Film industry takes spotlight

Observer writer

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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CHALLENGES facing the film industry took centre stage at a panel discussion, dubbed Caribbean Filmmakers — Breaking the Regional Barriers, held at the Multi-Functional Library, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, on Tuesday evening.

The panellists were: Bahamian director Kareem Mortimer, whose credits include Cargo (2017) and Passage (2013); Alexander Younis, producer of Cargo and Little Ideas; Jimmy Jean-Louis, Haitian-French actor; and Sky Nicole Grey, Jamaican model-cum-actor. Filmmaker Kurt Wright ( Origins) and Rae-Ann Smith from Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) were also on the panel.

The event was moderated by Rachel Mosely-Wood, UWI's head of the Department of Literatures in English.

The discussion began after the screening of the short film Passage, and a trailer of Cargo. The latter was premiered at Carib 5 in St Andrew last night.

Younis highlighted some of his personal experiences.

“When we came together to start filming, we found ourselves in a position not much different than what some of you may find yourselves in Jamaica and other places in the Caribbean where we start planning but you do not have the right infrastructure or resources. We had to think outside the box, which is challenging in an industry that keeps telling you how to do something,” Younis told the gathering, comprising mostly students and lecturers.

“We had to be bold and brave and come up with our own production company (Best Ever Films),” he continued.

Another challenge that was highlighted was that of producing a film which would be accepted and appreciated by a diverse audience.

Jean-Louis, known for his role in NBC's Heroes, Relentless and Arrow (2013), said filmmakers have to create timeless content.

“A good film will go everywhere. City of God, a Brazilian movie, shot in Brazil, it went all over the world. Tutsi, a South African movie about a South African story, gone all over the world, so if the story is good enough and it is well executed, it can go across the world, it is rare but it is possible,” he explained.

Mortimer added: “The more specific you are, the more universal it is, because there is a truth in all of us.”

All of the panellists believe that in order for the industry to rise from where it is, there needs to be greater camaraderie.

“There is a competition going on and people judge each other's content based on where it is from and not on whether or not it is a good story. Do not be afraid to support each other,” said Younis.

His sentiments were echoed by Mortimer.

“I think we all have to do our part in talking to each other and creating relationships where we are able to trade our projects and trade our films and introduce our projects to various audiences. I think those things are very, very important. I think that we should share each other's work commercially and not be afraid to support each other,” he said.

“We have the talent, we have the audience but we need more collaboration,” said former Pulse model Grey ( Restless City and Better Mus' Come).

Passage tells the story of a fisherman who becomes a human smuggler, while Cargo is about a Bahamian fisherman with a gambling addiction taking on a job to smuggle Haitians to Florida to support his family.

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