The 21st Annual Pan-African Film and Arts Festival, will be held this year from February 7 – 18, in Los Angeles, California. We’ve reviewed the films participating in the festival this year and we’ll highlight the Caribbean entrants in this post.
About PAFF: It is PAFF’s goal to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes. We believe film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time, serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.
Each year, PAFF presents:
- Over One Hundred Fifty (150) quality films from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the South Pacific and Canada, all showcasing the diversity and complexity of people of African descent.
- One of America’s largest fine art shows featuring prominent and emerging Black artists and fine crafts people, including local, national and international poets, musicians and storytellers.
We have highlighted many of the Caribbean films participating this year in prior posts, but in keeping with our goal of supporting our films and filmmakers whenever we can, we’re going to highlight them here again.
Akwantu: The Journey
Roy T. Jones
About the Film: Jamaica is home to one of the world’s most fascinating cultures and historically important people – the Maroons. Yet so little is known about the Maroons, whose very rich culture and heritage is threatened to now become a thing of the past. That would be a tragedy; after all, the heroes and heroines of the Maroon rebellions could be considered the Spartacus of their time; except these slaves were victorious in their fight for freedom. This fact is not lost on Jamaican-born, New Jersey-based filmmaker Roy T. Anderson. After years of research and dozens of interviews that took him from remote regions of Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains, to the coastal regions of Ghana and its interior, then finally to the mysterious and isolated Maroon community of Accompong, he has conceived Akwantu: the Journey. This ground breaking documentary film tells the story of a people whose enduring saga has too often been misunderstood or omitted from the history books.
Akwantu: the Journey highlights Anderson’s travels to the “Motherland,” retracing the steps of his ancestors and their agonizing trek on foot from Africa’s northern interior to the coastal dungeons of modern day Ghana. Here slaves would be imprisoned while awaiting transport across the Atlantic Ocean – the dreaded Middle Passage. This forced-journey would inevitably give rise to the desire within these Africans to regain their lost independence and stolen freedoms. They would come to embody both in mind and spirit the struggle of a people that history would come to know as the Maroons.
Maroons today have not forgotten their glorious though bloodied path to freedom. As far back as Anderson can remember his family has always spoken proudly of their rich Maroon heritage. In recent years Roy (a veteran Hollywood stuntman and world record holder) began searching out his family’s history. What started out as an innate sense of curiosity grew into a newfound sense of pride. Anderson was now more determined than ever to tell the tale of the Maroons; Jamaica’s best-kept secret.
With this 87-minute feature length documentary, writer/director Roy T. Anderson invites you to join him on a most improbable journey into the lives of a people whose enduring spirit of self-determination is as much alive today as it was more three hundred years ago.
In the General Penitentiary in Kingston, Jamaica, the inmates have no toilets, beds or other basic necessities. What they do have is a very visionary Superintendent, an incredible social activist from the Italian consulate and some donated skill-building resources that include an internal radio station and music-recording studio where the wardens and the inmates create music together. This outlet has changed the prison atmosphere from being a very violent place to the restoration of self-worth and respect resulting in a dramatic desire to give back constructively to society. The young inmates who tell their story were raised under the worst of circumstances. Songs of Redemption is a stream of consciousness as told by young inmates who have been accused of various levels of crime. They tell their stories but what is most impressive is the raw emotion that comes forward as well as an obvious renewed sense of being human that puts these youngsters on a path to prevent other youth from ending up in the same situation−Sista Irie.
An informative journey into Trench Town, Jamaica illuminating its complex history. Founded by cousins Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley, the first housing district had utopian aspirations. Modeled on communal rural living with shared verandas and courtyards, the initial development housed World War II veterans and rural Jamaicans migrating to Kingston to look for work. It is credited with fostering much of the music and cultural heritage for which Jamaica is known worldwide. The district’s housing, however, soon became a political tool. In the pursuit of parliamentary seats, further development was designed to accommodate large numbers of political supporters of either the Jamaican Labor Party or the People’s National Party. Serving the needs of those at the highest levels of Jamaican society, the newer development no longer provided residents with the same social and cultural opportunities. Violence between the political gangs of these rival neighborhoods began in 1976 and spread throughout Jamaica. It persists today in a culture that connects the most impoverished neighborhoods in the capital with the highest levels of power in the government. For residents who grew up after 1976, perceptions and life are markedly different. The viewer traverses from First to Seventh streets through the maze of holes in the walls separating tenement yards created when it was too dangerous to walk on streets. We stop along the way considering the conditions that created the Trench Town of today.
For more information, check out Greg’s website.
Grenada: Colonialism and Conflict
A chronicle of the philosophical and sometimes bloody struggles Grenadians have waged against colonialism and its long-lasting psychological influences. Grenadian leaders fought against colonialism in different ways. Julian Fedon freed 100 slaves to fight the British. Eric Gairy led the poor people in a massive strike and obtained many improvements for them. Maurice Bishop led a successful coup against Eric Gairy in 1979, promising education and societal reform. History tells the tale, however, that even as Grenadian leaders have struck blows at colonialism, they have at times employed the tools of oppression taught to them by their colonial masters.
After its abolition in 1794 during the French Revolution, Napoléon sends a young, ruthless general to reinstate slavery on the island of Guadeloupe. This is the story of the valiant fight fought by Guadeloupe’s Black inhabitants to maintain their freedom.
On the most fundamental level, Home Again asks the question, “How would you survive?” A story based in fact, the script was inspired by the practice of various governments to deport incarcerated landed immigrants to rid itself of unwanted population. The issue is a particularly difficult problem in Jamaica where the deportee population outnumbers the prison population by seven times; where there are little to no resources to help deportees establish new lives, and where the deportees are largely blamed for the serious violence that rocks the country. Jamaica has the third highest per capita murder rate in the world.
Benedicte, a woman in search of absolute love, arrives in Polynesia, when a majestic but mysterious sailboat appears in the lagoon. Chance, coincidence or destiny? The film was shot in French Polynesia and inspired by the legend of the “Flying Dutchman.”
Shot in the early months of Suriname’s independence—achieved in 1975, after “300 years of Dutch colonialism,” and regarded as the country’s first official feature, it unfolds not as an insider’s celebratory vision of the new nation, but rather as the conflicted musings of an expatriate. Roy, a Creole student studying in Amsterdam for the past five-years, flies back home to Suriname when he gets a message his mother that his mother is gravely ill. Once he is back in Suriname he falls back in love with the sights, sounds and tastes of his home. He also woos a Hindu woman, scandalizing his family and his while betraying the trust of the girlfriend waiting for him in Holland. Things get complicated when his Dutch girlfriend unexpectedly arrives in Suriname to bring him back to Holland. At once nostalgic and incisive, One People revels in cultural trappings—music and dance, clothing and cuisine—while remaining sharply critical of the society that produced them. As for Roy, he often comes across like a womanizing rascal, though his twin romances are really symbols of his competing identities.
Ring di Alarm!
New Caribbean Cinema
“OUT OF MANY, one people” is Jamaica’s national motto. Out of eight short films this one feature-length film about life in modern-day Jamaica, made by the New Caribbean Cinema filmmakers’ collective, was born. Moving from the majestic Blue Mountains to the gritty ghetto to the stunning north coast, and spinning stories funny, suspenseful, thrilling and poignant, this is a cinematic mosaic as diverse and complex as the island that inspired it.
Stones in the Sun
In the midst of increasing political violence in their homeland, the lives of three pairs of Haitian refugees intersect in 1980s New York City. A haunted young woman struggling to forget the atrocities she’s experienced reunites with her husband in Brooklyn, where he barely scrapes by as a livery cab driver. A single mother striving for assimilation in a tony Long Island suburb takes in her sister, a teacher and political activist who is unable to reconcile their violent youth with her sister’s seemingly banal lifestyle. And a newly married man, the host of a popular anti-government radio show, finds his estranged father (a recently ousted military leader) on his doorstep, desperate for shelter. Now, they all must confront the disturbing truth of their pasts, as we slowly learn the history of their interlocked lives.
Lily, a Chinese girl brought up in strict Chinese tradition, meets Tom, a painter living with his four models in Provence, France. Although Tom is secretly condemned by an incurable disease, the painter passes his love of life and dreams to the young woman. Unexpected events awaken Lily’s senses and enable her to leave her “good girl” life to discover the real meaning of her existence.
For more information, visit the film’s FB page.
A snapshot of the interwoven relationships between a group of young people in contemporary Trinidad and Tobago who are all connected in some way. The storyline, focused on two generations of contemporary middle-class Trinidadians, gradually exposes the hopes, secrets, lies and betrayals in the lives of the various characters.
For more information, check out the film’s FB page.
A native of Guadeloupe receives a letter asking him to come and visit his heretofore-unknown family in Africa. When he arrives, he discovers that he is the last male heir of the royal family and he is the only one who can remove an age-old curse that threatens to destroy the entire kingdom.
Bernadette, a single mother in Paris, tries to provide her daughters with everything. She is thrilled when her eldest daughter, Elza, is the first in the family to graduate from college, earning a master’s degree summa cum laude. But Elza breaks her mother’s heart by running away to their native Guadeloupe in search of a distant childhood memory: the father she barely remembers. This feature debut by writer/director Mariette Monpierre offers an unusual insider’s view of lush island culture as she captures the passion and contradictions of this family.
US/Trinidad & Tobago, 2012
A video voyeur stalks women in the city with a digital camera. He is searching for something but he can’t quite get a handle on what. All he knows is that he is driven by some undefinable need. When he crosses paths with a beautiful model who allows him to indulge his passion, he is intrigued by her willingness to be his muse. Soon he discovers she harbors a dark secret; she is a serial killer who in her compulsion is also willing to pull him into her depraved world. Oddly, it is only through his descent into what seems to be hell that he finds what he has been searching for. A dark, intense film that will keep you guessing.
For more information, check out the film’s FB page. Watch the film’s trailer here:
Utilizing the colors of the French Revolution: blue, red and white as a backdrop, this inventive experimental film focuses on the history of slavery in the Caribbean, especially in the French and English island of Guadeloupe. Contrasting the high ideals of liberty and equality expressed by the French Revolution and Napoleon with the horrible reality of slavery, events from the past are judged in a court of history. The basic framework is a giant courtroom drama in which characters from the 1810s mix with those from other eras, brought together in the present to re-examine the Ignace case” about a legendary figure in the history of Guadeloupe who fought against the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte to oppose slavery.”
Trinidad & Tobago, 2012
Two homeless cousins desperately try to survive the streets of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Thieves, by street credit, they routinely hunt the local market in search of unsuspecting shoppers but times are getting harder and the pickings slim.
Visit the film’s FB page for more information. Watch the trailer here: