Now grown from its humble roots, the rebranded “Cinema Paradise: Portie Film Festival” lit up the Hope Gardens path to welcome guests to the open-air Serengeti theatre at Hope Zoo in Kingston on Opening Night, Thursday, August 17, 2017. The feature film, RasTa: A Soul’s Journey, with Rita and Bob Marley’s granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, launched the four days of festivities. Ms. Prendergast gracefully shared her eight-year pilgrimage of making this film along with producer/director/writer Stuart Samuels (co-producer of Grammy award winner The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years) and Executive Producer Patricia Scarlett. Many in the audience were moved to tears by this emotional, riveting documentary, which touched upon a real issue in Jamaica today – the misconceptions of Rastafari.
Co-hosted by Dr. Paul S. Rhodes and JAMPRO Film Commissioner Renee Robinson, guests included the Honorable Oliver Clarke, Chairman of The Gleaner Company; Barbara Blake Hannah, Ministry of Culture; Errol Hanna, Chairman of the Destination Assurance Council Portland; Joan McDonald, Vice President, Canadian Women’s Club of Jamaica; Diane Edwards, President of JAMPRO; Emanuel Da Rosa, President and CEO Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS); Cindy Breakspeare; Ainsley Henriques, Honorary Consul of Israel; Nicola Madden-Greig, Group Director of Marketing and Sales at Jamaica Pegasus Group; and Active Voice journalist Annie Paul, who also moderated the discussion panel that followed the cocktail reception and screening. With over 200 in attendance, it was an auspicious start to the rebranded Portie Film Festival.
“It was splendid mix of edu-tainment” said Afiya Henry, Senior Business Development Officer at the Jamaica Tourist Board. According to Festival Director Vivene Levison, “Each year, we plan to provide educational and entertaining programming, at venues from Kingston to Port Antonio that will highlight relevant issues in Jamaica and society at large. This year’s opening film, Rasta: A Soul’s Journey, is a captivating documentary that resonates with our core values, helping audiences find Rastafari’s spiritual meaning in today’s world through the travels of Donisha Prendergast.”
August 17th was also happily significant as the birthday of national hero Marcus Garvey, whose philosophy is the source and foundation of Rastafari itself. A cake was cut on stage in his honor following the evening’s dynamic discussions.
The Ethiope-inspired Great Room of Africana House at Great Huts was the perfect ambiance for viewing this masterpiece by Italian director Guilia Amati. Like many others who attended the VIP launch in Kingston, Canadian director Stuart Samuels made the journey from Kingston to Portie. “Attending the Cinema Paradise Film Festival at Great Huts in Port Antonio was so special,” he said, “ – a magical setting, a beautifully created space with unique art, with people committed to sharing their beliefs and films in a totally supportive environment. No place, no event like it. Special! Otherworldly!”
Steven Golding, President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), led discussions. Journalist and critic Annie Paul, also in the audience, said “The film Shashamane captures exactly why thinking of culture exclusively in terms of one’s biological and ancestral roots is insufficient. The routes Masimba and his ancestors took or were taken on, from Western Africa to Jamaica to the UK, where he lived before migrating to Shashamane, defined his identity and made him who he is just as much as his ancestral origins. What comes across clearly in the film is how Jamaican/Caribbean and Rastafarian the culture of most of those who migrated from this region to Shashamane, has remained.” Patrons also enjoyed authentic Ethiopian cuisine prepared by Golding, who is also Executive Chef of Café Africa. See the Great Huts Blog at www.greathuts.com.
Adrian Lopez, Writer/Director of “Shock Value”, Michelle Sireux, Director of “Sugar,” and Kurt Wright, Writer/Director of “Origins,” were all on site, along with cast members and local filmmakers, for lively discussions after each screening. The views of the Eastern Caribbean Sea provided a stunning backdrop on the Mandela Deck of Africana House. Moderated by Renee Robinson, JAMPRO Film Commissioner, it was a wonderful salute to the up and coming talent in Jamaica who also received much inspiration from their experience of Cinema Paradise 2017. See the Great Huts Blog at www.greathuts.com.
Bruk Out! followed six of the boldest and bravest Dancehall Queens from around the world – Japan, Italy, America, Poland, Spain and, of course, Jamaica – as they prepared to battle for the biggest trophy (and cash prize) in all of Dancehall. Combining explosive underground dance visuals with emotionally intimate vérité scenes, the film was a never-before-seen window into the life of the Dancehall Queen.
Though the weather brought the plans for a Boston Beach setting inside the Safari Deck at Great Huts – the ambiance to celebrate Dancehall was still explosive and highly spirited. After the screening, Peabody Award-winning New York Fiilmmaker Cori McKenna, answered important questions along with Brad Martin (Associate Producer) and Manammy “Pinky” (Japanese DHQ). See the Great Huts Blog at www.greathuts.com.