In this post, we’ll share 5 #CaribbeanFilmmakers we think you should already know – and if you don’t, now you will. We’re focusing on filmmakers who have amassed a body of work or made significant inroads in the current Caribbean/Indie film arena.
Stated briefly, Raoul Peck is an award-winning Haitian filmmaker, of both documentary and feature films, and a political activist. Peck, an industrial engineer turned cab driver, journalist, photographer and finally German film school graduate, began his career making short experimental works and socio-political documentaries, before moving on to feature films. His feature L’Homme sur les quais (1993; The Man by the Shore) was the first Haitian film to be released in theatres in the United States. It was also selected for competition at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. He achieved his highest degree of international public attention for Lumumba, his 2000 feature film about Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and the period around the independence of the Belgian Congo in June 1960. The film premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, and was shown at various film festivals around the world, as well as having commercial releases in Belgium, France, Switzerland, the United States, and Canada. The film grossed $684,000 in the United States. It also aired on HBO.
More recently, Peck is known for his films Sometimes in April and Fatal Assistance. With its ensemble cast, Idris Elba, Oris Erhuero, Carole Karemera, and Debra Winger, Sometimes in April is a 2005 historical drama television film about the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. It has won and has been nominated for way too many awards to be listed here, but just to name a few: AFI Awards – Best TV Program of the Year; nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival; Best Film – Durban International Film Festival; and nominated for Outstanding TV Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special – Image Awards. Fatal Assistance (2012), his latest award-winning documentary, takes us on a 2-year journey inside the challenging, contradictory and colossal rebuilding efforts in post-earthquake Haiti.
As if making films is not enough, he has been the Haitian Minister of Culture, a member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2002, President of the jury at the entrance examination of La Fémis (France’s national film school) in 2009, and Member of the Jury from Cannes Film Festival 2012.
Howard and Mitzi Allen
Antigua & Barbuda
This filmmaking power couple are responsible for the Eastern Caribbean’s first feature length film, The Sweetest Mango. The film, a romantic comedy based on the story of how they met, was a box office hit in Antigua, outselling the Titanic in its opening week on the island. Since then, they’ve gone on to make 3 more feature length films, Diablesse – a humorous take on Caribbean Folklore, the film is a whimsical tale of a young man who finds himself trapped in a bizarre wedding ceremony with a she-devil…it becomes a race against time to find him and save him before he says “I do;” No Seed – which explores the behind-the-scenes nuances of Caribbean politics and highlights cultural mores, including the game of Warri, which is used metaphorically to underscore the faith of its characters; and The Skin – with an ensemble Caribbean/Antiguan cast, including Jamaican Carl Bradshaw of “The Harder They Come” fame, tells the story of the Caribbean folkloric figure, the Soucouyant/Ole Higue, through a young couple who encounter strange occurrences after they find and sell an ancient artefact.
All of the films have been filmed in Antigua & Barbuda, employing a Caribbean/Antiguan cast, and featuring the sights, sounds and food of the islands.
A pioneering filmmaker, Kareem’s fourth film and debut narrative feature, “Children of God,” was the first LGBT feature film by a Caribbean filmmaker. The film, which tells the stories of three very different individuals: Lena, the conservative, deeply religious wife of a secretly gay firebrand pastor; Romeo, a handsome young black man hiding his sexuality from his close-knit and loving family; and Jonny, the conflicted and creatively-blocked white artist in search of himself, opened the 2009 Bahamas International Festival and made its UK debut closing the 2010 BFI London and Lesbian Gay festival. The film went on to win the audience award in Turin and was named by The Independent as one of the ten films to watch in 2010. It’s been released theatrically, has won over 17 awards and was released on Showtime. His second film, “Float” (the precursor to Children of God), was one of the more successful shorts of the 2007 festival season. It was nominated for the Iris Prize (the largest short film prize in the world), and was a recipient of the HBO best short film prize. It secured a US distribution deal with Frameline, a television deal with the MTV network LOGO and was licensed commercially in Austria, and Germany. He also made the documentary short, “She” (2012), documenting a Drag Queen Competition in the Bahamas.
Kareem’s first film, “The Eleuthran Adventure,” won the Audience award at the 2006 Bahamas International Film Festival (the first Bahamian film to win the award), and screened at the Rome Independent Film Festival. The film which documents Kareem Mortimer and cameraman Kevin Taylor hitchhiking from Spanish Wells to the Southernmost point on the island of Eleuthera with only $150 in hand, was distributed internationally on Amazon, where it became the eleventh most requested documentary for the second quarter of 2007. He has also made “I Am Not A Dummy,” which chronicles the adventures of a severely physically handicapped Bahamian, Michael Wells through the Caribbean. Michael was born through a breached birth at a time in the Bahamas when caesareans were not an option, and “Wind Jammers,” a funny and uplifting family film following 16 year-old Justice as she overcomes racial prejudice and brings change to her community – all while having the time of her life learning to sail!
Kareem’s latest film, the short “Passage,” which tells the story of a young woman and her brother fighting for survival while being smuggled into the US on a fishing vessel. It was one of five film proposals chosen by the Commonwealth Foundation’s Commonwealth Shorts, beating out thousands of applicants from around the Commonwealth in 2012. Although released in the second half of 2013, it is already the winner of the Director’s Choice Award at the 2013 Portland Maine Film Festival, Best Short Film Award at the 2013 Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival and was an Open Category winner at the 2013 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Grand Bahama. Passage was one of our picks for Best Caribbean Films of 2013.
Experienced filmmaker Chris Browne’s debut film, “Third World Cop,” drew crowds six days a week for four months, and generated over JA $21 million, a box-office record. The film tells the story of Capone, a loose-cannon cop, returns to his home in Kingston to join the special forces. Immediately upon return, Capone discovers an operation consisting of illegal importation of guns via church charities. It’s up to Capone to stop the importation of these guns; and this might mean going up against one of his childhood friends.
His follow-up film, “Ghett’a Life,” tells the story of Derrick, a ghetto teenager, who dreams of being Jamaica’s next world boxing champion but politics and tribal violence get in his way. His father, a loyal party supporter, forbids him from going to the boxing gym situated in a rival part of town. Derrick defiantly follows his heart but is confronted by the local “don” who threatens his family. Derrick refuses to give up and the ignorance of divisiveness soon give way to the triumph of unity. Winner of the Hartly Merril Screenwriting Award – Cannes Film Festival, the film has received a worldwide distribution deal with Jinga Films. The film is available on DVD, Hulu, and iTunes.
Storm is one of the exciting new Caribbean filmmakers. His directorial debut, “Better Mus’ Come,” first released in 2011, enjoyed a spectacular year. It had the honor of being the first film to be signed to the newly formed African-American film distribution company, Array. Array is the brainchild of filmmaker Ava Duvernay, who herself made history by being the first African-American female Best Director winner at Sundance, for her 2012 hit Middle of Nowhere. It is an affiliate of another organization she founded in 2011, The African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a distribution collective of black arts organizations dedicated to quality black independent films. Other films released by AFFRM and Array include, the hits Big Words, Middle of Nowhere, Kinyarwanda, Restless City, and I Will Follow.
Better Mus’ Come started its run as the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2011 Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, for Best Narrative. The film then went on to win the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2011 Bahamas International Film Festival and received an honorable mention in the Spirit of Freedom category, which honors movies that explore the human condition and culture. Sheldon Shepherd, the film’s lead actor, won the Best Performance by an Actor Award at the 2012 American Black Film Festival.
Since it’s release by Array, Better Mus’ Come has been seen in movie theatres in cities all across the U.S. and is now available on Netflix. Since making the film, Storm has gone on to collaborate with St. Lucian filmmaker Michelle Serieux, to form the New Caribbean Cinema, a collective of filmmakers in Jamaica, who made their films using each other as their main resources. The culminating product of New Caribbean Cinema’s work, was the production of the feature length film Ring di Alarm, which debuted at BFI in London last summer. It is a collection of seven short films by six directors.
2013 Caribbean LGBT Films
5 #CaribbeanFilmmakers You’ll Soon Know
Tagged: better mus come, caribbean, caribbean film, caribbean film academy, caribbean filmmakers, children of god, chris browne, ghett'a life, hama films, howard allen, howard and mitzi allen, kareem mortimer, mitzi allen, passage, raoul peck, storm saulter, the skin, the sweetest mango, third world cop