National Film Festival discontinued
Last year's staging of a national film festival stirred excitement among key industry players and was described by many as the start of great things to come. However, that excitement has quickly faded as news came that the event has been discontinued indefinitely.
The second staging of the Jamaica Film Festival, which was set for last month, did not take place, and the film commissioner, Renee Robinson, told The Sunday Gleaner, that the decision was made in an effort to facilitate some level of restructuring and growth.
"I think it was excellent that we had a film festival last year. Carole Beckford was able to pull it off with very limited resources and very limited time and was able to actually implement something that has clearly resounded with the population to the point where we want it and need it," she said. "It was a deliberate decision that we made regarding the festival. When I came in (as film commissioner) I had a series of consultations with stake holders about what it was that the industry needed at this particular moment in time. We do need a film festival, and we will have one again, but right now, the focus is on sector development."
Robinson, who has experience working with one of the most popular film festivals in the world, believes Jamaica should not rush into hosting another film festival until the industry has done its developmental work behind the scenes.
"Jamaica needs to have a film festival, I'm not saying that's not the case, but at the same time we should not be hosting one just for hosting's sake," she explained.
"The film industry needs sector development, and that's where we're really trying to put all of our resources right now. For us to really be able to have the type of impact that we want from having a film festival, we need to develop the industry so that quality content is available to put out there to the world." The latter was part of the reason why JAMPRO decided to partner with the Jamaica Film and Television Association, to kick start the much-talked- about PROPELLA project, one that the organisers hope will change the landscape of the local film industry.
Commenting on the film festival and why it was important to suspend the event for the time being, JAFTA's president, Gabrielle Blackwood, told The Sunday Gleaner, that she agreed with Robinson, saying that the event needed to develop in such a way that local filmmakers are more involved.
"The filmmakers last year were not necessarily included in the festival in terms of local content, meaning that the local content that existed was not of a particular standard," she said. "When Renee came in, she approached the different stakeholders, and I think right now there has been a re-focus in terms of attention.
We now understand that we have to first be creating solid content so that we may have that to showcase to the rest of the world.
A film festival should make people want to come to our shores and invest in projects coming out of the country."
Blackwood said she was is in full support of Robinson's decision to discontinue the film festival until a proper foundation for growth has been set.
"Last year it was focused on the business side of things and creating a brand, but at the same time, when you're seeking support for brand Jamaica, you have to promote quality and I think that's where JAMPRO's focus is right now."
Robinson did not give any details on when Jamaicans should expect the film festival to make its comeback, but said that when the event does roll around again, it would be bigger and better.