GATFFEST: Jamaican Patois vs Queen’s English
"GATFFEST is the biggest community film festival in the region." This according to State Minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Alando Terrelonge, who delivered the keynote address at the launch of this year's instalment of the week-long film festival event.
GATFFEST will return on June 16-23 with a host of screenings and workshops in and around Kingston and Montego Bay.
The festival has maintained partnerships with the embassies of Colombia and Japan, the Japan Foundation and the Bob Marley Museum, and is partnering with the South African High Commission for the first time.
In his comments, Terrelonge highlighted a comment made by Hollywood director Joel Zwick, where he told The Sunday Gleaner that he is of the opinion that Jamaican film-makers ought to pen their stories in standard English.
Terrelonge challenged Zwick's position that the world will not comprehend Patois. Terrelonge quoted Zwick saying: "Jamaica should not be producing foreign language films in an English-speaking country. There is no reason to tell your stories in any other language than English, as the English-speaking world is vast. When we write in Patois, we are locking out a host of people who want to understand."
Labelling Zwick's comments as myopic and deeply colonial, Terrelonge challenged Zwick's opinion, positing that it would be difficult for Jamaican stories to maintain their authenticity if told strictly in the 'Queen's English'.
"Why would we consider to tell our stories in any other form but our native tongue? When Latin America, the Chinese, the French, and African film-makers produce their films, they have no reservations if the world can't understand what they're saying - and then they use subtitles or voice-overs. Their film industries are multibillion-dollar industries," he said.
Terrelonge highlighted the local fandom of Indian soap operas - Strange Love, Made For Each Other, and long-running South African drama Generations - suggesting that Jamaicans and other nations are comfortable with the use of subtitles, and the observation of other cultures presented.
This year, the film festival will have its premiere on Saturday, June 16 at the Mona Visitors' Lodge with the South African dance film, Hear Me Move.
The festival will also host film workshops with the contributions of South African film-maker Mandla Dube (cinematographer, director), Wandile Molebalsi (actor, producer, casting director); Colombian film-makers Mauricio Arrieta (animation director and lecturer) and Omar Ospina (film student and film-maker).
Other community activities of the festival will include Trench Town Film Night, Nannyville Film Night, Spot Valley Film Night and Port Royal Film Night. Also scheduled are Japanese Film Night, Colombian Film Night and Jamaican Film Night.
The film industry's contribution to GDP
"When we see things like GATFFEST and the UWI Community Film Project (UWICFP) harnessing youths' potential, and has its roots in a knowledge economy, that is when we realise that it is industries like the film industry that will future-proof this country. It is activities and activations like GATFFEST and UWICFP that result in that," said Renee Robinson, film commissioner.
During the launch of the film festival, Robinson shared that the actual economic impact of the local film industry vastly exceeds the two per cent that is recorded as its impact on GDP a figure that was last recorded in 2003.
"We are not even properly tracking what's happening locally. It is a reality that the film industry in this country is alive and well. We're a little quieter than we should be; we're probably not being measured in the way that we can."
According to Robinson, statistics show that there are more than 50 music videos shot on a daily basis in Jamaica.
"People are not aware that the Film commission handles up to 200 international film productions per year, resulting in approximately 2,500 jobs," she revealed. The Commission has tracked $700 billion in film production expenditure being handled on the island, excluding the measure of local production.
"[GATFFEST] is one of the special gems. This is the little film festival that could, and every year we see it grow from strength to strength," said Robinson.