6-2 | Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​7​7​4​2​/​I​M​A​G​E​.​C​C​N​.​6​-​2.1 | Ham­buch PDF


DORIS HAMBUCH | UAE UNIVERSITY

INTRODUCTION

The idea for this spe­cial issue orig­i­nates in the real­iza­tion that there has not been a fol­low-up of Mbye Cham’s Ex-Isles: Essays on Caribbean Cin­e­ma (1992), pub­lished more than two decades ago. [1] The book review includ­ed in this issue high­lights the only excep­tion, but the book in ques­tion, Explo­ran­do el cine caribeño (2011; Explor­ing Caribbean Cin­e­ma), edit­ed by Luis Alber­to Notario and Bruce Padding­ton, was pub­lished in Span­ish and with a very lim­it­ed num­ber of copies. Accord­ing to the edi­tors, an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of their book is forth­com­ing soon and, as Kris­t­ian Van Hae­sendon­ck pre­dicts in the end of his review, such a trans­la­tion should prove invalu­able for future stud­ies in Caribbean cin­e­ma. A sym­po­sium whose theme was iden­ti­cal with the title of the present issue brought togeth­er a series of aca­d­e­m­ic pre­sen­ta­tions dur­ing the recent 10th-anniver­sary edi­tion of the Trinidad and Toba­go Film Fes­ti­val (TTFF), indi­cat­ing a more opti­mistic out­look for the future of Caribbean film stud­ies.

3 Opening Night TTFF15 WEB

Fig­ure 1: Open­ing Night of the 10th Trinidad and Toba­go Film Fes­ti­val

Schol­ar­ship in Caribbean film stud­ies has been scarce even with­in indi­vid­ual lin­guis­tic enti­ties in the region, with the notable excep­tion of Cuba. Impor­tant exam­ples of such research include Kei­th Q. Warner’s On Loca­tion: Cin­e­ma and Film in the Anglo­phone Caribbean (2000), Joaquín ‘Kino’ García’s His­to­ria del Cine Puer­tor­riqueño (1900-1999) (2014 [1984]), as well as parts of Car­olyn Cooper’s Sound Clash: Jamaican Dance­hall Cul­ture at Large (2004) and Lieve Spaas’s Fran­coph­o­ne Film: A Strug­gle for Iden­ti­ty (2000). The essays and inter­views includ­ed in Caribbean Cin­e­ma Now high­light that the small amount of wide­ly avail­able Caribbean film schol­ar­ship is not due to a lack of mate­r­i­al. The com­bi­na­tion of the diverse analy­ses and film­mak­er com­men­taries fur­ther empha­sizes the ben­e­fits of cross-Caribbean exchange between pro­duc­ers, oth­er par­tic­i­pants in the region­al indus­tries, as well as among crit­ics, whether in the region itself or in its so-called dias­po­ra.

2 CaribbeanFilmMart-TTFF15 Web

Fig­ure 2: Caribbean Film Mart

The launch of the first Caribbean Film Mart and Region­al Film Data­base at this year’s Trinidad and Toba­go Film Fes­ti­val (http://​www​.ttfilm​fes​ti​val​.com/) may be an eco­nom­ic man­i­fes­ta­tion of the cre­ative vision expressed by Suri­namese direc­tor Pim de la Par­ra in the inter­view with Emiel Martens:

Caribbean cin­e­ma con­sists of all [the] indi­vid­ual ini­tia­tives in the region that have brought about, and brought togeth­er, a diverse body of films that are some­how con­nect­ed through our his­to­ry, cul­ture, geog­ra­phy and cli­mate. There will always be young Caribbean peo­ple who will rise and pro­duce films—and so every now and then such a film could reach the whole world. We just have to keep hop­ing and to keep dream­ing. (8 “A Para­dox in Caribbean Cin­e­ma?”)

The fact that the Caribbean Film Data­base is acces­si­ble in Eng­lish, French, and Span­ish but not Dutch reflects a chron­ic under­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Dutch-speak­ing Caribbean in cross-region­al stud­ies. Despite exten­sive efforts on my part, the present col­lec­tion was not able to rem­e­dy this per­sis­tent prob­lem to the antic­i­pat­ed extent. The inter­view with Pim de la Par­ra and a com­par­a­tive analy­sis of Felix de Rooy’s Desirée (1984) in Ricar­do Arribas’s “Hacía una estéti­ca rela­cional del cine caribeño” (“Towards an ‘Aes­thet­ics of Rela­tion’ in Caribbean Cin­e­ma”) are in fact the only rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Dutch Caribbean cin­e­ma in this issue.

The com­bi­na­tion of inter­views and crit­i­cal essays oth­er­wise pro­vides a diverse and nec­es­sar­i­ly eclec­tic glimpse into recent devel­op­ments in Caribbean cin­e­ma. The issue begins with Storm Saulter’s guest artist port­fo­lio, which apt­ly illus­trates the achieve­ments of an impres­sive career. The sub­se­quent inter­view with Emiel Martens explains in detail the chal­lenges that apply to film­mak­ing con­di­tions through­out the region. As a found­ing mem­ber of the New Caribbean Cin­e­ma Move­ment (http://​www​.new​caribbeancin​e​ma​.com/), Saulter is a mod­el activist whose per­se­ver­ance and cre­ativ­i­ty have found yet anoth­er well-deserved recog­ni­tion in his recent appoint­ment as film­mak­er-in-res­i­dence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the West Indies, Mona Cam­pus.

The third inter­view places Hyacinth Simp­son in dia­logue with Frances-Anne Solomon, the founder of Caribbean Tales (http://​www​.caribbean​tales​.ca/), a reg­is­tered Cana­di­an char­i­ty respon­si­ble for numer­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties in sup­port of Caribbean film­mak­ers, includ­ing schol­ar­ships, work­shops, and the annu­al Caribbean Tales Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val (http://​www​.caribbean​tales​.ca/​C​T​FF/). Like the Trinidad and Toba­go Fes­ti­val, Caribbean Tales cel­e­brat­ed its 10th anniver­sary this year. Solomon’s inter­view illu­mi­nates her ded­i­ca­tion to these insti­tu­tions as well as her own expe­ri­ences as pro­lif­ic film­mak­er.1 Caribbean Tales 15 poster Web

Fig­ure 3: Caribbean Tales Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val 2015 Poster

Two of the crit­i­cal essays are island-spe­cif­ic, pro­vid­ing sur­veys of pro­duc­tion efforts in Puer­to Rico and Jamaica, respec­tive­ly. Maria Cristi­na Rodríguez scru­ti­nizes land­marks of Puer­to Rican film pro­duc­tion through­out the nascent 21st cen­tu­ry. She fur­ther traces the debt of young Puer­to Rican film­mak­ers to their late-20th-cen­tu­ry pre­de­ces­sors in “The Island Image and Glob­al Links in Puer­to Rican Cin­e­ma of the 21st Cen­tu­ry.” Sab­ri­na Ceccato’s essay “Cin­e­ma in Jamaica—Legacy of The Hard­er They Come” under­lines the lega­cy of one par­tic­u­lar pre­de­ces­sor for Jamaican film­mak­ers. Per­ry Henzell’s The Hard­er They Come (1972) is still a mod­el for Jamaican film pro­duc­tion. Saulter affirms Ceccato’s argu­ment towards the end of his guest artist inter­view, stat­ing that Henzell’s film “still serves as a blue­print for Jamaican film­mak­ers.” A decade after Jamaica became an inde­pen­dent coun­try Henzell’s film start­ed a move­ment that chal­lenged rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Jamaica’s geog­ra­phy, soci­ety, and cul­ture in for­eign movies. Sim­i­lar search­es for self-rep­re­sen­ta­tion on screen are detectable through­out the films dis­cussed in this issue. While inspi­ra­tion and mate­r­i­al for indige­nous sto­ries abound, the finan­cial bur­den of high pro­duc­tion costs is a preva­lent top­ic through­out the con­tri­bu­tions. Do It Your­self (DIY) film­mak­ing pro­lif­er­ates through­out the region and, as Rodriguez empha­sizes, recent tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments such as dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy have been con­ducive to this method.

Chris­t­ian Lara from Guade­loupe is an excep­tion­al direc­tor whose exten­sive fil­mog­ra­phy includes com­par­a­tive­ly big-bud­get co-pro­duc­tions. Mered­ith Robinson’s con­tri­bu­tion is a detailed analy­sis of Lara’s Sucre Amer (Bit­ter Sug­ar, 1997) and 1802, l’Epopée Guade­loupéenne (1802, The Guade­lou­pean Epic, 2005), both cin­e­mato­graph­i­cal­ly impec­ca­ble cos­tume dra­mas. Based in Paris, Lara decid­ed to fill the gap in “com­mer­cial Antil­lean cin­e­ma” (Cham 280). In “Chris­t­ian Lara: Rec­on­cil­ing Vision and Exe­cu­tion in Sucre Amer and 1802, l’Epopée Guade­loupéenne,” Robin­son advo­cates an inter­pre­ta­tion of the inter­re­lat­ed films that allows a post­colo­nial recov­ery of Guade­lou­pean col­lec­tive mem­o­ry.

Ricar­do Arribas departs from Édouard Glissant’s con­cept of the “Poet­ics of Rela­tion” to advo­cate cross-Caribbean film stud­ies in “Más allá de la fasci­nación y el hor­ror: hacía una estéti­ca rela­cional del cine caribeño” (Beyond Fas­ci­na­tion and Hor­ror: Towards an ‘Aes­thet­ics of Rela­tion’ in Caribbean Cin­e­ma). Aid­ed by thought­ful and reveal­ing analy­ses of rep­re­sen­ta­tive films by Félix de Rooy, Fer­nan­do Pérez, Fránces Negrón Muntan­er and Luis Moli­na Casano­va, he sug­gests that Caribbean film crit­i­cism bet­ter cap­tures the region’s eman­ci­pa­to­ry poten­tial in light of a rela­tion­al film aes­thet­ics.

Co-authored by Matthias De Groof and Kath­leen Gys­sels, “’Give Me Back My Black Dolls’: Damas’ Africa and Its Museifi­ca­tion, From Poet­ry to Mov­ing Pic­tures” adds a final unique angle to this issue’s dis­course on Caribbean cin­e­ma. Not only does their essay remind read­ers of the wealth of inspi­ra­tion found in lit­er­ary Caribbean her­itage for future film pro­duc­tion, it also includes an actu­al exam­ple of a short film inspired by Guianese Léon-Gontran Damas’s poem “Lim­bé.” Many poems, plays, and nov­els from across the region would lend them­selves, like­wise, to audio­vi­su­al adap­ta­tions. Such adap­ta­tions, in turn, revive stud­ies of the writ­ers whose texts engen­der the films. In this vein, the first part of De Groof and Gyssel’s essay focus­es on the writer, Damas him­self.

Inspired by lit­er­ary texts or any oth­er source involv­ing Caribbean themes and sub­ject mat­ter, future pro­duc­tions with­in the Caribbean and its dias­po­ra will cer­tain­ly ben­e­fit from more, and more diverse, wide­ly avail­able Caribbean film schol­ar­ship. Caribbean Cin­e­ma Now will hope­ful­ly encour­age many oth­er film schol­ars to build on the lega­cy of Cham’s Ex-Isles, of Notario and Paddington’s Explo­ran­do el cine caribeño, soon avail­able in Eng­lish, as well as on the many oth­er sources referred to through­out the includ­ed essays and inter­views.

4 Awards Ceremony TTFF15 Web

Fig­ure 4: TIFF15 Awards Cer­e­mo­ny

Works Cit­ed

Cham, Mbye, ed. Ex-Isles: Essays on Caribbean Cin­e­ma. Tren­ton: Africa World Press, 1992.

Coop­er, Car­olyn. Sound Clash: Jamaican Dance­hall Cul­ture at Large. Lon­don: Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2004.

Gar­cía, Joaquín ‘Kino.’ His­to­ria del Cine Puer­tor­riqueño (1900-1999). Bloom­ing­ton, IN: Pal­ib­rio, 2014 [1984].

Notario, Luis A. and Bruce Padding­ton, eds. Explo­ran­do el cine caribeño. Havana: ICAIC, 2011.

Spaas, Lieve. Fran­coph­o­ne Film: A Strug­gle for Iden­ti­ty. Man­ches­ter: Man­ches­ter UP, 2000.

Warn­er, Kei­th Q. On Loca­tion: Cin­e­ma and Film in the Anglo­phone Caribbean. Oxford: Macmil­lan, 2000.

 

Online Sources

Caribbean Cre­ativ­i­ty: www​.caribbean​cre​ativ​i​ty​.nl

Caribbean Tales: http://​www​.caribbean​tales​.ca/

Caribbean Tales Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val: http://​www​.caribbean​tales​.ca/​C​T​FF/

New Caribbean Cin­e­ma: http://​www​.new​caribbeancin​e​ma​.com/

The Caribbean Film Acad­e­my: http://​caribbean​film​.org/​a​b​o​u​t​-​c​a​f​a​-2/

Trinidad and Toba­go Film Fes­ti­val: http://​www​.ttfilm​fes​ti​val​.com/

 

Notes
[1] Many thanks are due to Mbye Cham, Kath­leen Gys­sels, Luis Alber­to Notario, Bruce Padding­ton, and Jer­ry White for their var­i­ous kinds of sup­port.


Copy­right Doris Ham­buch. This arti­cle is licensed under a Cre­ative Com­mons 3.0 License although cer­tain works ref­er­enced here­in may be sep­a­rate­ly licensed, or the author has exer­cised their right to fair deal­ing under the Cana­di­an Copy­right Act.