International comedies, stories from the Caribbean and films exploring issues of social justice and are the featured categories at 2012’s Filmfest D.C. The festival began on April 12 and goes on until April 22. More than 75 films from 39 countries are being screened on various screens across Washington. The segment called “Caribbean Journeys” focuses on films from Jamaica, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.
The films selected for Caribbean Journeys are: Better Mus’ Come (Jamaica); Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle (Trinidad & Tobago); First Rasta (Jamaica); Havana Eva (Cuba); Jean Gentil (Dominican Republic); Marley (USA/UK); RasTa: A Soul’s Journey (Canada); and Unfinished Spaces (Cuba/USA).
Description: The Caribbean has long been a location of choice for shooting Hollywood films; its most recent claim to cinematic fame is the big-budget and highly popular Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But beyond the beauty of its beaches and abundance of exotic settings lie a vital populace and an array of films that portray its complex history and diverse people. The historical drama The Right and the Wrong (Trinidad, 1970) became the first indigenous feature film made in English-speaking Caribbean, soon followed by Jamaica’s first feature, The Harder They Come (1972), often cited as one of the most accomplished films to come out of this region.
The region has strong African, Latin-American, British, and French influences and has given birth to a large diaspora in the western world. Thus, the notion of Caribbean cultural identity is complex and constantly in flux, with just as many commonalities among each country as there are differences. Deeply rooted in a long history of slavery, colonization, and post-colonial growing pains, the cinematic landscape of Caribbean film features a wide range of artists, from indigenous filmmakers to black British auteurs. With the advent of digital technology came the democratization of the filmmaking process, and a new wave of Caribbean cinema is being born once again.
In her review “In Filmfest D.C., the human comedy is the star,” Ann Hornaday writes: With its images of crumbling walls, broken-down churches and sagging edifices, “Found Memories” displays equal amounts of love and respect for its architectural subjects and its human ones. That sense of reverence and loss also pervades “Unfinished Spaces,” an extraordinary documentary about Havana’s ambitious, partially finished School of the Arts, which Fidel Castro commissioned shortly after the 1959 Cuban revolution, but which has been fitfully embraced and abandoned over the ensuing decades. “Unfinished Spaces” is included within Filmfest D.C.’s “Caribbean Journeys” program, but it also epitomizes the kind of revealing, visually lush documentaries that so often prove to be the highlights of a festival.
Also see http://www.filmfestdc.org/ and http://www.filmfestdc.org/filmListSel.cfm?selSeries=Caribbean Journeys
[Photos from Havana Eva, The First Rasta, and Unfinished Spaces.]