Thrilling start

Voice of a Woman Festival makes its mark

BY Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Sunday, February 11, 2018

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“Fantastic”. “Positive”. “Overwehlming”.

These are but some of the words Maureen Bryan, conceptualiser of the Voice of a Woman Film Festival, is using to describe the inaugural staging of the event in Jamaica. The festival was held in the Corporate Area and in Ocho Rios, St Ann two weekends ago.

For Bryan the event has come at the right time in Jamaica, as it has used the mediums of film, specifically, and entertainment in general to shine a light on the issues of violence against women and children.

The event opened with the local premiere of Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami — a documentary of the experiences of Jamaican-born entertainer Grace Jones. The events at Cove Cinema in Ocho Rios involved the screening of a number of short films by Jamaican female directors which examined various topics from a woman's point of view, as well as a panel discussion.

Among the resource persons who formed the panels or whose work was showcased were film-makers Gabrielle Blackwood, Danielle Russell, Tony Blackford, Allison Harrison, Michelle Serieux, Danae Grandison, Makeda Solomon, Laura Facey and Queen Ifrica. Proceeds from the festival went to Woman Inc.

“The intention of Voice of A Woman has been very specific. It has always been to create that space where women can authentically speak their truths. Here in Jamaica talent is so abundant and there is a creative energy in this country. However, there is more work to be done to bring the voices of women into the mainstream and to create that balance in storytelling. This will only result in more understanding.”

“The level of harrassment that women in Jamaica face on a daily basis, based on our culture, is absolutely inappropriate. This leaves many women feeling nervous and forces them to suppress their sexuality out of fear that they are drawing attention to themselves. What we were able to discuss at the festival will hopefully start a national narrative that will result in more sensitivity on this topic,” Bryan noted.

She noted that despite the successes of this years' event there is still a lot of work to be done for what will become an annual event.

“This year's event was very, very rushed. We had no sponsorship so everything was funded by Voice of a Woman. But we wanted to contribute to Jamaica at this absolutely critical time. Internationally, the focus is now on violence against women and girls so it is opportune for these matters to be dealt with on the Voice of A Woman platform to look at ways to transform by using the arts to communicate what the masses are feeling [so] that change can start to happen. It's time for Jamaica to start creating a new way of thinking in this regard,” said Bryan.

First established in the United Kingdom in 2009, it has become a yearly festival in London, New York and France, featuring the works of women in film, music and the arts and conversations on the status of women and girls globally.

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