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In The Spotlight: New Jamaican Cinema

In The Spotlight: New Jamaican Cinema

In The Spotlight: New Jamaican Cinema

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This week in Jamaica... Jamaican film industry.

Three Jamaican films take the spotlight this week, as the growth of the Jamaican film industry blossoms and more attention is being given to locally produced films than US blockbusters.


Donisha Prendergast, daughter of Rita Marley's first daughter Sharon, was born after Bob Marley died and though she grew up in the Marley family household, was not brought up as a Rasta. Now in her early 20s, Donisha decided to embark on a journey of discovery to find her Rasta roots and to document the process on film, travelling to several locations to learn about Rastafari - the movement that inspired Bob Marley to write his most powerful songs.

The documentary, “RASTA", takes an in-depth look at Rastafari and its cultural and historical links to other people and groups around the world. Says Donisha: “Since Bob Marley’s music and lyrics were informed by his Rastafarian beliefs, it’s important for people to have a deeper understanding of who Rastafarians are today and the impact the movement has had on peoples of the world."

The journey has taken her around the world, filming interviews in all five continents with special emphasis on those Rastafarians who can teach her all she wants to know about the movement. The film will feature interviews with some of today's most celebrated reggae artists, Rastafarians and academics who have studied the Rastafarian movement, as well as interviews with 'reggae royalty' Damian Marley and Tarrus Riley.

Phase one of the documentary was completed earlier this year with a shoot in Washington, D.C., where Prendergast visited the DISCOVERING RASTAFARI exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute and interviewed custodian James Homiak. In August the production filmed interview with Rastafarians and scholars attending the UWI Rastafari Studies Conference. The third phase of the production continues in Canada, England and India, with editing scheduled to begin by November.


Many years ago, at the inspiration, urging and help of my then-7-year-old son Makonnen, I made a children's TV movie KIDS PARADISE about four children vacationing on the North coast who find a treasure map. The film, starring Freddie McGregor, had some international success when we were invited to be special guests at the 1994 Chicago Childrens' Film Festival and inspsired by this, we decided to make a sequel. While visiting friends in Negril, we met a family whose children were natural film stars and so we built the second KIDS PARADISE film around them.

It was therefore my great pleasure to learn years later that being in this film had inspired the children Storm and Nile Saulter to pursue careers as film makers. After studying in the US and apprenticeships to such excellent film makers as Little 'X' and Hype Williams, both of them have been making short films, music videos and commercials that have brought them to national and international attention.

Nile's co-production with Joel Burke in THE CANDY STORE (a comedy set in the world of teenagers and raging hormones) is not yet released. However in October Storm's major feature BETTER MUS' COME will finally receive an official premiere and release. The story is set in the Manley 70s when the title was a popular political slogan, and shows the underworld life that supports politics of both sides and creates the social problems we know so well today.

Under the guidance of British-Jamaican film producer Paul Bucknor, the film has had an interesting developmental life, first shown as an extended trailer that excited attention at the Flashpoint film festival held at their Negril hotel home, then a year later in Port Royal where it received acclaim from a select group of cineophiles.

Then it was back to the editing room to fine tune the finished film, package the marketing and get a screening date. BETTER MUS' COME opens in Kingston in October's National Heroes Month when politicians and their heritage are among the icons being celebrated.

Sheldon Shepherd of the innovative reggae group Nomadz, stars with support from noted American actor Roger Guenevere Smith. This film has potential to give the indigenous Jamaican film industry a major boost, especially internationally and I am personally proud to have had some small hand in making Storm and Nile Saulter the excellent film makers theyhave become.


Chris Browne, Jamaica's most experienced cinematographer and nephew of Perry Henzell has just wrapped up principal photography on his feature film GHETT'A LIFE, the screenplay for which won the 2006 Hartley Merrill International Screenplay award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France. Chris is best known as director of THIRD WORLD COP, and worked on such jamaican feature films as DANCE HALL QUEEN, ONE LOVE and KLA$H, as well as being hired by several international productions filmed in Jamaica.

GHETT'A LIFE, is described as an action packed drama that introduces newcomer Kevoy Burton as 'Derrick', a teenager from a politically divided inner city community, whose dream of becoming a great boxer unites those around him. 'Derrick's' idol is boxing legend Lennox Lewis, who plays himself in a cameo role. In addition, the film boasts a cast of experienced Jamaican actors including Carl Davis, Chris McFarlane, Winston "Bello" Bell, Teddy Price, Munair Zacca and Jamaican born Canadian-based actress Karen Robinson. Emerging talent O'Daine Clarke, Kadeem Wilson and Lisa Williams also shine in leading roles, with local boxing luminaries Shrimpy Clarke and Carl Grant giving authenticity to the boxing background of the project, filmed in the inner-city communities of Rose Town, Craig Town, Allman Town, Grants Pen, Mountain View and South Side.

The film was totally financed by Jamaican investors and co-producer Justine Henzell, continuing the film tradition set by her father, promises an early 2011 release to several international film festivals, (hopefully including the Reggae Film Festival) and a mid-year general release. This growth of Jamaican film industry is encouraging and will certainly inspire many of the young bloods experimenting with cameras and computers, to become more active in producing films of all kinds.


"This book is essential for black people everywhere, particularly those who went 'home' to their mother in the search for who we are, for acceptance, for our identities -- only to discover that the 'mother' didn't want anything to do with us."

BEVERLY MANLEY, reviewing 'GROWING OUT: Black Hair & Black Pride in the Swinging Sixties' by BARBARA BLAKE HANNAH

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