Caribbean Film Series celebrates milestone with a festival

Pictured at BAM - Rose Cinemas, on opening night of the Caribbean Fim Series - A 5th Anniversary Festival - from left, Film Programmers, John Curtis and Romola Lucas, Managing Director of the Caribbean Film Academy, Alysia S. Christiani, Jasmine Kearse, and Eileen Level.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

The Caribbean Film Series celebrated its milestone with a 5th Anniversary Festival that premiered the film “Yardie” – an adaptation of the novel with the same name, by Jamaica-born Victor Headley, that showcases the directorial début of British actor, Idris Elba.

Guyana-born Romola Lucas and Curtis John, programmers of the Caribbean Film Series, are proud to have taken this journey from screening films quarterly at BAM, over the last five years, to a successful first festival, that showcased nine shorts, and 14 features, at BAM’s Rose Cinemas, from March 14-17.

Lucas told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview at a filmmakers reception at the MOCADA Museum last Thursday, that they had expressed an interest and desire to do extended programming at BAM, to celebrate the anniversary of the Caribbean Film Screenings with specially selected new films such as “Yardie,” “Being Blacker,” “Douvan JouKa Leve,” “Panomara Jamming to the Top,” and others.

This was a great opportunity to celebrate the new releases that captures, the history, stories, customs, beauty, and lifestyle of Caribbean people, while entertaining the world at large.

Lucas, co-founder of the Caribbean Film Academy (CaFA), and the New Horizon Film festival in Miami, Florida, has been the consummate film enthusiast, who embarked on an ambitious odyssey because of her passion to see “our stories get the attention that they deserved.”

“I got tired of looking at Hollywood films, and tired of going to the movies and just hearing American accent, and looking at people who don’t have anything to with me. I feel no connection or relation to what I see, even though I live here.”

As such, the attorney-at-law, whose friend, Justin had shared the same sentiments, prior, joined her in a meet-up group to view films, and invited others who also wanted to indulge in viewing flicks about them. Within one week, the number grew to 100 people. The first screening was held at Nicholas Brooklyn variety store, on Fulton Street, and lasted for four years.

As the screenings grew over the years, so did the movement. A website was built, then a blog that became a comprehensive source of information on Caribbean films and filmmakers. An online platform was the next step that brought in thousands of subscribers and a viewership that grew.

In addition to the Caribbean Film Academy, and the Caribbean Film Screening, Studio Anansi was unveiled before the group commenced film production, showing films in the Caribbean region and New York.

One of the group’s pet projects is a script writing competition. The first offering picked four winners whose scripts, with funding were developed, and made into films. Those films are now being shown at festivals in the region.

Lucas, co-founder, and Managing Director of the Caribbean Film Academy, Alysia S. Christiani, hosted the Timehri Film Festival in Guyana, set for its fourth offering in June 2019, Lucas, now in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to plan the island’s first film festival, spoke highly of films just premiered at BAM.

“Douvan Jou Ka Leve,” by Haitian filmmaker, Gessica Geneus, that deals with mental health issues, is one of the most heartwarming films ever screened by the group, she said.

“Black Mother” a story by Khalik Allaha, a mixed Iranian / Jamaican cinematographer, whose experimental documentary is a religious journey through Jamaica, also touched her.

“Panorama Jamming” chronicles what life is like in the pan yard and players willing to sacrifice so much for the opportunity to play in Brooklyn, a film by Brooklyn-born documentary filmmaker, Christine Shaw.

“Lifted” written and directed by Miquel Galofre follows the highs and lows experienced by refugees of Venezuela, as they journey through Port-of-Spain, to acclimatize to the carnival and Trinidad culture, as a whole.

Retrospective, “The Terror and the Time” by the Victor Jara Collective, Guyanese filmmakers, inspired by Chilean dissident Victor Jara, chronicles the unrest in British Guyana in the 70s, while “In the Sky’s Wild Noise” features activist, Walter Rodney. The documentary shows raw footage shot in original 66MM format of interviews with Rodney, and released to honor him after his passing.

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