After spending the past year learning about and following Caribbean films, filmmakers and film festivals, we’re going to use this post to highlight the films we think are representative of the best of what came out of the regional and global Caribbean film community, in 2012. Some of our picks are based on us watching the films ourselves, others are based on the recommendations of others, because we simply didn’t have the opportunity to see the films. Our top 10 picks will include a combination of features, shorts, documentaries and animated series.
Cine Caribés, 10 Best of 2012:
Akwantu – Roy T. Anderson (Jamaica)
Better Mus Come – Storm Saulter (Jamaica)
Broken Stones – Guetty Felin (Haiti)
Cabbie Chronicles – Alison Latchman and Aneiph Latchman (Jamaica)
Doubles with Slight Pepper – Ian Harnarine (Trinidad & Tobago)
Fish – Shaun Escayg (Trinidad & Tobago)
Le Bonheur d’Elza – Mariette Monpierre (Guadeloupe)
Missed – Michelle Serieux (St. Lucia/Jamaica)
Ring di Alarm – New Caribbean Cinema (Jamaica)
The Story of Lover’s Rock – Menelik Shabazz (Barbados/England)
Picks for Best Feature Films:
This award-winning film has been thrilling film festival and movie-going audiences all over the world, for the past year. The film is the winner of the “Best Narrative Feature” at the Roxbury International Film Festival, “Best First Feature Special Jury Recognition” at the Pan African Film Festival, L.A., and the BAFTA Festival Choice and Festival Programmers’ Awards, PAFF/L.A. The film tells the story of Elza, a Parisian student who returns to her birthplace on Guadeloupe, to seek the father she barely remembers. Operating on instinct, Elza infiltrates her father’s luxurious home by posing as a baby sitter for his 6-year-old granddaughter, only to discover a family frayed by adultery, mental illness and the devastating bigotry of light skin against dark. With this film Ms. Monpierre translated her own experience of growing up without knowing her dad, into a compelling and entertaining film.
This film made our list because of the sheer tenacity of the Director in relentlessly promoting the film. She’s on twitter and facebook, and the film’s been selected for at 10 festivals. The film’s been reviewed several times, including by the New York Times. Although all of the reviews have not been sparkling, the film continues to win praises from audiences around the world.
New Caribbean Cinema brought a refreshing energy to the Caribbean film scene in 2012. The collective of six filmmakers in Jamaica, with “first-world technical skills and business savvy,” but a “Caribbean world view,” came togther and created a stunning collection of short films, which was put together as one feature film, “Ring di Alarm.” The film has shown to sold-out audiences in London, Toronto and New York. Jointly produced by Storm Saulter (Jamaica) and Michelle Serieux (St. Lucia), the filmmakers worked as each other’s crew, providing technical and creative support for each other during the production of the seven shorts. The other filmmakers in the collective are Nile Saulter, Joel Burke, Ras Tingle, and Kyle Chin.
This film made our list because of the artistry and creativity present in most, if not all of the films and because New Caribbean Cinema is a wonderful example of collaboration done right. We can’t wait to see what they’re going to come with next.
For more information on Ring Di Alarm and New Caribbean Cinema, please visit their website. Watch the film’s trailer below.
Winner: Best Film, Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival 2011
Winner: Audience Award, Bermuda International Film Festival 2011
In Kingston, Jamaica, in the late 1970s, the two main political parties, the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party enlist the support of gangs to enforce their policies and advance their political agenda. Young Ricky is a single father and a community leader whose gang is aligned to one party. One day he meets Kemala, who belongs to a community controlled by the other party: enemy territory, and the two instantly connect. Kemala encourages Ricky to adopt a more passive approach as Ricky tries to navigate his way through the constant social upheaval that seems ubiquitous in his community. Will their love triumph, or will bigger forces win the day? Based on true events.
This film made our list mostly because of its great success in the film festival circuit, getting best film recognition in most of the festivals it entered. And now we’ve learned the film has been picked up for distribution by Array, an indie film company started by AAFRM.
For more information, visit the film’s website. Watch the film’s trailer here.
Other great films from 2012:
A Hand Full of Dirt
Three generations. One plantation. The men of the Redman family – father, grandfather and son – will try desperately to break with the past to pursue their dreams on their own terms. Soon though, it will be made painfully clear that their lives are inextricably linked and that the past exerts an inescapable grip on the future. Archie Redman (Alwin Bully) is a middle-aged man burdened by the weight of an unfulfilled life. He lives on a beautiful island; the kind of place people dream of visiting, but this brings him no comfort. He rises reluctantly each day to face a large, empty house, his wife having left him and his only son away at university. His sole daily destination is the shabby office at his failing hotel, where he is greeted by piles of bills and bank notices.
Thousands of miles away, Archie’s son Jay faces worries of his own. He is stuck in immigration limbo, essentially penniless in a cold, unforgiving city but unable to legally work until his father pays off his substantial debt with the school. Still, he looks for a job, hoping against all hope that his father will come up with the cash in time to resolve things before he is forced to leave the country.
As the year ends and the holiday season arrives, Archie and Jay will find the walls closing in on them. Both will face increasing challenges. Pressures will rise to boiling point. The key to their salvation seems to lie with one man, family patriarch Ben Redman, and his plot of hard-won plantation land. A HAND FULL OF DIRT tells the story of what happens when each of these men is faced with the choice of securing his own future or repeating the betrayals of the family’s past.
For more information, visit the film’s website. Watch the trailer here:
A rebellious teenage girl struggles to navigate a broken relationship with her mother and a troubled adolescence, while memories of her absent father continue to haunt her. After receiving shocking news about her father, she embarks on a journey from New York to Guyana to discover the truth about her family’s mysterious past.
For more information, visit the film’s website. Watch the trailer here:
Ghett’a Life is an “against the odds” drama set in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. Director, Chris Browne, describes the main character Derrick, as an ‘underground Jamaican Rocky Balboa’. Derrick is a young athlete who literally fights for his dream of being a champion boxer while facing a country, community and family conflicted by a divisive political system. This award-winning film was Jamaica’s highest grossing film in 2012. The film won an award for Best Script at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. In 2012, the film won Best International Film at the San Francisco Black Film Festival and shared the Jury Award at the Aruba International Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Feature at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. Most recently, Karen Robinson (who plays the main character’s mother) won a best actress award at the Salento International Film Festival.
For more information visit the film’s FB page. Watch the trailer below.
Little Boy Blue follows the character of BILL (Kirk Budhooram) a troubled art teacher with a tragic past as he struggles to find happiness. After confiscating a mysterious pendant from the orphaned student GEORGIE-BOY Alex Oliveire), visions of a spectre in white plague Bill’s fitful sleep eventually making the terrifying transition from the world of dreams into reality. Plagued by these unnerving nightmares and slowly losing his tenuous grip on the world around him, the already fractured Bill slowly begins to unravel. It is only through the mysterious death of Georgie-boy, that Bill is forced to recognize the importance of the pendant and the urgency of returning it to its rightful resting place. Dream visions accompanied by the ever present spectre point Bill towards the ominous river and an unwitting partnership with the surly and uncooperative boatman DOUGLAS “GRAPES” DEFREITAS (Kenwyn Francis). Initially a hindrance, once faced by the paranormal threat posed by the apparition in white, Grapes is forced to choose between helping the hapless Bill to return the pendant and suffering the grim fate of Georgie-boy. What awaits them in the dark foreboding swamplands is an unknown fear that will not rest until they return what is hers…
For more information, visit the film’s FB page. Watch the trailer here.
Bob Marley’s universal appeal, impact on music history, and role as a social and political prophet is both unique and unparalleled. MARLEY is the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, legend, and the man, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, never before seen performances, previously unreleased music, and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best.
For more information, visit the film’s website.
Stones in the Sun
In the midst of increasing political violence, a young couple, two sisters, and a father and son are driven from Haiti to New York, where they must confront the truths of their interlocked pasts.
For more information, visit the film’s FB page. Watch the trailer here.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/40776433″>STONES IN THE SUN</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user1630305″>Ciné Institute</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
“The Skin,” is a modern story filled with Caribbean folklore about Michael and Lisa (Brent Simon and Aisha Ralph), who are a young married couple on the verge of losing their home. Their luck changes when Michael, while on a photo-shoot at the historic Betty’s Hope Estate, discovers an ancient vase and sells it to an antique dealer (Jeff Stewart). The couple gets little time to celebrate their good fortune, before strange things begin to happen. They are introduced to a Jamaican mystic (Carl Bradshaw), who informs them that the ancient relic was not really a blessing, but a curse. The film incorporates the sights and sounds of Antigua & Barubuda, including music by Antiguan calypsonian, Kaiso Joe, jazz vocalist, Charmain Bailey, and reggae artist, Promise.
For more information, visit the film’s website. Watch the trailer here.
Next up … the Shorts.