Strong Film Festival opening on three counts
The three functions mounted on Tuesday, the first day of the inaugural JAMPRO-organised Jamaica Film Festival, were hugely successful. A morning workshop on screenwriting at the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) was followed in the evening by the official launch ceremony at the Courtleigh Auditorium.
Then the film festival really began - with a 'film', in the expanded sense the word is used nowadays. What was screened was a 'searching-for-roots' video documentary that had the audience cheering. More on it anon.
Facilitators of the screenwriting workshop were Jamaican actor Basil Wallace (the super villain Screwface in Marked for Death and who also appeared in Blood Diamond) and Jeffrey Reddick, screenwriter of the Final Destination disaster comedies. Actually, the event was less of a workshop, for no screenwriting was attempted. There was more of a freewheeling discussion on topics brought up by the two dozen or so writers, producers, actors and would-be film practitioners in attendance.
The topics included the emerging new outlets for films apart from cinema screens, new formats especially suited for online viewing, the formal copyrighting of work and some informal means of securing rights, as well as avoiding scams.
The fact was stressed that a screenplay, unlike a stage play, is usually the work of several writers. Directors and actors often demand some rewriting, Reddick told the audience, adding, "here are three films - the one you wrote, the one that's shot and the one that's edited".
Wallace said that Jamaica's motto, Out of Many, One People, was one on which many stories could be based. In light of the fact that Jamaicans have set foot in every country of the world, he asked how writers could extend Jamaica's reach worldwide. "Writers have to infuse their experiences into their work," he said.
Later, at the opening ceremony, first-time screenwriter Audrey Williams echoed Reddick's point. Of the making of her film, Jessie's Baby, she said "it's the most collaborative experience I've ever had."
Specialists of all sorts - actor, director, camera person, make-up artist and so on - are involved, she said. As a result, "you want flexible persons working with you and you have to be flexible".
After being introduced by a jocular emcee, Fae Ellington, main speaker Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton, said the film festival gave him something "to smile about" - the fact that the festival provides a platform for the growth of the creative economy.
Elaborating, Hylton said that it creates a space for the development of local talent, new and established, and the creation of products with worldwide appeal. He announced that the Government wants reggae music to be officially recognised as an intangible Jamaican cultural form and establish trademark protection to prevent products not made in Jamaica from falsely claiming they were.
Hylton reminded the audience that intellectual property can now be used as collateral for securing loans and concluded that "the festival will help to take Jamaica to the world and the world to Jamaica."
A highlight of the ceremony was a special presentation by the Mayor of Kingston, Dr Angela Brown Burke, to Paula Williams Madison, a former vice-president of NBC Universal and CEO of her own company, which invests in the creative industry. She was born in Harlem of Jamaican parents and at one time recognised as one of the 75 most powerful women in corporate America.
After the presentation, Madison told the cheering audience that she had prepared the requisite papers for her to officially have dual citizenship of the United States and Jamaica.
JAMPRO's president, Diane Edwards, closed the ceremonial opening with a vote of thanks to the festival's many sponsors, which included the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Red Stripe, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and Tuff Gong International.
Following the ceremony, came the festival's first film, a documentary which Madison made about her search for her Chinese family Lasting an hour and 35 minutes, Finding Samuel Lowe starts in Harlem but quickly moves to Toronto, Canada, to show Marshall obtaining information at a huge social gathering of Chinese people. This leads her to Kingston, where her parents had a business, then to
Mocho, Clarendon, where she discovers relatives.
The cameras then take us to St Ann's Bay, where Madison's grandfather had a shop, then on to China where she finds more relatives. Madison breaks down in tears of joy several times during the film and her emotions clearly left the audience moved.
Film Commissioner Carole Beckford told the audience that there would be 14 workshops and 43 screenings during the festival, which ends tomorrow with the screening of the final three films at JAMPRO.