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Jamaican filmmakers hot on the film festival circuit

Published:Thursday | September 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small
Storm Saulter
Lead actor in ‘Sprinter’ Dale Elliott (left) with the film’s director, Storm Saulter.

As the film festival season kicks into high gear, Jamaican filmmakers have made a notable contribution to the content pool and begun taking steps towards international fame.

Some of these filmmakers had the support of programmes like JAFTA PROPELLA (the programme that uncovers and exposes the new work of existing and emerging local film-makers), but others have made it into the international arena entirely on their own.

At the Caribbeantales International Film Festival in Canada on September 19, film lovers and aficionados can become familiar with the modern Jamaican film landscape with premiere screenings of four locally made and produced films. Despite the banal title 'Redemption Tales', the evening's screenings offer varied production styles, including documentaries, a fiction and an animated short.

The animated short is called Abeeku and The Maroons (2017). Set in 18th century Jamaica, an escaped slave tries to free his pregnant sister from a plantation.

Another fictional narrative to be presented is Joshua Paul's award-winning short film called Kinto (2018), which follows a 14-year-old windscreen wiper on the streets of Kingston.

Of the documentaries, the Sasha-Gay Lewis-directed The Incursion (2017) is an immersive experience chronicling the events of May 23, 2010, during the joint police and military operation in Tivoli Gardens.

It follows the emotional and personal trauma the residents endured and the lingering effects on their lives today.




Directed by local journalist Kaneal Gayle, Dancehall's Asian Ambassadors (2017) looks into the lives of four Japanese women who fell in love with dancehall music and moved to Jamaica to develop their careers in the industry.

Gayle's documentary is also one of two that will be screened at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival 2018, scheduled to take place from September 18 to 25. From Colonization to Cake Soap Colorism in Jamaican Society (2018) by Zoe Davidson will also have its premiere.

For the Trinidad and Tobago festival, the third cohort of the JAFTA PROPELLA Initiative, four films and their makers will travel to the twin-island republic for the world premiere screenings.

The films include Agwe by Ina Sotirova, an unorthodox coming-of-age story exploring Afro-Caribbean ancestry, history, and spirituality that follows a young high priestess who goes against her intuition; Lovers in the City by Mezan Akoya Morrison, about two couples trapped in an elevator being forced to examine themselves; Safe Harbour by Kaiel Eytle, a supernatural tale of a young girl pulled from the brink of death by a mysterious boy; and Flight by Kia Moses and Adrian McDonald, a film about a boy from the inner-city who dreams of becoming an astronaut.

Outside of the JAFTA PROPELLA cohort, two other Jamaican films will be screened during the festival.

Offguard, directed by Kyle Chin, is a short narrative about two bandits who break into the home of an innocent family only to encounter a series of strange occurrences.

Storm Saulter's latest feature film Sprinter, starring Dale Elliot and Shantol Jackson, will also premiere. Sprinter is about a young Rastafarian athlete who dreams of competing in the World Youth Championships in Philadelphia, where he also hopes to reunite with his mother, who he hasn't seen for a decade.