Cocktails With: Barbara Blake Hannah

Cocktails With: Barbara Blake Hannah

Sunday, April 22, 2012

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It's year five of the Jamaica Reggae Festival and its founder/ journalist/ documentarian/author Barbara Blake Hannah, could not be more pleased. Wearing a smile and looking Rasta chic, she greets us poolside on a warm afternoon at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, for drinks and a chat.

What are you sipping?

A Shirley Temple.

What kind of day are you having?

It's a beautiful, restful day. The festival premiered last night and we only have a seminar today. I'm really looking forward to seeing the Bob Marley documentary at Emancipation Park tonight.

What's in your handbag?

My notebook; it's essential as I keep important notes in there. My hand sanitiser, my reading glasses and sunglasses, my cellphones.

Who does your hair?

I do.

Is it particularly challenging managing locks?

Not all. It's just wash and dry. Sometimes I twist the ends to make a different style but typically, it's just wash and wear.

Who does your nails?

I do.

What's your must-have accessory?

My Ethiopian cross I wear around my neck. I never take it off. It's called a maskel.

How is this year's Reggae Film Festival going?

It's going really, really well. We have been able to grow; like a five-year-old child we are walking now and we have great corporate sponsors plus all the other small sponsors we have.

How has it grown since the first year?

The first year we had government support so it was a little more spectacular, and then we went on our own and it was touch and go, but now here we are five years later and it's our own and it's independent and looking good.

Where exactly did the idea come from to have a reggae film festival?

A young man in England phoned me to ask if he could sell one of my films on his website, which was called reggaefilmsuk. I said I didn't know there was such a thing as reggae films and he said there were lots of films about reggae that are like memorialising a history and there are lots of feature films made with reggae backgrounds as soundtracks. I said we should be seeing them in Jamaica, and so the idea was born; the young man is still my partner. His name is Peter Gittens.

How do you feel about the Jamaican film landscape?

What's really nice is that it has suddenly sprung up a lot of new shoots. You used to have only one or two people making films but suddenly, and I'm proud to say the Reggae Film Festival has played a role in this, a lot of young people are coming forward who are making more films, and who want to make feature films and bigger, better films. They are also making animated films and they are very enthusiastic.

You have your own history in filmmaking, don't you?

I have been making films since I was in television in England in 1968. I had a small role in a film that was shot in Jamaica and that really took me to England. But I was mostly working as a television journalist and the first opportunity I had to make a documentary was actually when I attended a film festival in Germany in 1977 and I showed Wow, I Wish I Had A Camera and the then East German TV company gave me a film crew. So that was my first film -- a documentary. I've made quite a few documentaries, two children's films for television and I'm developing a feature film based on my novel Joseph: A Rasta Reggae Fable, which was inspired by the life of Bob Marley but it's nothing like him. In fact, I'd say it's the opposite in so many ways.

What's your favourite film?

Kagemusha by Akira Kurosawa. It's one film that really impressed me more than any film I've ever seen. It was so brilliantly made, it's a Japanese epic. It's a period piece that is beautifully costumed, incredibly well directed; it's just a spectacle and the story is amazing. It's a movie I would recommend everyone should see.

How would you define your fashion style?

When I lived in England, I used to do the Yves Saint Laurent and Bond Street because you were supposed to and because you are a television journalist. I like fashion but I'm very influenced by natural things and, being a Rasta woman of course, I get to wear the colours and Afro-centric style. I'm still very Western in my dress. I am an Ethiopian Orthodox so I wear a lot of white with red, gold and green. I don't have a lot of African outfits. It all goes with being a Rasta. I don't wear trousers so my wardrobe is limited. I always cover my head and I usually match my head wrap with the clothes I wear so it's a different style being a Rasta woman. I'm a corporate person as well, so the business side of me will wear a jacket or heels or a wedge if I have meetings to go to.

Do you think you defy the conventional stereotype of a Rasta woman?

I don't think I defy the convention because I feel I have influenced a lot of young Rasta women to adapt similar styles of dress. So maybe in the beginning I defied convention just simply by being a Rasta woman, but I think we all are allowed individuality as Rasta women in the way we dress. Being a Rasta woman gives me a lot of style freedom.

What's your idea of the perfect man?

Is there one? Jah Rastafari His Emperial Majesty Haile Selasie. That's the perfect man.

What's your idea of the perfect date?

A view, good music and extremely intelligent conversation, that's all I'd want.

Who gets your vote as the sexiest man?

Maybe I'm too old to define a sexy man. There are so many gorgeous men in the world, I couldn't never narrow it down to just one.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Playing with my grandchildren. Full stop.

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