Unbroken wins big at T&T film fest

Unbroken wins big at T&T film fest

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 17, 2020

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UNBROKEN, an inspiring Jamaican story of determination and resilience, was a big winner at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) held from September 9 to 15.

Directed and shot by Jamaican film-maker Gabrielle Blackwood, it took the accolade for Best Documentary Short Film.

Due to restrictions brought on by COVID-19 pandemic, the festival and its awards ceremony were streamed live via social media platforms. The latter was held on Monday night.

Blackwood said she was grateful and elated about the win.

“I'm extremely happy about it. But I'm even more excited about it because Laron is excited and ecstatic about the win. I'm excited because people are now getting to see and sharing his story,” she told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“It's really good to see him excited about it because we just followed him on this journey not expecting anything to come out of it; neither did he. I think he's looking at the silver lining which is — even though he suffered from his amputation and the hardships associated with it like re-learning how to walk and how to take care of himself — people are now knowing who he is, what he has gone through and what he has achieved. So that's the most rewarding part about the win,” she continued.

'Laron' is Laron Williamson, the documentary's central character. Unbroken follows his quest to make Jamaica's Olympic rowing team.

“He suffered from a freak accident at work, lost his job and was just in search of bettering himself. He came upon the rowing team which had just started and now he's on the Jamaica rowing team,” she said. “The paralympic team said the nature of his amputation prevented him from qualifying for that team as he was too able-bodied.”

Blackwood said she was commissioned by Getty Images UK through New Wave Jamaica to do the docu-film. She said it took some amount of research before coming across Williamson's story.

“I went a did research on various stories in arts, music, and sports and came upon Laron's story about him being an amputee and working while studying and making something of himself. But also his difficulties along the way,” said Blackwood.

A 10-year veteran film-maker, Blackwood studied at Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus. She has a post-grad diploma and masters in film and film production from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Blackwood is also a recipient of the Geoff Evans Award for Excellence in Screen Production in New Zealand.

She had some advice for fledgling film-makers.

“No matter what challenges you go through, like Laron, there is always a way to get around it. There is always a way to overcome it. There's always a way to succeed,” she added.

The immediate past president of the Jamaica Film & Television Association and co-convenor of Women In Film Jamaica, Blackwood's other film credits include Grave Digger and Denis.

Other Jamaican films on show at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival included Traytown (Nadean Rawlins), Out Of Many (Rebecca Williams), and Yellow Girl and Me (Isabella Issa).


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