Krista Henry, Staff Reporter
A film-maker with a conscious purpose, American director Stephanie Black is on the path to critical success.
An independent documentary film maker, Black has won critical success with her works such as H-2 Worker, Life and Debt and the yet to be released Africa Unite: A Celebration of Bob Marley's Vision - all of which focus on Jamaica.
Black has always loved film-making and over the last ten years she has made her name in film producing and directing live-action documentary segments for Children's Television Workshop for Sesame Street as well as Nickelodeon's Playful Parent and more.
Black has also produced and directed music videos for artistes such as Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, Buju Banton, Snow and Anthony B, among others. In 1999, Stephanie Black directed and produced a 30-minute documentary on the making of Chant Down Babylon a Bob Marley tribute album produced by Stephen Marley featuring Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, among others.
Having lived in Jamaica in the late '90s Black first developed a love for the country when she was filming H-2 Worker. The film documents the plight of the Caribbean man who is brought to Florida each year under a temporary guest worker (H-2) visa to harvest sugar cane for American sugar corporations.
The film was broadcast on national television stations in 20 countries abroad and won both Best Documentary and Best Cinematography at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival.
Black told The Gleaner, "I just love Jamaica since I came here to film H-2 Worker. It's like no other place on Earth. I have great faith in the island, it's such a small country that has influenced the world greatly and it has this mystic quality about it."
It was this love for the island and her time spent here that led her to develop Life and Debt. This award-winning documentary looks at the impact of the IMF and the World Bank on Jamaica. The film wove in stories of individual Jamaicans whose strategies for survival for day-to-day existence are determined by the US and other foreign economic agendas.
Black explained, "being here I came to understand the structural adjustment programmes. Being in the US I wasn't familiar with it, it was the first time I lived in a country that had that day-to-day policy, I naively thought it was a good thing, like the Red Cross."
Black was asked by the Marley family to direct the film: Africa Unite. They gave her creative freedom in its production. A lover of Marley's music, Black was happy to accept. "The whole experience was great," she said. "I was very excited to go to Ethiopia, it was a privilege to be there to see a free concert of 350,000 persons in Meskel Square where a lot of brutality occurred. It was very symbolic," she said.
For Black, the film was not wholly centred on Marley but the things Marley loved such as his message, his family and his music. "It's interesting when you have a musical film that has a message, it's a youth empowerment film. Having lived in Jamaica for a while you develop a respect for Rastafari and going to Ethiopia with Ras Bongo seeing how significant the experience was to him was great," Black said.
Currently residing in the United States, Black is excited to return to Jamaica for the premiere of Africa Unite at the Carib 5 Cinema on February 6th. She is in the process of working on another film which she describes as a positive story about Jamaica.