Wells in movie 'Paradise'

Wells in movie 'Paradise'

BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer reporter livingstonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 21, 2014

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FILM-MAKER Mary Wells may be a happy woman after her movie, Kingston Paradise, won the Festival Programmers Award — Narrative Feature at last Sunday's Pan American Film Festival in Baldwin Hills, California.

However, she is quick to point out "there were no giddy, childlike emotions."

For Wells, making movies is serious business.

"One makes a film and must enter international film festivals for marketing and publicity purposes and (if lucky) for distribution possibilities," she said. "Today, most film festivals are 'trade fairs'; it's an important platform to get your work out there and be seen and recognised."

Kingston Paradise was nominated alongside films from the United States and South Africa.

For Wells, Kingston Paradise, which stars Christopher Daley, Munair Zacca, Camille Small and Gregory Nelson, earned the judges respect because of its story and power of the characters.

"They make the film, it's powerful because of them. The story, while simple and not unfamiliar is far more than meets the eye," she reasoned. "And I am truly grateful , that an International jury and audience understood the story. And really understood the film. And most of all, understood an important black film from the developing world and from the Caribbean."

Filmed entirely in downtown Kingston, Kingston Paradise is centred on Rocksy, a taxi driver who survives the edgy streets of the Jamaican capital by 'hustling and pimping'.

With his prostitute Rosie and friend Malt, he dreams of making it big and enjoying the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle.

To critics who are weary of the 'gritty ghetto stories and images' out of Jamaica, Wells says film-makers must respond to their environment.

Born in Kingston, Wells was trained in the United States and has over 20 years in the film industry under her belt. While she believes the Jamaican film industry is 'alive' the jury is still out on whether it is well.

"Structures need to be put in place on a national level to develop a local industry. And that means we'd have to be serious," she said. "At the moment, people like me are operating in a vast sea or desert, absolutely alone, in a 'hit or miss' situation."

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