CinéSips Film Festival for Sept 29
Lead actress Pepita Little plays the main character Ally in a scene from the Watooka Films horror production Nice Lady.

IN a bid to highlight the extent of gender-based violence and women's issues in Jamaica, regional production house Watooka Films is partnering with local advocacy group EndRapeCulture JA for the inaugural staging of CinéSips Film Festival.

The film festival is scheduled for Thursday, September 29 at the Senior Common Room at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus, in St Andrew at 8:30 pm. The proceeds from the occasion will support EndRapeCulture JA and other such initiatives.

The evening will showcase the film Nice Lady, alongside three other locally produced short films that also aim to educate the public on rape culture, misogyny, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.

Watooka Films' founder and director Kaiel Eytle said: "My inspiration to do this film – and now this film festival – came when a brave friend of mine chose to come forward on social media to share her real-life story. Through that story and others since, I learnt about the trauma that comes with the harassment that women face in our society daily."

Nice Lady tells a story about an ancient spirit that "preys on the souls of women and possesses men in the darkest part of their hearts". The urban supernatural horror follows the female lead character, Ally, played by popular actress and former entertainment TV personality Pepita Little, as she becomes the target for the evil Kanaima.

Eytle, the Guyanese-Jamaican director and writer of the film, explained: "In some indigenous tribes, they believe in the Kanaima – an evil spirit that is used as a method of terror and violence. Normally, it's invited into the host through ritual." The film received critical praise and favourable reviews when it premiered earlier this year at Jamaica's premiere film festival GATFFEST, having been partially funded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.

EndRapeCulture JA, the year-old anti-sexual violence non-governmental organisation (NGO) that utilises public education and behaviour change programmes, is working to effect major change in attitudes and policies locally as it has also begun to harness strategic collaborations in the advocacy space. Shanique Palmer, its founder, said, "I'm happy about this partnership and that this event will shine light on these issues that we, women, are tired of having to deal with."

"We have a strong rape culture in Jamaica and it's because of a lot of misogynistic behaviours have become the norm. I find, too, that there's a lot of sexual misconduct, especially since a lot of males don't understand the basic concept of consent as they were never taught that in sex-ed classes or by their parents. Not to mention, women aren't speaking up enough about their experiences because of fear of possible retaliation or further victimisation. It's been at epidemic levels for a while now, and no one is really talking about it or addressing it meaningfully."

Considering the future, Eytle said that he is still raising funds to take Nice Lady to a number of international film festivals as the visibility and credibility garnered could potentially lead to even bigger opportunities to make a full-length feature. He said, "This would delve further into the mystery and terror of the Kanaima and, more so, tackling the wider issue of gender-based violence."

Kaiel Eytle (left), Watooka Films' founder and director, and Shanique Palmer, founder of EndRapeCulture JA.

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