Reggae Film Festival begins

new posterThe JAMAICA INTERNATIONAL REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL opens on August 1 at the start of Jamaica’s Independence celebrations and runs for 5 days at Island Village in the beautiful resort town of Ocho Rios. More than 20 international film directors are flying in from Los Angeles, Washington DC, Toronto, Atlanta and London. They include Director Patrice Johnson and the cast of her feature film “Hill & Gully‘, British teen Gia O’Meally, star of the TV series “Which is Witch”, Monica Haim, director of the documentary ‘Awake Zion‘ that explores the relationship between Zionism and Rastafarianism and director Roy Anderson who explores his Maroon roots in ‘Akwantu’.born in trenchtown poster (2) Jamaican film makers are travelling from Kingston and Montego Bay to join them in the annual celebration of Jamaican culture in film with films that include the island’s first horror film – Wayne Benjamin’s ‘The Croft’ and first gospel film ‘Just Another Friday’ by director Judith Faloon-Reid.

With a preponderance of films by female directors, the 2013 festival honours WOMEN IN FILMWomen In Film with a special tribute to the late actress Madge Sinclair, star of ‘Conrak‘, TV series ‘Trapper John MD‘ and her iconic role as Eddie Murphy’s royal mother in “Coming To America’. Other Jamaican women in film include Grace Jones, Bond girls Martine Beswick and Marguerite LeWars, as well as Sheryl Lee Ralph and Leonie Forbes, Jamaica’s leading stage and film actress. The 2013 Festival highlights Jamaican Women In Film, directors Judith Faloon-Reid, Sharon LaCruise, Patrice Johnson and Danielle Scott-Haughton.

stranded n Dangriga
Stranded in Dangriga
lovers rock
Lovers Rock

Daytime activities include a Pop-Up Book Fair all day Sunday, August 3, and afternoon seminars on Acting – led by TV actor Justin Hadeed Awn; Scriptwriting, at which Donna-Marie Dowe will announce the 2014 Scriptwriting competition, and Animation led by Sam Stewart. Throughout the Festival, Village shops Island Coffees and Jose’s Bar will be open to provide food and drink for patrons, with special beach-side service on Sunday.

TruBornAfricanThe Opening Night Red Carpet reception will be hosted by Jamaica Film Academy Chairman Carl Bradshaw, with St. Ann Mayor and MP Shahine Robinson as special VIP guests. Invited guests include dignitaries from civic, tourism and business sectors of St. Ann, who have welcomed the Reggae Film Festival to the Parish. They will be joined by celebrities from Jamaica’s film and music industries in the 5 day festival, which ends with presentation of Awards in several categories and screening of Award-winning films.

The Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival is sponsored by Island Village, Jamaica Tourist Board, IRIE-FM, Island Coffees, Barivision Productions and Reggae Films UK.



Filmmakers Travel Free to Reggae Film Fest

stranded n Dangriga
LOST IN DANGRIGA – Feature from Belize for the 2013 RFF

 knutsford xpress logoIslandwide shuttle-service provider Knutsford Express has partnered with The Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival to provide VIP transportation for film festival directors and producers attending the event, especially those arriving from outside Jamaica. All directors of festival films, as well as specially invited guests, will travel free on Knutsford Express coaches from Montego Bay or Kingston to Ocho Rios to attend the event, taking place August 1-5 at Island Village Shopping and Entertainment center.

As part of the partnership, the Reggae Film Festival has presented Knutsford Express with a specially selected package of Award-winning films from previous festivals that will be shown on all Knutsford Express coach routes during the 5-day film festival, including the new South Coast route.

Knutsford Express Marketing Manager Christian Corke stated that while the organization is usually not in the position to commit to such an event during the summer, it did not want to miss out on associating with such a major event as the Reggae Film Festival that will help in improving the Jamaican and Caribbean film industry.

The Knutsford Express shuttle service provides air-conditioned luxury coaches on north and south coast routes,and has earned a reputation for reliable, safe and courteous all-island transportation.  Other Sponsors of the Jamaica International REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL are Island Village, Jamaica Tourist Board, IRIE-FM, Marley Coffee, HYPE-TV, Island Coffees,ChatyChaty News and the Ocho Rios resorts Shaw Park Hotel, Sunset Jamaica Grande and Mystic Mountain.



APRIL  18, 2013

island village


Plans are going well for the staging of the 6th Reggae Film Festival at Island Village, Ocho Rios during Independence Week, August 1-5.   Manager Delroy Morgan says Island Village is pulling out all the stops to ensure the success of the event, to which he personally brings his experience of 3  years as a Sundance Film Festival volunteer.

Seats will be set on the Island Village central lawn under the statue of Bob Marley, facing a large screen onstage under the classic bamboo roof. Each night a programme of Festival feature films, shorts, documentaries and music videos will be shown.  In between screenings, live reggae performances will entertain audiences, who will have a chance to vote on the Best Music Video.

Premium screenings will also take place nightly in the Cove Cinema in the Village, which will host the Film Festival Gala Opening Reception. The Reggae Film Festival ends August 5 with the presentation of Awards and award-winning films.

In the daytime, Reggae Film Festival activities will include the midday start on Saturday August 3 of the Make A Film In 24 Hours Competition, which ends the following day.  The Film Festival Seminar will take place on Sunday afternoon on the topic: “Film: The Business of the Show”.


rhona-fox-02bokeem woodbineAmong the VIP Guests who have already confirmed their presence are US actor BOKEEM WOODBINE, star of “Total Recall” and “Dead Presidents” who visited Jamaica recently scouting locations for a new feature film.  Also coming is GuyaneseAmerican actress RHONA FOX who heads her own successful music promotion and management company, FoxFuze whose clients have included reggae star Shaggy.  Both will be among the judges of the Festival films, as will BRUNO CHATELIN, Chief Operating Officer of the respected website and magazine, who is also  a Board Member of the European Film Academy, Member of Cesar, and Advisory Member IFFS.


theskin poster Keeper Of Zion GateCulture promoAmong the films to be screened are six feature films, including the first from Austria, as well as the first from Antigua — “The Skin” starring Jamaica’s Carl Bradshaw.  Reggae documentaries include the first from Israel, ‘Keeper of Zion Gate‘ about Joe ‘Culture’ Hill‘s Peace mission to that country, and a rare view at “The Land of Look Behind‘, a vintage documentary about Rasta and reggae by noted German film maker Werner Herzog.  International documentaries include ’16 Acres‘ a US film in its Jamaican and Caribbean premiere about the struggle to build a suitable tribute to 9/11 at the World Trade Center, a documentary on Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe and a special look at Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt.

Films by Jamaican film makers will be screened on CINE JAMAICA night, Friday August 2 and will include several animated films, shorts and ‘The Croft’  a new feature film by Wayne Benjamin. CINE JAMAICA films will form a special night’s programme at the upcoming Portobello Film Festival in London

Awards in several categories will be presented on Tuesday, August 5 at a Gala Ceremony at which a leading Jamaican reggae star will be the guest performer.  An After Party will bring the curtains down on another Jamaica International REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL.



Book and theatre lovers should not miss the presentation of ‘Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine’ at the excellent Bookophilia bookstore on Hope Road, Liguanea on Friday August 19. This unique opportunity to see one of the most interesting Jamaican plays of recent years, is a blessed result of Paul Issa’s publication of “Three Jamaican Plays – A Postcolinial Anthology (1977-1987)” that gathers under one cover three plays that Issa describes as “… a social and political history of that period in Jamaica’s history between the optimism of Independence and the cynicism, economic and social difficulties of the 1990s and beyond.

“‘Three Jamaican Plays’ is a jewel of Jamaican literature edited by Honor Ford-Smith, memoralizing three works that in their time shook the foundation of Jamaican thetre with their bold themes and dialogue that exposed a critical decade in which Jamaica struggled to extricate itself from the colonial experience and examine the development options possible. Stafford ‘Ashani’ Harrison’s ‘Masqueraders’ draws on the playwright’s Rastafari consciousness to critique Eurocentricism and white supremacy and establish an alliance with the ideological left that transcended race and class privelege. When first staged in 1977 with a cast of mainly dreadlocksed actors, it was shocking and controversial in its dramatization of the relationship between violence, social rupture and transformation.

Ginger Knight’s ‘Whiplash‘ (1983) would be easily understood in today’s Jamaica, with its tale of two brothers caught up on different sides of the inner-city political conflict. Honour Ford-Smith, in one of several excellent introductory comments, says the play ‘…dramatizes the violent crisis that interupted the project of decolonization in the late 1970s … and makes a bold comment on the misrule of ntional and economic political elites.” The play references the Green Bay Massacre and shows how the power of Rastafari ideology acted as a ‘force for peace that people deeply desired.” It is a play that would transfer easily to the cinema screen.

“Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine” presents two ageing women — one black and a former servant, the other white woman rejected by her family for a brief mixed race liaison — and who spend what remains of their life arguing over who owns the decaying house in which they both live in permanent conflict. The play exposes the uneasy alliance between social classes, gender and race in Jamaica, as they use their former lives to justify their right to own and live in the house. First presented in 1987, the play was written by members of the Groundwork Theatre company that included Editor Ford-Smith herself, and at the time was considered a major exposition of the growing Jamaican feminist movement.

The plays are set in context by the editor’s introductions to each play that make the book a valuable thesis on Jamaican theatre and especially a vision of the most important years of Jamaica’s post-colonial development. Ford-Smith’s excellent commentary places each play in context, not only describing the era in which it was written, but reporting on the impact of its presentation. Indeed, her comments through the book frame each play contextually and provide an understanding of what made it exceptional as a vehicle for social transformation.

Paul Issa

The collection of plays in one volume is a bold and positive step for which publisher Paul Issa is to be heartily commended, as the book becomes a valuable part of Jamaica’s theatrical history that provides schools, universities and lovers of good literature with an important addition to curriculua and libraries.



The JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY has been petitioned by the NATIONAL LIBRARY OF JAMAICA to make a Legal Deposit of copies of all the films shown in the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL since its inception in 2008 to help build an archive of films made in Jamaica and films featuring Jamaican topics for research, study and preservation.

The building of a comprehensive archive of Jamaican films has been one of the foremost objectives of the JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY. As such, the JFA Trustees BARBARA BLAKE HANNAH and PETER GITTINS are pleased to have been invited by the NLJ to assist this national endeavour, and will begin with a presentation of films shown at the first REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL in 2008 at a Seminar on Legal Deposit being presented by the NLJ on September 29. The Jamaica Film Academy Archive will continue to present the NLJ with copies of  films from all future stagings of the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL .

 Esther Anderson, Jamaican actress and director of the documentary BOB MARLEY: MAKING OF A LEGEND, has been invited by the NLJ to be guest speaker at the Seminar. The JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY  has invited all film makers whose works have been shown in the 4 years of the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL and become part of the JFA Archive, to attend the NLJ Seminar and present their film copy in person, if desired.



This was a great week for Sugashak Records, Jamaica’s first solar recording studio and its star artist Keke-I with lots of activity that energised and occupied the team of off-the-grid music producers. First, Sugashak’s CEO Christopher Kaufman was happy to see how far construction has come towards completion of the three-story Sugashak Villa 800 ft above sea level at Mango Valley, St. Ann, that will provide luxury accommodation for music makers using Sugashak studios.

On Friday night Sugashak journeyed from Mango Valley to Wickie Wackie on the St. Thomas beach for the first of the Conscious Reggae Parties organized by Rasis International. A full moon illuminated the waves crashing on the black sand beach and a cool breeze fanned the night, as beautifully dressed Rasta and Afrocentric guests gathered on the lawns to listen to music, watch a Garvey film, browse the Ination bookshop and eat ital at the Veggie On Wheels food booth.

In a line-up that included I-Wayne, Joop Lion, Chakula and Roots Uprising Band, Keke-I gave an exciting performance of his hit song “Go Round Dem” and transfixed the appreciative audience.

Two days later, Keke-I again electrified the audience when he was among the stellar line-up of leading artists at the IRIE-FM tribute to Marcus Garvey on Sunday August 14 at Coconut Grove, Ocho Rios. Almost unknown among ‘name brand’ performers, Keke-I showed his star qualities, as he strolled the stage confidently and departed from his lyrics to bring messages of peace, unity and love of children. Pulling two children from the audience, he had the cameras flashing and the audience cheering as he knelt to embrace them and illustrate his comments. There is no doubt that this artist, who has been waiting in the wings for many years, has finally come to national recognition. His mentor, Sugar Minott, would be proud.

It was a long day, but one at which the singers and players on instruments poured forth their best to honour the great National Hero. Praises and blessings to the ladies of IRIE-FM – Andrea Williams, K’Shema Francis, Mama Elise Kelly. as well as to Ron Muschette and IRIE-FM’s boss Chad Young.  ONE LOVE


The Jamaica Film Academy has moved the dates of the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL 2011 from February to May 23-27, 2011, to be held at the Whitter Village, Ironshore, Montego Bay.  With its commitment to highlighting Jamaica’s reggae culture in film, the Reggae Film Festival will celebrate two international milestones during the week-long event. The birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie I will be honoured at the Opening Night Gala on May 23, while the UN Year of African Descendants will be celebrated with a special programme of films on May 25, African Liberation Day. Other features of the Festival include the Make a Film in 24 Hours competition, a Children’s Film programme, a Film Seminar featuring specially invited VIP Guests and a final night Honour Awards showcase of the winning films.

The REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL has been invited to be part of two major cultural events in Britain this year. The Drum Arts Centre in Birmingham, the largest venue for Black arts in Europe, will present the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL as part of its Summer season’s theme of Reggae & Revolution, while the Wandsworth Festival to be held in London in August, is designed to showcase Caribbean Culture. The Best of the Reggae Film Festival will be presented at programmes in Atlanta, USA in June and in South Africa in July, while in August the Festival will once again be a feature of the Rototom Reggae Sunsplash in Spain.

Films already entered include the US feature film ‘ROCKSTEADY’ featuring David Hinds of Steel Pulse; SUPERSTONIC SOUND, a tribute to Black British film maker and dubmaster DJ Don Letts; EVERYDAY SUNSHINE,a documentary about the US rock-punk-reggae group Fishbone narrated by Laurence Fishbourne; and THE SKIN by HamaFilms Antigua, featuring Carl Bradshaw. Invited international guests include Laurence Fishbourne, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lennox Lewis, Carl Lumley and Mitzi Allen, as well as Jamaican film makers Chris Browne, Ras Kassa and Storm Saulter.

There are several advantages to moving the event to the new date in May.  Since announcing the February date, the organizers have received notification of several important films that wish to be included in the Festival, but that are not yet ready for screening in February. They include a major British TV series and several Jamaican feature and documentary films that hope to include the Reggae Film Festival in their film’s resume and hopefully, awards.

The Whitter Village welcomes the new dates. “I am pleased to have more time for the Village to settle in after its December opening,” says Angela Whitter, “and to make sure that everything is in place for what I know will be the most unusual and interesting event taking place in Montego Bay this year, at the most unusual and interesting place in Montego Bay.”

The REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL continues its plans to make the 2011 event a worthy showcase of Jamaican film culture.



David 'Steel Pulse' Hinds

The JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY announces plans for the 4th staging of the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL, to be held May 23-27, 2011 at the Whitter Village, Ironshore, Montego Bay. The 5-day event to be hosted by JFA Chairman Carl Bradshaw and co-ordinated by Festival Director Barbara Blake Hannah, will open with the screening of animated, documentary and feature films from Jamaica, Antigua and the UK in the presence of Jamaican and international film and music stars.

Invited VIP guests include David ‘Steel Pulse’ Hinds – star of the Festival feature film ‘Rocksteady’, Heavyweight champ-turned-actor Lennox Lewis (‘Johnny Was’, ‘Ghett’A Life’), J-American actress Sheryl Lee Ralph; Jamaican film makers Chris Browne, Ras Kassa and Storm Saulter, and Mitzie Allen, producer/director of HamaFilms Antigua. The 2011 event to be staged on the Whitter Village central courtyard lawns, will once again feature a Make A Film In 24 Hours competition, a Children’s Programme and a Film Seminar.  Live reggae music before screenings, a series of Midnight Movies and a Gala Awards Show are among some of the special features of the 2011 event.

Rocksteady” is a US feature film about a young boy of Jamaican parentage who tries to become a winning driver on the drag car racing circuit with help and inspiration from a Rastaman he meets, played by David Hinds. A rocking reggae soundtrack by the real-life SteelPulse band accompanies this film.

Another special event will be the premiere of the Caribbean feature film ‘The Skin”, Caribbean mythology set in Antigua & Barbuda co-starring Carl Bradshaw and produced by husband-and-wife team Mitzie and Howard Allen of HamaFilms Antigua. The film continues their groundbreaking work as Caribbean film makers and their first feature ‘The Sweetest Mango‘ made 10 years ago, will also be shown at the 2011 Festival. Entries include  innovative animation by digital genius Reinardo ‘Mental’ Chung, whose  film “Bad Influence‘ is just one of several expressions in the Jamaican Cinema category.  Documentaries include ‘Superstonic Sound: The Dread Documentary” about Black British DJ and film maker Don Letts, director of Jamaican hit movie ‘Dancehall Queen“, and the Festival introduces the work of three new female film makers: directors  Jovel Johnson – USA (“Reckoning”) and Denise Campbell – JA (“Bubblin‘) and producer-writer-actress Tameka Jarvis-George – Antigua (“Dinner”).

Josef Forstmayer & US actors Alfre Woodward & Allan Rickman at Round Hill

The move to bring a major international entertainment event to Montego Bay has been welcomed by leaders of the resort community, and a high-level committee of Patrons, headed by Round Hill Hotel Manager and CHTA President Josef Forstmayer will serve as advisors to ensure that the event delivers all possible benefits to Montego Bay for residents and as a visitor attraction. International media attending the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL include a documentary film crew from Spain, where the Festival was presented in 2010 at the Rototom Reggae Sunsplash, journalists from  BILLBOARD Magazine, UNITED REGGAE website based in France, and Germany’s RIDDIM Magazine.

Whitter Village Courtyard - Chairs on the lawn will face a screen on stage

In 2011 the JFA will develop its international links by undertaking an international tour of the BEST OF THE REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL, with a series of programmes in Europe, the USA and Africa that will provide films entered in the Festival with multiple opportunities for screenings, sale and distribution to international audiences and media outlets. The Tour will give sponsors associated with the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL visibility and advantages from association and exposure of their products and services.

The JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY plans to make the 4th REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL the best yet, to continue playing its part in developing and enhancing the Jamaican film and entertainment industries.

PRESS OFFICE: Jamaica Media Productions *, *CELL: 876-830-6517

“Rise Up” Review

 Interesting Feature Documentary

‘Rise Up” the newest Jamaican film and — surprisingly —  a documntary, premiered in Kingston at the Carib, the city’s main cinema and the reception was very positive. It’s rare – if ever – that a documentary film is screened at the Carib, and even rarer that a documentary film goes on island-wide release. But ‘Rise Up” is no ordinary documentary; the three stories of the three artists in the film make it feel like a feature film, as we follow each from the early years of their careers seven years ago.

Kemoy is an innocently beautiful country girl with a simple, unprocessed hairstyle and a pure angelic voice, singing songs with unique high notes that have flowed naturally out of her. She smilingly dismisses the neighbourhood boys who seek her company, holding out for which looks like a promising career. But when we return a year later, Kemoy is now pregnant. The film makers take their pregnant protege to seasoned performer, singer-pianist Suzanne Couch for some training, and then to audition for Sly & Robbie, who say she has massive potential. But when we next meet Kemoy, her singing dreams are on hold for motherhood of her 2 year old son.

Turbalance was a skinny, brash-talking teenager living at his mother’s humble home in the Hungry Town ghetto, when ‘Rise Up’ director Luciano Blotta first started filming. But he was sure he was going to make it and prepared to wait for his moment. After several songs that made little impact on the charts, as well as touring as opening act for Sizzla Kalonji, Turbalance burst into the reggae superstar galaxy with the video for his single “ The Most Notorious”, which went to No1 and established him as an artist. ‘Rise Up” enables the viewer to follow this journey from beginning to now, and we smile to see Turbalance showing us the additions and improvements he has made to his mother’s house and to the upgrade of the Hungry Town community.

Juss Ice has a different story. As narrator Malakat explains in the film, some people feel that reggae music ‘belongs to poor people’, so Michael “Ice’ Lewis — a white-skinned teenager from the same priveleged uptown origins as Sean Paul — constantly has to prove he is just as entitled as any other Jamaican to pour out the music within him, and worthy to be taken seriously. Ice has joined with two other white uptowners to form Ice Anastasia, a group whose CD is good enough to get them booked as an opening act on Reggae Sumfest 2005. As he drives his ‘criss’ car and visits his ‘downtown’ friends, we see a cocky, rootsy and talented artist whose song lyrics come from real life experiences.

But despite all preparations, the first-time-ever-on-stage debut of Ice Anastasia is an out-of-tune flop. Ice tells his team it was a bad show after all their rehearsals, but he throws his shoulders back and says “This is only the beginning.” The audience at the premiere applauded this scene loudly, and one person shouted “Don’t stop!”

Ice has continued his career nonsstop since then, making several singles and performing occasionally at clubs in Jamaica. He has built up a name for himself as one of the new crop of upcoming artists and “Rise Up” will help him get closer to his objective to fulfill the promise of the film. The day after the premiere, Ice and his new management invited me to the set of a video shoot for his new single.

The film shows three strong characters: one who made it, one who didn’t make it because of circumstances she couldn’t control, and one who is determined to make it, no matter what.  “Rise Up” spreads their musical lives before us and invites us to continue watching. Director Luciano Blotta has done an excellent job, skillfully placing his camera as a fly-on-the-wall in some of the moments that make the film special. 

Praise must also be given to Jamaican producer Carlo “Amlak” Less, who carefully negotiated all the many roads necessary to enable the director to capture the scenes and personalities of this charming film. I loved it.

JAMDOWN, Manifesto Jamaica

Another Jamaican reggae film has surfaced to welcome appreciation from reggae lovers worldwide. This is JAMDOWN, described as a ‘musical journey to the 1980s” that highlights the music of The Congos – a much-praised but nearly-forgotten group that emerged when reggae made its first international breakthrough. The Congos were 1970s recording artists signed to Island Records whose first album ‘Heart of the Congos’ has been hailed as one of reggae’s greatest musical collections. Some say the excellence of the Congos music caused Blackwell to sideline them and their musical output, fearing they would overtake Marley’s popularity. Sad to say, the Congos’ international success came late, but better late than never.

Now the release of “JAMDOWN” a documentary film about the Congos revives the history and music of this original roots reggae group and re-introduces them to a new and welcoming audience. “JAMDOWN’ takes viewers on a journey back to 1980, straight into the heart of the Jamaican reggae scene, following legendary Reggae artists Toots Hibbert and The Congo’s. Shot in 1980, the film had a limited release in France and therefore remained undiscovered by the rest of the world. Since it’s initial release almost 30 years ago ‘JAMDOWN’ has become what reggae footage collectors often refer to as “the holy grail of reggae films” due to it’s rarity and difficulty in finding an original copy of the film.

For the first time in almost 30 years this film has now been made available to own on DVD by Reggae Films UK, the online marketplace and archive of reggae films. The film contains some of the only known early footage of The Congos, performing tracks from their legendary ‘Heart Of The Congo’s’ LP produced by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at the Black Ark studios at the height of their career. JAMDOWN contains some of the most electrifying live reggae footage to have ever been captured on film, and viewers are sure to enjoy this legendary film as much as we do.

Roger Steffens, Reggae historian, says of ‘JAMDOWN‘ : “…a melodic time machine that transports us magically to a time of massive creativity as reggae was emerging to the outside world. We see some of its most rootical exponents at the height of their powers. The film’s re-emergence after three decades is almost miraculous, and it should not be missed by anyone who cares about Jah Music.”

MANIFESTO JAMAICA: Lesley Ann Welsh & Donisha Prendergast

Manifesto JA is a non-profit organization dedicated to youth empowerment and nation building through the Arts and Culture. The executive board of vibrant young people includes film maker Donisha Marley Prendergast and entertainment planner Lesley Ann Welsh,  and combines the energies of an active group of young Jamaicans – all below 30-years-old – making it what they describe as a truly ‘for youth, by youth’ initiative.

The Manifesto Jamaica group decided that the best help they could give to empowering youth was to encourage their talents as performing artists and provide performance space for them, as well as providing the music industry with a new, younger crew of talented artists.

Since its inception, Manifesto Jamaica has been providing interesting opportunitie for exposure for performing artists in theatre, music, dance, culinary, visual, spiritual, martial and literary arts. Their objective is to empower the youth and expose them to the arts as an option, instead of crime to earn a living. Targeting the inner city communities, they have held workshops in Greenwich Town and August Town and hope to take the programme further afield to the countryside.

Jabalance & Donisha

Recently they held three performance evenings on Friday nights at the popular Bookophilia uptown bookshop at which a number of artists have pleased the attending crowd with interesting performances. These have included unknown artists hoping to ‘buss’, as well as up-coming stars such as Protoje, the Nomadz band, and Kariuki. Most interesting performance on the final Friday came from St. Ann roots reggae artist Jabalance, who introduced Donisha Prendergast onstage to sing a duet with him. The song received such loud applause, that the two went into the studio a few days later and recorded it for future release.

This project by Manifesto Jamaica is commendable, as it provides new ways for would-be artists to try out their performance skills and make new fans.  Hopefully the ambitious objectves will bear fruit for the many performers taking advantage of this unique opportunity. The music industry needs this breath of fresh air.



The acts by which We live and the attitudes by which We act must be clear beyond question. Let us be true to what We believe, that Our beliefs may serve and honour us.

H.I.M. Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia

New Jamaican Cinema

Three Jamaican films take the spotlight this week, as the growth of the Jamaican film industry blossoms and more attention is being given to locally produced films than US blockbusters.

Donisha Prendergast, daughter of Rita Marley’s first daughter Sharon, was born after Bob Marley died and though she grew up in the Marley family household, was not brought up as a Rasta. Now in her early 20s, Donisha decided to embark on a journey of discovery to find her Rasta roots and to document the process on film, travelling to several locations to learn about Rastafari – the movement that inspired Bob Marley to write his most powerful songs.

The documentary, “RASTA“, takes an in-depth look at Rastafari and its cultural and historical links to other people and groups around the world. Says Donisha: “Since Bob Marley’s music and lyrics were informed by his Rastafarian beliefs, it’s important for people to have a deeper understanding of who Rastafarians are today and the impact the movement has had on peoples of the world.”

The journey has taken her around the world, filming interviews in all five continents with special emphasis on those Rastafarians who can teach her all she wants to know about the movement. The film will feature interviews with some of today’s most celebrated reggae artists, Rastafarians and academics who have studied the Rastafarian movement, as well as interviews with ‘reggae royalty’ Damian Marley and Tarrus Riley.

Phase one of the documentary was completed earlier this year with a shoot in Washington, D.C., where Prendergast visited the DISCOVERING RASTAFARI exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute and interviewed custodian James Homiak. In August the production filmed interview with Rastafarians and scholars attending the UWI Rastafari Studies Conference. The third phase of the production continues in Canada, England and India, with editing scheduled to begin by November.



Storm. Makonnen, Nile & Peter - KIDS PARADISE 2

Many years ago, at the inspiration, urging and help of my then-7-year-old son Makonnen, I made a children’s TV movie KIDS PARADISE about four children vacationing on the North coast who find a treasure map. The film, starring Freddie McGregor, had some international success when we were invited to be special guests at the 1994 Chicago Childrens’ Film Festival and inspsired by this, we decided to make a sequel. While visiting friends in Negril, we met a family whose children were natural film stars and so we built the second KIDS PARADISE film around them.

It was therefore my great pleasure to learn years later that being in this film had inspired the children Storm and Nile Saulter to pursue careers as film makers. After studying in the US and apprenticeships to such excellent film makers as Little ‘X’ and Hype Williams, both of them have been making short films, music videos and commercials that have brought them to national and international attention.

Nile’s co-production with Joel Burke in THE CANDY STORE (a comedy set in the world of teenagers and raging hormones) is not yet released. However in October Storm’s major feature BETTA MUS’ COME will finally receive an official premiere and release. The story is set in the Manley 70s when the title was a popular political slogan, and shows the underworld life that supports politics of both sides and creates the social problems we know so well today.

Under the guidance of British-Jamaican film producer Paul Bucknor, the film has had an interesting developmental life, first shown as an extended trailer that excited attention at the Flashpoint film festival held at their Negril hotel home, then a year later in Port Royal where it received acclaim from a select group of cineophiles.

Then it was back to the editing room to fine tune the finished film, package the marketing and get a screening date.  BETTA MUS’ COME opens in Kingston in October’s National Heroes Month when politicians and their heritage are among the icons being celebrated.

Sheldon Shepherd of the innovative reggae group Nomadz, stars with support from noted American actor Roger Guenevere Smith. This film has potential to give the indigenous Jamaican film industry a major boost, especially internationally and I am personally proud to have had some small hand in making Storm and Nile Saulter the excellent film makers theyhave become.



Chris Browne on set of GHETT'A LIFE

Chris Browne, Jamaica’s most experienced cinematographer and nephew of Perry Henzell has just wrapped up principal photography on his feature film GHETT’A LIFE, the screenplay for which won the 2006 Hartley Merrill International Screenplay award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France. Chris is best known as director of THIRD WORLD COP, and worked on such jamaican feature films as DANCE HALL QUEEN, ONE LOVE and KLA$H, as well as being hired by several international productions filmed in Jamaica.

Actor Carl Davia & Director Chris Browne

GHETT’A LIFE, is described as an action packed drama that introduces newcomer Kevoy Burton as ‘Derrick’, a teenager from a politically divided inner city community, whose dream of becoming a great boxer unites those around him. ‘Derrick’s’ idol is boxing legend Lennox Lewis, who plays himself in a cameo role. In addition, the film boasts a cast of experienced Jamaican actors including Carl Davis, Chris McFarlane, Winston “Bello” Bell, Teddy Price, Munair Zacca and Jamaican born Canadian-based actress Karen Robinson. Emerging talent O’Daine Clarke, Kadeem Wilson and Lisa Williams also shine in leading roles, with local boxing luminaries Shrimpy Clarke and Carl Grant giving authenticity to the boxing background of the project, filmed in the inner-city communities of Rose Town, Craig Town, Allman Town, Grants Pen, Mountain View and South Side. 

The film was totally financed by Jamaican investors and producer Justine Henzell, continuing the film tradition set by her father, promises an early 2011 release to several international film festivals, (hopefully including the Reggae Film Festival) and a mid-year general release.   This growth of Jamaican film industry is encouraging and will certainly inspire many of the young bloods experimenting with cameras and computers, to become more active in producing films of all kinds.




This book is essential for black people everywhere, particularly those who went ‘home’ to their mother in the search for who we are, for acceptance, for our identities — only to discover that the ‘mother’ didn’t want anything to do with us.”

BEVERLY MANLEY, reviewing ‘GROWING OUT: Black Hair & Black Pride in the Swinging Sixties’ by BARBARA BLAKE HANNAH

Letter from Rototom Reggae Film Festival


by PETER GITTINS – Co-Director, Reggae Film Festival


The Rototom festival went very well, better than the organizers had expected. The numbers of people really exceeded all their expectations. They never expected so many people would turn up as reggae isn’t usually known as being big in Spain, but the event drew people from all over Europe, many came from the UK, Germany, France etc. I even spotted many Jamaicans there! Africans, people of all nations had come to the event.

Some of the headlining acts where Alpha Blondy, Pablo Moses, Fantan Mojah, Marcia Griffiths, Mighty Diamonds, Abyssinians, Albarosie, Busy Signal, Linval Thompson, some well known sound systems form the UK attended, Jah Shaka and Dave Rodidgan.

There was also a European dancehall contest running for days where bands from each country would perform in competition and judges would vote on the best.  The festival had a dub area, ska, main stage, lion stage, House of Rastafari tent which was showing some Rasta films and had a Rasta art exhibition.

The festival really livened up at night after midnight when usually most festivals are closing down about this time Rototom was gearing up for the influx of festival goers who had been sleeping during the day and keeping out of the sun. The problem for most was the heat as that week the TV had been reporting about a heat wave that was coming from Africa which spread across spain, by the Friday it had got as high as 45 degrees, this was causing people many problems especially those who where camping, so many people spent the days on the beach and near the sea where some of the Rototom music events took place in the day.


The film screenings where only a part of the music festival, so we had lots of people passing by the tent and popping in because the festival was full of tents doing all kinds of stuff but we had a good position in the Reggae University tent which was the Conference Centre by day and RFF by night. Each night we started showing films at 12 midnight; each night was approx. 3hrs long, give or take 20-30mins and we also put some films on loop in the evening before the festival started and this got in a small crowd. We mainly played ‘Roots Time’ on loop and everyone enjoyed it.

I had 2 people help with speaking, mainly Nicole Hewitt and also she recruited an English guy to talk on day 2+3 so this was a great help. I prepared speeches for them which was basically a synopsis on each film and a small bit about the 24 hr film competition, when we showed the 2 short films. We stuck to the program apart from a couple of things we missed out and jiggled it about but all went well and not one complaint. Everyone knew that you had probs getting here so we had some probs with the films. This was announced and explained why some films weren’t in the right place on the program.

Day one was a full house (well 90% full) so was really good, very impressed with the turn out.

JAM DOWN on screen

To be honest I didn’t get much chance to see the festival side of things as i was busy every day Wed-Fri with the films, getting them ready on time. I did this Wed-Fri, from 7pm each night till abour 3:30am.

The people who deserve some real thanks in all of this are Nicole Hewitt who really helped us and an Italian guy named Mauro who was the head of IT. He went out of his way to get us internet connection and burn off any downloads I made, etc. He was a great help as was the projectionist guy who was from Modena in Italy. He runs his own sound system. These guys were great and they loved to see the RFF in Rototom.


It was very nice to see that they had a stall there from Trench Town. It was the “Trenchtown Reading Centre” which I visited with Bernard Collins of the Abyssinians. He lives in Trench Town, so was keen to speak with the stall owners about their work. The lady who was running the stall had never actually been to Jamaica ,but had heard about the project on the internet 3 yrs earlier. She really warmed to what the Reading Centre was about and started working for them as a volunteer 3yrs ago, so she contacted Rototom and they allowed her to setup a stall which was great.

Inside the film festival tent.

The stall was full of pictures of the Centre in Trench Town and all the kids with books etc. I think the idea was to get books to the children there and they were appealing for support so they could build a school etc., so was very nice to see this at Rototom. They hope to get one of the other Trench Town groups involved for next year — I think she said it was “Culture Yard” they wanted to get involved, who where already based in Trench Town doing good work.

The festival was full of food stalls from all over the world, Cuban, Mexican, Italian, Jamaican, Indian, Chinese, Guinea-Bissau(East Africa), so plenty of great food to choose from, also many clothing and trinket stalls packed with the red/gold+green colours.


What amazed me personally was the huge number of dreadlocked white people, mainly Spanish and European but a huge percentage of those at the event had dreads! Was very interesting. I have to say for me this is the biggest reggae event I have ever seen or heard about, to see so many stages and acts all in one place at the same time was amazing. Just a shame that this wasn’t happening in Jamaica but what a tribute to Jamaican culture that all these Europeans are embracing the culture.

Hope this helps give you an idea of what it was like. Congrats especially to Sabrina and Gina who did so much to get this all together and to get us there. They must be exhausted! We missed you, but there’s always next year!