A new database cataloging Caribbean films and filmmakers was launched during the 10th annual Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival. The website includes a listing of feature-length independent Caribbean fiction, documentary and experimental feature films from 2000 to the present. “We wanted to create an online resource that was easily accessible, well organized and reflected the visual palette of the Caribbean film movement. This resource will allow filmmakers in the region to more easily collaborate, will give audiences greater ability to access films and filmmakers from the region, and provide the international industry with a one-stop shop for Caribbean film,” said the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival Art Director, Melanie Archer, who is coordinating the Caribbean Film Database. So what are some of the more recent Caribbean films likely to be included in the database? Below we profile 10 feature-length Caribbean films from the last 5 years likely for inclusion.
The Skin (2011): HAMAFilms, supernatural thriller, ‘The Skin’ is a modern story filled with Caribbean folklore about Michael and Lisa (Brent Simon & Aisha Ralph) who are a young married couple on the verge of losing their home. Their luck changes when Michael, while on a photo-shoot at the historic Betty’s Hope Estate discovers an ancient vase and sells it to an antique dealer (Jeff Stewart). The couple gets little time to celebrate their good fortune before strange things begin to happen. They are introduced to a Jamaican mystic (Carl Bradshaw) who informs them that the ancient relic was not really a blessing but a curse.
Chrissy! (2012): An inspirational and uplifting drama about courage, faith, bullying, determination and the power of the human spirit to achieve despite the odds. A very poor 10-year-old girl, Chrissy Wright (Mikaela Harrison) lives on the rough side of town in deplorable conditions with her two siblings and their sick, bed-ridden mother (Sharon Griffith). Living without running water, electricity and very little to eat, Chrissy becomes a target for teasing and discrimination from her fellow students at Redemption Primary, and almost all the teachers except for her beloved science teacher, Mr. Fenton (Peter Boyce). Formidable, Chrissy is determined to push herself out of poverty, overcome the teasing and rise above it all. Through fate, she meets a new student at her school Melissa Edghill (Cara Odonnel), and thus begins a friendship…the meeting of two different worlds — rich and poor, black and white.
ELZA (Le bonheur d’elza) (2012): 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.
Home Again (2012): Marva, Dunston, and Everton grew up in Canada, the United States and England, respectively. Now deported “home,” each quickly discover a very different Jamaica from the idyllic paradise seen in vacation ads or from their vague childhood memories. Every day is a fight for survival in a place where family support, friendships, and shelter are elusive. Danger also surrounds them at every turn in a country that has the third highest murder rate in the world (per capita). Then there is the fact that Jamaicans uniformly blame deportees for much of their crime. Home Again follows the lives of three individuals that embark on a journey filled with great obstacles, but along the way they find the most human of emotions…hope!
Kingston Paradise (2012): Directed by Mary Wells, Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley stars in a classic story of life, love and how both are hard to come by when you are always fighting for survival and success. Finding himself stuck in the violent ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, a small-time hustler devises a daring but no-so-clever plan to steal a fancy sports car, right under the owner’s nose, after which things rapidly go downhill until he gets to the bottom and begins to realize that he has to change in order to fulfill his dreams.
Keeping Up With The Joneses – The Movie (2013): The Jones family reluctantly become the subjects of reality a show entitled Life & Times in the Caribbean. It requires that a camera crew follow the family around and films their every move. Irving (the patriarch of the family) signs the contract to do the show against Angela’s (his wife) wishes. Now, Irving, Angela, Tracy (their 17-year-old daughter) and Nathan (their 10-year-old son) have to coexist while looking good for the cameras amidst awkward moments and embarrassing encounters. Making matters worse, the Jones family are kidnapped – but help is at hand when the brother-in-law and his friends go on a mission to save them!
Payday (2013): Directed by Selwyne Browne, this Barbadian comedy-drama/buddy film showcases a raw slice of Barbadian community life. Romie, an aspiring mechanic and ladies man, with his brutally honest best friend Pack, invest their entire salaries in a down-payment on a garage. Their goal: to establish a successful mechanic’s shop to get away from their boring jobs as security guards, their loving yet eccentric and demanding families, and poor standard of living in their village – Pickletons. Their simple task of making the down-payment to the garage owner at the village lime that night is hilariously complicated by Romie’s love-life, and Pack’s love for cannabis. The complications and laughs multiply as the best friends go to extremes to avoid violent drug men, a charity collector, crazy ex-girlfriends and other wacky villagers.
Consumed (2014): Directed by Peter Sagnia originally from London, this intriguing drama thriller tells the story of Johnny Richards, a prisoner who is about to get an early release due to political changes in St. Maarten, and Maria, the widow of the man whom Richards had killed, as she struggles to deal with what she believes to be a great injustice.
Two Smart (2014): Staring soca Queen Alison Hinds along with George Gill and Saran Lashley, this movie from Barbados is a psychological thriller and tells the story of a disgruntled married couple and a hitchhiker trapped in a gully during a tropical storm.
VIGILANTE-The Crossing (2015): Ex-con Dexter Gooding (played by Kirk Brown), is deported from the United States and returns to Barbados to discover his homeland engulfed in crime. Armed with the guilt of his past crimes and a genuine passion to see his birthplace thrive, he takes on the role of vigilante. Employing a Robin Hood-style, he soon collides with Amy, a white Barbadian woman (played by Malissa Alanna), who deploys a polar opposite, Martin Luther King-like approach to helping the same community. As the boiling pot of racial prejudice, passion, love and hate erupts, their lives and shared mission reach a crucial crossroad.
With that, have you seen any of these Caribbean films? Are there other Caribbean feature-length films you suggest we watch? Do tell us what you think.