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GATFFEST Gala: Strengthening link between South Africa and Jamaica

Published:Monday | June 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Former Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall (left) greets Phillip Riley, charge d’affaires of the South African High Commission.
At 10 years old, Tiyani Mathabathe (left) is the youngest film-maker at GATFFEST. Here he explains to Hugh Douse that his film will be ready in 2019.
Young South African film-maker Tiyani Mathabathe (centre) receives useful advice from Film Commissioner Renée Robinson (right). Looking on (from left) are: Phillip Riley, chargé d'affaires at the South African High Commission; Professor Ian Boxill, chair of GATFFEST; and Tiyani’s mother, Dr Nkhensani Mathabathe.

The annual GATFFEST Film Festival is a gargantuan effort. Over the past week, there have been community film screenings planned and executed in Trench Town, Nannyville and Port Royal. The festival continues this week with Japanese Film Night, two International Film Nights, Colombian Film Night and a Jamaican Film Night.

However, this weekend was reserved for the festival's premiere gala event - the screening of Hear Me Move, the first-ever South African 'Sbujwa' street dance film.

Professor Ian Boxill, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and chair of the GATFFEST planning committee, reiterated the importance of film as an art-form, and as a potential catalyst for community development. He explained that the festival usually reserves the gala premiere night for a community-based film, but this time around, the festival utilised its international prowess, choosing to premiere Hear Me Move as a demonstration of social parallels between underserved communities in South Africa and in the Caribbean.

The film's scenes were cinematographically pristine, backdropped by vibrant graffiti, and the story was universally communicable.

"Dance and music is not integral only to South Africa, but also to Jamaica," said Gabrielle Blackwood, film-maker and president of the Jamaica Film and Television. She continued, "Hear Me Move highlighted how members of a low-income and marginalised community could come together to express themselves by representing their culture. It was not just about who had the best dance moves, but also about heart and spirit."




Local film-maker Joshua Paul gave more attention to the emotive preoccupations of the film's plot. "Apart from the spectacle of dance, one thing that stood out is the aspect of family." Paul underscored the film's presentation of the single mother, absentee-father family structure.

"In the sociological context, 'matri-focality' is something that has been rising, even in the Caribbean here. So to see this journey, where this man is searching for his father-figure, and furthermore that the antagonist also lacks his family, it's something that ties into the end. More than just the dancing, the film highlights the importance of family and how it relates to the functionality of the society," he continued.

Professor Archibald McDonald declared the UWI Community Film Project as one of his favourites, as it seamlessly merges art, culture and history. Last year, the selection was the docu-film Children of the Incursion, produced by Denham Town resident Allan Powell, which explores the psychosocial impact of the Tivoli incursion in 2010.

"It is most satisfying to see young people who are marginalised and had nothing to do brought into the mainstream and become gainfully employed," he noted about the efforts of the project.