In this edition of “Beyond the Camera,” we talk with Howard and Mitzi Allen, the amazing filmmaking couple, behind HaMa Films, in Antigua & Barbuda. We first learned about HaMa Films, when we covered the DC Caribbean Film Festival’s lineup in 2012, where their latest film, “The Skin,” was an official selection. On one of their subsequent visits to New York for the screening of “The Skin,” we were able to meet with them – we had a wonderful connection/conversation with them discussing topics from their work in Antigua, to their work in the rest of the Caribbean, to their hopes for the future of filmmaking in the Caribbean – and they graciously agreed to let us interview them. This is what they shared.
About HaMa Films:
HAMA, the husband and wife team of Howard Allen and Mitzi Allen has been called the most prolific filmmakers in the Eastern Caribbean producing four feature films in ten years.
In 2001 HAMAfilms became the first indigenous company in the Eastern Caribbean to produce a feature length film with the release of “The Sweetest Mango” a romantic comedy, based on how the couple met and fell in love. The film has been embraced throughout the Caribbean Diaspora. “The Sweetest Mango” is now a part of the TIFF Bell Lightbox Film Reference Library in Toronto, Canada. The Film Reference Library maintains the world’s largest resource of English-language Canadian film and film-related materials as well as a wide range of local, national and international film resources.
In 2002 HAMA released their second film “No Seed” a political drama. Both films have since made their world television premiere on CaribVision, the Caribbean Media Corporation’s (CMC) cable channel, which is seen in 21 countries in the Caribbean and on DirecTV in the US. Their third film “Diablesse” based on Caribbean Folklore was released in 2005.
In 2011 HAMA released its fourth film, “The Skin” a supernatural thriller based on Caribbean mythology. It has been screened with tremendous success in film festivals in Toronto, Washington, Trindad & Tobago, and Belize.
Howard, who started out as a video engineer with a cable company in Antigua and Barbuda and Mitzi as a broadcast journalist in Toronto, Canada, teamed up as independent film and television producers in 1992. Howard the “storyteller” produces, writes and directs. Mitzi is the managing director and producer. HAMA has worked with several non-governmental organizations producing television programs and documentaries dealing with environmental, social and community development issues such as HIV/AIDS, and people living with disabilities. A strong component of HAMA’s independent work deals with cultural awareness and development. Their children’s television program “Pet Playhouse” which was produced for the Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society was funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the UNICEF funded teen program “Teen Talk” was produced by HAMA for the Antigua and Barbuda AIDS Secretariat.
HAMA’s flagship television program, the drama series Paradise View is the first of its kind for Antigua & Barbuda. Paradise View was produced with the support of a Small Project Award for the development of HIV/AIDS programming from the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV (CBMP/HIV). The funding and management support for the CBMP/HIV small projects awards program was provided by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Paradise View is distributed across the Caribbean by the CBMP.
In 2008 Howard & Mitzi Allen were recognized by the Youth Department in the Ministry of Education with a National Youth award for their inspiring work as “pioneers” in filmmaking in Antigua & Barbuda.
HAMA is committed to the development of film and television in Antigua & Barbuda and by extension the Caribbean.