‘Joseph’ making waves across the world - Lead actor describes ‘topsy-turvy’ journey to premieres; film listed as an official activity for Ghana’s Year of Return
Last November, young Jamaican Kevoy Burton was excited about landing a lead role in Joseph, a feature-length film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Marcia Weekes, blurring the borders between the Caribbean and Africa. At the same time, Burton worried that he would not be able to find the airfare to attend the film’s international premiere events, specifically in Ghana and Nigeria.
The premieres were set for January 2020, and as the month comes to a close, The Sunday Gleaner is pleased to report that Burton did make it to both countries, and more, by the endorsement of multiple governments, and by the good nature of fellow Jamaicans settled in the West Africa region. There is even news of a cinema run in the United States.
Alas, the journey was not without its hiccups, including applying for the wrong visa and getting stranded in US and Ghanian airports, begging for a seat on flights. In Burton’s words, the trips have been “a little hectic”.
Burton was there when Joseph had its first premiere event in Ghana, on a serendipitous trip sponsored by Jamrock, a restaurant that is owned by an Ardenne past student living in Ghana. Burton is also an Ardennite. The trip from Ghana to Barbados was sponsored by the Barbados International Film Festival, and the trip to Nigeria was sponsored by Weekes’ own Step By Step Productions. But that third leg almost didn’t happen.
Joseph had its premiere screening in Nigeria on Wednesday night, and the lead actor quite luckily landed in the country that same morning. “I actually didn’t think I’d make it to Nigeria. I left Jamaica for Nigeria on Saturday,” he told The Sunday Gleaner, offering some scope on the four-day-long sojourn. But the saga continues, with Burton late to realise he had no Nigerian visa, and, therefore, getting stranded on a stopover in New York. “I had to wait until Monday then pay for the visa. When I paid for it, I paid for the wrong one!”
A stroke of luck at the last minute had the flight re-routed from Nigeria to Ghana, where he recently returned. So the actor hopped the plane, going there instead, reconnecting with his Jamaican friends. “They put me in a hotel to stay for the night, and next morning another Jamaican called the Nigerian High Commissioner. Then the commissioner called the airport in Ghana and told them to let me on the flight because they will give me a visa on arrival in Nigeria. Last minute, they put me on the plane. And I got to Ghana and lost my luggage!”
With the topsy-turvy journey behind them, Burton and his director can be satisfied with work well done and prepare for much more ahead. This weekend, Joseph opened in cinemas across Ghana and Nigeria and is currently screening in Barbados. “We’re hoping to open in Jamaica in the latter part of February. It will premiere on February 16,” Weekes told The Sunday Gleaner. The premiere will take place at St Andrew High School for Girls.
Joseph is about reconnecting, and the idea blossomed from Weekes’ desire to reconnect with Africa. Her motivations are likely to be rooted in her own ‘multiple origins’ story – being born in Jamaica and currently living in Barbados. “That’s really what is the inspiration of this movie. Having travelled to Rwanda a year ago and meeting all the different film makers, I thought it would be wonderful to connect with my fellow Jamaicans in different parts of Africa. So we started that network,” Weekes shared.
Weekes visited Rwanda in 2018 to collect the African Movie Academy Award for Best Diaspora Documentary for Step By Step Productions previously released docu-drama Barrow – Freedom Fighter. The film also won the Programmers Award at the Pan Africa Film Festival (PAFF) in Los Angeles and Best Film by a Woman of Color at the African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) in New York.
“The Year of Return was announced when we got back to Barbados from Rwanda. That pushed the idea even further. We needed to make this film because we needed to reconnect,” she continued.
Many others signed on to Weekes’ idea to reconnect. Joseph was endorsed by the president of Ghana and by the governments of both Jamaica and Barbados. “They saw it was more than just a film. Each country saw the benefit of us having this film and so they gave us letters of endorsement – which helped us to seek investors,” Weekes said before sharing some more impressive news. Joseph was listed as an official activity for Ghana’s Year of Return.
“This film, generated from the Caribbean, produced by Caribbean people, was actually one of the things they listed on the activities,” she said. “They really did a wonderful job in terms of planning the premiere and how it was executed. We were treated very well. Now, we’re getting ready to start. We’re going to be in 45 cinemas in West Africa.”
Joseph will also travel stateside to be screened with the AMC Cinema chain – the largest cinema chain in the world. “We’re going to be given to opportunity to screen in their cinemas for one week. Hopefully it’s longer! But they’re gonna try us out for one week. We’re really very excited about it,” Weekes said.