help and worker in the months leading up to the Festival and who continued to be a strong support all through the week’s activities.
Plans are now underway to present THE BEST OF THE REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL at venues in Jamaica, Canada, the USA and England and to make the 5th Festival in 2012 be a worthy celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence.
See you in 2012!!!
AWARDS – REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL 2011
RBTT/RBC AWARD – MAKE A FILM IN 24 HOURS: ‘WHAT IF…” Vanessa Phillips
UNESCO AWARD – FEATURE DOCUMENTARY – ‘FIRE IN BABYLON’ (Dir: Stevan Riley)
‘REGGAE BRITANNIA’ (Dir: Jeremy Marre)
JFA Honour Awards: BOB MARLEY: MAKING OF A LEGEND (Dir: Esther Anderson/Gian Goody)
HOLDING ON TO JAH (Dir: Roger Hall) – JFA HONOUR AWARD
DIRECTOR – FEATURE FILM – Mustapha Khan -”ROCKSTEADY’
Nominees: Stephen Lloyd Jackson – DAVID IS DYING
KNUTSFORD COURT HOTEL AWARD – ACTOR – CEDRIC SANDERS – “ROCKSTEADY”
Nominees: Volier Johnson – ‘ROOM FOR RENT’
TAIT COMPUTER SERVICES AWARD – ACTRESS: Danielle Clarke ‘BUBBLIN’
Nominee: Vanessa Phillips – ‘MISINJUSTICE’
DIRECTOR – SHORT FEATURE: Vanessa Phillips – ‘MISINJUSTICE’
Nominees: Tameka Jarvis-George: ‘DINNER’ – JFA HONOUR AWARD
Wayne Benjamin: ‘THE CROFT’
Jovel Johnson: ‘RECKONING’
SUGASHAK AWARD – SOUNDTRACK: Steel Pulse – ‘ROCKSTEADY’
Nominees: ‘HOLDING ON TO JAH
DIGICEL AWARD – ANIMATION: ‘BAD INFLUENCE’ Reinardo ‘Mental’ Chung
Nominees: JERK CHICKEN – Sam Stewart – JFA HONOUR AWARD
CABBIE CHRONICLES – Alison Latchman – JFA HONOUR AWARD
COUPLES AWARD – SCREENPLAY – Ginger Knight – ‘ROOM FOR RENT’
JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY – SPECIAL AWARDS
REGGAE CONCERT: ‘FROM KINGSTON TO CALI’ Dir: Joe Trivigno
OUTSTANDING FILM OF THE FESTIVAL: ‘Fire in Babylon’ Dir: Stevan Riley
CINE JAMAICA HONOUR AWARDS
Craig Kirkland (Amaziyah The Great)