Mother Earth on show at show at Gatffest

By Aaliyah Cunningham
Observer writer
aaliyahc@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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MOTHER Earth's well-being was the focus of short films Beneath The Surface and Island Strong, which premiered at Gatffest Film Festival, now in its seventh year.

Under the patronage of former Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall and Lady Hall, opening night took place last Friday at Mona Visitor's Lodge and Conference Centre at The University of the West Indies' Mona campus in Kingston.

Savanah Peridot, deputy festival director, was pleased with the opening event.

“The premiere night was amazing and we are very excited to showcase all the films we have in store. I believe we had a really good turnout and we are looking forward to the rest of the festival,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

“We are happy to be able to showcase these films and hear the insightful discussions afterwards. We are looking forward to what Jamaica nights at the National Gallery and Bob Marley Museum have in store,” Peridot continued.

Beneath The Surface, directed by Safel Peterkin and Del-Llandri Duncan, explores how the underwater world is affected by treatment of the land and ocean life. It also focuses on water pollution, with primary interest in the deterioration of Jamaica's coral reefs.

During the panel discussion, Duncan said prior to the documentary he was never concerned about the way he disposed of waste, but after realising how it affected life beneath the surface, he is far more cautious.

“Mi used to be one a dem people dat throw mi likkle bottle in di gully an' ting, but now a me more fi tell mi fren dem, 'Wah ya a do?' an' mek dem pick up dem trash an' dem ting deh.”

The film was conceptualised in 2016 through a partnership between the UWI Film Project and Montego Bay Marine Park, after training six students from the Western Jamaica Campus in scuba diving and underwater filming. Both directors developed a passion for marine life and decided to take that a step further.

According to Peterkin, in order to effect change through Beneath The Surface, it must infiltrate homes through the children who, in turn, will sensitise their parents and grow to become stewards of the earth.

Barbadian film Island Strong also focuses on the environment. Director Clish Gittens looks at the impact of natural disasters on a small island.

Produced after hurricanes Maria and Irma, Gittens explores how changing climate, especially in the Caribbean, will affect generations to come. Island Strong highlights the issue through letters between a mother and her six-year-old daughter.

“I decided to tell the story that way to engage the audience. The mother represents Mother Nature and the six-year-old represents the Caribbean — so it's that conversation between them,” he said.

No stranger to the film world, Gittens has been honoured by Caribbean Tales Film Festival, NIFCA, and has Barbados Film and Video Association, and received the Ministry of Environment Award at the 2015 National Independence Festival for Creative Arts.

Gatffest Film Festival, formerly known as Greater August Town Film Fest, is slated to run until June 30. Originating from the UWI Community Film Project, it was created as an outlet for graduates to showcase films produced during their training.

More than 50 short films from 25 countries, including Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, France, Greece and Nepal, will be shown.


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