FESTIVAL JAMAICA STEALS REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL

Ol’ pirates yes they rob I, sold I to the merchant ships.…’ BOB MARLEY

Ziggi Golding

In a shocking development, while the organizers of the Jamaica Reggae Film Festival have been waiting since October 2011 on the promise of a contract from a British organization to bring the event to London for the Olympics and Jamaica 50 celebrations, the England-based organizers have instead pirated the Reggae Film Festival concept, booked reggae films directly and designed a new logo that advertises the Reggae Film Festival as part of a British event that competes with the official Jamaica 50 celebrations being held at the O2 Arena.

Festival Jamaica 2012, scheduled to begin July 27 in Stratford, London, is organized by UK-based Ziggi Golding and a British team. The event website advertises a Jamaica Film Festival and a Reggae Film Festival as key events of an 11 day programme. The event, which promises to be an annual activity that will tour the UK and Europe promoting Jamaica, has no official Jamaica approval or endorsement.

RFF STILL WAITING FOR PROMISED CONTRACT

In correspondence with RFF organizer Barbara Blake Hannah and Festival Jamaica organizer Golding dating back to June 2011, the Reggae Film Festival was invited to be a pivotal event of the Festival Jamaica 2012 activity and advertised on its website. However, despite scores of emails over 12 months from Mrs. Hannah to Ms. Golding while the RFF was being advertised on the Festival website, the last promise of a contract and payment for the RFF to be part of the event was made on July 9.

On July 14 the Festival Jamaica website was unveiled with a new Reggae Film Festival logo, a list of films to be shown and information that the film festival is being programmed by an employee of the BBC whose media center is housed at the Festival Jamaica 2012 venue, along with the CNN news studio.  The website informs that the 11 days of the Jamaica/Reggae Film Festival will be curated by Maxine Watson, BBC Commissioning Executive for Documentary on BBC One, from the archive of BBC, Independent features, informational and sponsored films.

Films to be shown include ROCKERS, by Greek-American director Ted Bafaloukas; the films LIFE & DEBT, H2 WORKER and AFRICA UNITE by American Stephanie Black; Chris Blackwell’s DANCEHALL QUEEN and COUNTRYMAN.

IMITATION SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY?  Since its inception in 2008 the Reggae Film Festival has been imitated all over the world. In the past five years several Caribbean islands have copied Jamaica’s lead and started film festivals, while in Amsterdam a Dutch company has been hosting an annual screening of films with Jamaican themes and topics, some of which it produces and distributes. This week a ‘German-Jamaican society’ advertised it will present “The FIRST OFFICIAL JAMAICA FILM FESTIVAL” in Frankfurt in October as its Jamaica 50 tribute.

An important feature of the programme proposed by the RFF was the screening of 15 award-winning CINE JAMAICA short, animated and feature films by new, young Jamaican film makers to give an opportunity for their work to gain international attention at the Olympic event. “Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not the most honourable,” says RFF Director Blake-Hannah. “This piracy of the Reggae Film Festival concept is a real slap in the face for the indigenous Jamaican film industry that is struggling to survive and find resources to capture and tell Jamaican stories.  It’s wonderful to see that we have inspired these events, but at the same time it’s a shame that year after year we struggle to find the support in Jamaica that these international events have. ”

The REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL officially registered its name and logo with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) in 2008, but registration in Jamaica does not provide international protection. The Jamaica Film Academy committee is considering what steps should now be taken.

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14 thoughts on “FESTIVAL JAMAICA STEALS REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL

  1. As much as it seems things change, things remain the same. This is just another reason why we must wake up to our truth.

    I am not surprised.
    Tendai

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  2. To me this article seems to mix up completely different facts. Although something seems to have gone terribly wrong with the organization of this film festival in Great Britain I do not see why the other film events in Europe are put in the same bag. Why is it negative when Jamaican films are shown all over the world? In which way is it harmful for the Jamaican film industry when its products can be seen in other countries? Why should other Caribbean islands not be permitted to promote their films?

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    • Are 40-year-old films a true picture of the Jamaican film industry? These films such as THE HARDER THEY COME, ROCKERS and COUNTRYMAN are 40 years old!!! In addition, most of the films being shown in so-called’Jamaican film festivals’ are films made about Jamaica by non-Jamaicans, including MAN FREE, ROCKERS, LIFE & DEBT, STORY OF LOVERS ROCK, ROCKSTEADY, RISE UP, THE FIRST RASTA and many more. People have been exploiting Jamaican culture and making money from it, while the real Jamaican film makers have no access to their funding agencies and international sponsors, distributors and film festivals. Caribbean islands are free to promote their films too. Belize, Barbados, Bahamas, Trinidad, Bermuda, Curacao, Anguilla… now think if London was to hold a Belize film festival, you would expect to see films made by Belizeans, wouldn’t you? Jamaica is a brand that people love to exploit, like all the Red, Gold and Green Rasta trinkets made in China sold around the world. Fighting to preserve what is JAMAICAN and JAMAICA’S.

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      • Yes, I totally agree with you Barbara. Most of the “classical” movies about reggae music and “RASTA”-culture were made by Non-Jamaicans or white people. It is important and I think also necessary, that more movies and docs about Jamaican culture, history and music are made by Jamaicans, and of course, those old movies do not show the reality, therefore it is urgent to give the young and talented Jamaican film artists a stage and possibility to show the facts. Jamaica and Jamaicans have been exploited for too long, people go there, as tourists because they believe in a reggae-rasta fairy tale, and most of them do not want to see what happens behind the nice and cosy tourist areas.
        Every country has film artists who document from their point of view what is going on in their specific place. The “theft” of a film concept about Jamaican culture is comparable, to the unfortunately happening sell-out that takes place in too many cultures, that have been dominated for too long by other cultures, who now still try (and are unfortunately still successful with it) to earn their dollars on something that they did not even create.
        Barbara was the first to launch the RFF concept, she is an experienced and well known journalist and movie-maker, so I am sure she knows what she is talking about.
        Please excuse my english, in case of spelling and grammar mistakes. I support Barbara and her RFF from the bottom of my heart.

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  3. Then Jamaicans, other Caribbean islands and all right -thinking people should Boycott the “Festival Jamaica 2012”; the real Reggae Film Festival should sue for breach of contract etc. Simples!

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    • I think you do not know the facts, you should not penalise a group on the say so of one person. We in England love Jamaica and want the best for Jamaica and all Jamaican’s.
      Peace, One Love and let’s not forget UNITY!

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  4. I have some contacts within Festival Jamaica and this article is deframetry and one sided. It definitely doesn’t report the true facts. Did the reporter ask festival Jamaica for their side of the story?

    As I understand it Festival Jamaica had there own Jamaican film festival and were in discussion with ms hannah to add her reggae film festival to their own content. Ms hannahs fee and conditions were too much and talks broke down. Festival Jamaica has broadcast rights for all the films they plan to show and no theft has taken place, of ideas or films. This is a case of ms hannah being disgruntled because she didnt get her contract because her fee was astronomical, and is trying to blackmail festival jamaica by slandering its name to the press. The unprofessional person who wrote this report has aided and abetted her.Theft is a serious accusation that can only be determined when both sides present their case and evidence, and ideally decided by a judge. Festival Jamaica are seeking legal advice as far as I hear, and will be taking legal action against the writers of this bias report and ms hannah-blake for mis-representation and slander.

    The festival is also being put on by jamaicans eg: the 2 directors are jamaican, and its about showcasing Jamaican culture to the world, not stealing from Jamaica.

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    • I am Barbara Blake Hannah, the writer of this article and this version of the story is false,as the Reggae Film Festival asked for no fee. Instead, it was Ms. Golding who offered a fee. I have a copy of all the correspondence, including the one in which she offered a sizeable fee. Of this, we merely asked for a deposit in order to cover travel, accommodation and other expenses. The BBC film festival Ms Golding planned was not the same as the Reggae Film Festival, but it is true that Ms.Golding made separate arrangements with film makers to show films in what she then called the ‘Reggae Film Festival’. We have nothing to hide and are also taking our own legal action for Festival Jamaica to cease promoting and advertising a ‘Reggae Film Festival’.

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    • I am informed another Jamaican company has sent Mrs.Golding a ‘cease and desist’ letter for another Jamaican product or idea that she appropriated. This company was able to afford paying 700 Pounds for her to stop. The Reggae Film Festival has no such funds to employ lawyers, so we just have to bitterly accept Ms Golding’s deception and wait to see how karma returns to her, as it surely will. One question to be asked is: Is one of the ‘2 Jamaican directors’ a Jamaican lawyer who is employed by the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), and did he tell her that it was OK for her to go ahead and use the Reggae Film Festival name and logo, even though it was registered with JIPO?

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  5. Hi Don,
    I read your comment, but cannot post it as you say I charge festivals to show your film.
    We do NOT CHARGE ANYONE to show films. All we ask is costs to cover our expenses.

    This time Festival Jamaica offered us enough for me to travel to England and back (air fare US$1,000) accommodation (US$450 per night) food (who knows) inter-London travel (again, who knows) and something for 11 days of work from 10 a.m. – 10 pm. What she offered us would have also enabled our England partner to travel to and from Birmingham where he lives and also incur the other expenses. We hoped to pay the film makers for the first time, but remember that we had borne the cost (JA$2 million) to stage the event, write and send out articles to publicize it and the film maker, pay for advertising, print programmes, etc all of which are FREE OF COST to the film maker, let alone the opportunity for it now to be seen in London.

    We try to earn something for out work for film makers (this year I am overdrawn at the bank from this year’s event) by including a clause in the Entry Form to allow us one income earning screening after the Festival. This is what the BEST OF THE REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL tour is. We hope, in vain, to begin each festival with some money in the bank, and hoped Festival Jamaica would at last be that opportunity, but our hopes were dashed. You yourself see how difficult it was for us to present the RFF in 2010 when you were there. You were disappointed to see how shoestring an operation it was, with no income whatever.

    Re the event in Kent at which your film is being shown, Peter negotiated our presence there and has been able to secure a small fee to cover his travel costs. The organizers were originally asking him to do it for free. We do not get any of the gate fee for that event.

    We are showing 2 films at Rototom this year, for which I have negotiated a fee of JA$5,000 for each. When we attended 2 years ago we were paid nothing except travel and accommodation. We are trying to establish a distribution chain of cinemas and events where the RFF can earn film makers some money, and London was going to be our showcase event.

    It’s a bit hard for us to see that all people need to do is phone up film makers from our list and get them to agree to show their films. Before our film festival began, there was no such genre as ‘reggae films’, though there were films made in and about Jamaica. The Reggae Film Festival defined the genre and put a spotlight on all Jamaican films, as well as encouraged more to be made. Your film, for example, would hardly have to come to world attention without the RFF. Where could you have gotten the attention it received in Jamaica? We now have quite a list of ‘reggae films’ recently made, including several by Jamaicans, but all people think they need to do is book 40-year-old ROCKERS, THE HARDER THEY COME and COUNTRYMAN and call it a ‘reggae film festival’. These films that have already made their money, block out views of films like yours.

    So I will be happy to post a comment from you, but first please correct your statement that I charge people to show films.
    BARBARA

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    • Love you for this conversation Don.

      I am glad you found the RFF good for feedback for your film. All I remember is how much trouble you went to bringing the artists to the hotel with you, and despite that not winning the documentary award. I am glad to know you have subtitled it in other languages, including Spanish. If I had known, I would have sent it to Rototom this year.

      The matter of payments to film makers is important, but even more is some kind of payment to me and the organizers. We are hiring a PR person to organize next year, and their proposed fee shows what I should have been earning to organize it each year, instead of working for nothing more than the desire to help develop Jamaica’ss film industry. I can see how easily I have ended up in the red every year.

      It’s good for this conversation to have taken place. Shows people interested in the Reggae Film Festival something about the inner workings, achievements and hopes for the future. Let’s keep in touch. We have big plans for next year and REGGAE IN THE RUFF still hasn’t had the exposure it deserves.
      MUCH LOVE

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