Dahlia Harris has high hopes for J’can theatre and film
Our stories must ‘reflect us and our culture’
Actress and television and radio personality Dahlia Harris has high hopes for the Jamaican film and theatre industry despite the several challenges that it faces.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner on the closing night of her play God’s Way 2: Carlton’s Redemption at the Little Theatre, Harris shared that funding and having to shape stories to be more marketable are two major hurdles currently affecting the film and theatre industry in Jamaica.
“It’s very difficult (to get financial support for the industry). A lot of it is privatised, so we have to invest in the promotion of the plays and hope that audiences will come out and support,” the film and play director and producer explained.
“It’s also difficult because you are forced into what you think will be popular. You want to do work, but what will people come out to see? And I have discovered that some of the things that I can write for television and people will stay home and watch it and enjoy it, they are not necessarily going to come to the theatre. If lickle laughter nuh inna it, dem nah lef dem yaad. So that also dictates what you have to do,” she continued.
God’s Way 2: Carton’s Redemption is the sequel to the play God’s Way, which was first staged in 2012. The play looks at Carlton White’s struggle to become a better husband and provider for his family. In an attempt to do so, he is left to make the choice between going down the route of fast wealth or following the right path. Challenges such as infidelity and resentment also take centre stage, and he and his wife relearn how to love each other. Harris told The Sunday Gleaner that the entire story was inspired by a real-life situation.
Harris, who has written several plays and scripts for television and the stage, notes that with many developing countries now having content featured on popular streaming platforms such as Netflix, Jamaica can also aim to showcase its work in similar spaces, but must first be dedicated to telling authentic stories.
“I think when we decide that the films we are going to make are stories that are going to reflect us and our culture, we can have a spot on those platforms. Right now, I think we are very caught up in the technical of it; it affi look a certain way and sound a certain way. I have seen some things on Netflix that don’t look a certain way or sound a certain way, but it reflects the culture of the people and it is interesting and it has loads of viewership, and that’s what Netflix wants to see. So I’m not saying it should not be technically sound, but let’s focus on doing some things that are about us and our language, and our music and our food and people... that’s where we need to go,” she explained.
She also added that partnership within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) can also bring a spotlight to the industry across the region, while still aiming at getting the real stories out.
“I don’t know why we are taking so long to get CARICOM right, but there are so many beautiful things and so many strengths within our region that really if we come together, we are a powerhouse. Right now, individual nations are doing a lot, but if we come together there is so much we can achieve. If we partner and tell stories that are Indian, stories that are Chinese – coming out of our ‘Jamaicaness’ – how powerful would those be in those markets? We have to start thinking beyond what’s Western,” she said.
With years of work and contribution to the Jamaican film and theatre industry, many fans are always anticipating her next piece. One such is the hit television series Ring Games, which concluded Season 2 in 2019. Harris says that a Season 3 is in the works.
“There are some projects that’s happening in Jamaica now, so had some people who are working on that as well. So we just decided to kind of pull back and allow them to explore that opportunity. But Brandon soon come, and the love story continues,” she said.