The Caribbean region has been selected as the “Guest of Honour” at the Beijing College Student Film Festival this year.
Four countries from the Caribbean Caucus of Embassies in Beijing – Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, The Bahamas and Jamaica – have partnered with the School of Arts and Communication of Beijing Normal University to screen eight Caribbean films, free of charge, from April 24- 26.
“The Beijing Caribbean Film Festival gives Chinese viewers a unique opportunity to experience the Caribbean on screen in a way they never have before,” said Ayesha Wharton, Charge d’ Affairs from the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, who served as the coordinator of the series on behalf of the Caribbean Caucus.
“Through this festival, we hope to redefine the Caribbean in the eyes of Chinese viewers and introduce them to the authentic Caribbean experience.
“The Caribbean is the perfect location both to have blockbuster films made and to create and produce engaging local films from within its own vibrant industry. We are especially pleased to bring these films to Beijing for the public’s viewing pleasure,” she added.
The films chosen highlight aspects of the true Caribbean reality, by showcasing its art, history, music and literature. They also allude to some of the poignant matters that still remain in the region’s post-colonial societies: issues involving, immigration, race, identity and the constant struggle for a better life.
“Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China”, conceptualized and produced by former NBC Universal Executive, Paula Williams, will be shown at the opening ceremony held on April 24.
The film documents aspects of Williams’ childhood and that of her brothers, all of whom were born in Jamaica but migrated to Harlem, United States with their Chinese-Jamaican mother, Nell Vera Lowe.
The documentary features Williams’ plight to reunite with her mother’s remaining family in China. It was produced by Jeanette Kong.
The second day opens with two Bahamian films, the first directed by Kareem Mortimer, entitled, “Passage”.
This documents the smuggling of Haitian immigrants through the Bahamas to the United States and the numerous challenges encountered in such an endeavour.
Tyler Johnstone, the executive producer of the second film, captures the life of a Haitian gardener in “My Father’s Land”. It describes a familiar Caribbean narrative that touches on issues of immigration, culture and identity. It also details the advantages and disadvantages of moving from one’s homeland to improve the quality of life for all involved. In this case, his destination of choice was the Bahamas.
Also on Wednesday’s line up is Trinidad and Tobago’s “Salty Dog”, directed by Oliver Milne.
Unlike the United States, the notion of placing elderly parents in retirement homes remains notoriously unpopular in the Caribbean. However, this reality presents itself in an estranged relationship between a father and son.
Finishing off the evening, is the showing of “The Fortitude”, another film from Trinidad and Tobago, that details some of the hardships faced by the early Chinese settlers on the islands, including the need to have a special pass when travelling to the capital of Port of Spain.
Directed by Judy Chong Dennison and Anthony Dennison, the film includes interviews from renowned Chinese-Trinbagonians and others of Chinese descent including: Larry Howai, the former finance minister; Derek Chin, founder of Movie Towne; and Richard Young, former managing director of the local branch of the Scotia Bank as well as several other noteworthy individuals of Chinese ancestry.
The culmination of the three-day Caribbean film festival on April 26, begins with the screening of a Barbadian film entitled, “Auntie”.
Written and directed by Lisa Harewood, “Auntie” showcases the life of a seamstress and a matriarch of a local Bajan community.
Having cared for many children and others in need, her latest charge is that of 12-year-old Kera, whose mother migrated to England in search of more lucrative opportunities. Having grown immensely attached to the child, “Auntie” is dumbstruck by the arrival of the airfare that would reunite Kera with her biological mother.
The second Barbadian documentary/film to be shown is an educational work of art, with the simple yet effective title of “H2O”.
The naming of the documentary is in line with the film’s plight to create more awareness of the importance of water management, preservation and the environmental impact, should immediate action not be taken to maintain the natural beauty of our Caribbean waters. “H2O” was filmed both in Barbados and in other islands of the Eastern Caribbean.
The festival ends with the showing of another Jamaican film titled, “Bad Friday”, a documentary by Dr. Deborah Thomas that seeks to shed light on the hardships of Rastafarians in the 1970s.
This plight included unearthing the shocking events of a particular Rastafarian community in Western Jamaica’s Coral Gardens.