Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture

Framing Culture through Caribbean Cinema with Klieon John

November 29, 2023 Alexandria Miller Episode 72
Framing Culture through Caribbean Cinema with Klieon John
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
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Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
Framing Culture through Caribbean Cinema with Klieon John
Nov 29, 2023 Episode 72
Alexandria Miller

Send us a text message and tell us your thoughts.

In this episode, Klieon John, founder of Twin Island Cinema, joins Strictly Facts as we shed  light on the pivotal role Caribbean films have played in shaping the region's vibrant culture and history. Expect a deep dive into the evolution of Caribbean cinema, from the early days of foreign influence to the emergence of globally recognized works like "BIM" and "Rockers." Klieon shares his personal experiences, painting a vivid picture of the creativity, resilience, and passion that are the bedrock of Caribbean filmmaking. From capturing moments of monumental change, like independence movements, to blending diverse genres, every bit of Caribbean life finds its way onto the silver screen.

The discussion also explores how technology has been harnessed to propel Caribbean cinema into the global spotlight. We address the challenges facing Caribbean cinema, such as inadequate representation in mainstream media and the hurdles in accessing these films. Klieon provides invaluable advice to aspiring filmmakers and offers insights into his latest ventures in indigenous filmmaking. So tune in, as we traverse the captivating landscape of Caribbean cinema and celebrate its vital role in our culture.

With over 14 years of experience in the media industry, Klieon John is a seasoned Caribbean writer, filmmaker and creative director who has worked in public relations, advertising and brand development for international and regional companies and agencies across several Caribbean territories including St. Kitts, Jamaica and Trinidad. Klieon has produced a number of commercials, shorts, creative and non-fiction projects featuring cultural and environmental content in partnership with medium to large scale organisations throughout the region. Follow and support Klieon on Patreon, The Nieuwe Native audio journal on the on-going proce

Caribbean Legal Solutions is the easiest way to find an attorney in the Caribbean. Visit their website at caribbeanlegalsolutions.com 

Disclaimer: This podcast ad contains general information about Caribbean Legal Solutions and is not intended as legal advice.  Always consult with a qualified attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

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Looking to read more about the topics covered in this episode? Subscribe to the newsletter at www.strictlyfactspod.com to get the Strictly Facts Syllabus to your email!

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Produced by Breadfruit Media

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Send us a text message and tell us your thoughts.

In this episode, Klieon John, founder of Twin Island Cinema, joins Strictly Facts as we shed  light on the pivotal role Caribbean films have played in shaping the region's vibrant culture and history. Expect a deep dive into the evolution of Caribbean cinema, from the early days of foreign influence to the emergence of globally recognized works like "BIM" and "Rockers." Klieon shares his personal experiences, painting a vivid picture of the creativity, resilience, and passion that are the bedrock of Caribbean filmmaking. From capturing moments of monumental change, like independence movements, to blending diverse genres, every bit of Caribbean life finds its way onto the silver screen.

The discussion also explores how technology has been harnessed to propel Caribbean cinema into the global spotlight. We address the challenges facing Caribbean cinema, such as inadequate representation in mainstream media and the hurdles in accessing these films. Klieon provides invaluable advice to aspiring filmmakers and offers insights into his latest ventures in indigenous filmmaking. So tune in, as we traverse the captivating landscape of Caribbean cinema and celebrate its vital role in our culture.

With over 14 years of experience in the media industry, Klieon John is a seasoned Caribbean writer, filmmaker and creative director who has worked in public relations, advertising and brand development for international and regional companies and agencies across several Caribbean territories including St. Kitts, Jamaica and Trinidad. Klieon has produced a number of commercials, shorts, creative and non-fiction projects featuring cultural and environmental content in partnership with medium to large scale organisations throughout the region. Follow and support Klieon on Patreon, The Nieuwe Native audio journal on the on-going proce

Caribbean Legal Solutions is the easiest way to find an attorney in the Caribbean. Visit their website at caribbeanlegalsolutions.com 

Disclaimer: This podcast ad contains general information about Caribbean Legal Solutions and is not intended as legal advice.  Always consult with a qualified attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

Support the Show.

Connect with Strictly Facts - Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube

Looking to read more about the topics covered in this episode? Subscribe to the newsletter at www.strictlyfactspod.com to get the Strictly Facts Syllabus to your email!

Want to Support Strictly Facts?

  • Rate the Show
  • Leave a review on your favorite podcast platform
  • Share this episode with someone who loves Caribbean history and culture
  • Send us a DM or voice note to have your thoughts featured on an upcoming episode
  • Share the episode on social media and tag us
  • Donate to help us continue empowering listeners with Caribbean history and education

Produced by Breadfruit Media

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture hosted by me, alexandra Miller. Strictly Facts teaches the history, politics and activism of the Caribbean and connects these themes to contemporary music and popular culture. Waguán everyone, I'm Alexandra Miller and I'm back with another episode of Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture. I am really excited for this episode because it's one I've wanted to do for a while now, and so, without giving too much of a more formal introduction, as I usually do, I'm just going to throw out some things and see if I'm going to pick it up. So, chatas, the right and the wrong back in our time, the sweetest mango pausing for a dramatic effect maybe a little bit.

Speaker 1:

If you didn't catch it or you're not familiar with some of those. We are talking about Caribbean films in this episode today. And joining me for this amazing discussion is Cleon John, founder of Twin Island Cinema and the upcoming awardee of the Tilting Access Fellowship. So big ups, big ups there, cleon. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode. Why don't we start a little bit? You telling our Strictly Facts listeners, a little bit about yourself, your connection to the region, which some of them might have guessed from Twin Island. Maybe there's a couple of Twin Islands, so maybe yeah, there are.

Speaker 1:

Right, so you know, I'll let you tell our listeners and of course, what inspired your passion for Caribbean film.

Speaker 2:

Okay, well, first of all, Alexandra, thank you so much for having me. I love talking about the Caribbean in any aspect at all. I think being a Caribbean person is my favorite thing about myself, Right? So any opportunity to just run them out about. The Caribbean is just heaven for me. And yo, you just let off a list of classics in that intro. I got super excited.

Speaker 1:

I had to start off and come proper. You know, I came proper. I was like I'm dropping the classics for some people. There are several, we will get into it more, but I don't want to interrupt your intro.

Speaker 2:

Yeah well, so I don't know. I mean I always kind of get a little bit flustered when people ask me to to like introduce myself or say you know anything about myself, because I feel like my life and career are rather eclectic. I mean, I've been in the media since I was 14 years old, which I still find surprising and I always try and fact check myself. But it's true, I started hosting a TV show when I was 14. And you know my early years in the media I spent mostly in TV, radio and print journalism. I remember walking into a building one day when I was like 17 and I said, hey, what is this place? And I said, oh yeah, this is the newspaper. I said, well, I'd like to write for the newspaper, and that day I had a job and I was just always kind of doing that.

Speaker 2:

And then my career sort of shifted into marketing and branding. That was after I graduated from Newie where I studied media in Jamaica, so that I guess, first, outside my Island connection that to an island that you mentioned right away is state kids and newies. So yes, so I lived in Jamaica where I studied media and I worked in the media for a good while marketing, branding, social media, advertising hops around the Caribbean, barbie, those Trinidad doing different, you know, agencies working with different corporate NGOs, government, all media stuff. And I've also been a part of different startups in technology content. I mean I've founded apps and websites and different things.

Speaker 2:

I used to own a talent agency. It's a whole bunch of different stuff. I mean I still look young and beautiful, but it I've had such a long career I really sort of like start outlining it that way. But over the last five years or so I've been heavily focused on the film industry, specifically as a writer, director and a producer, and I've also been involved through Twin Island Cinema, as I've been involved in film curation, where we showcase, promote Caribbean films both locally and know what is internationally. So we're trying to promote and attract international co-production, which is its own sort of separate current, to kind of navigate, you know, because there's all sorts of different questions that come up with that. But yeah, I guess that's me in a very big nutshell, a coconut shell.

Speaker 1:

Now really unbeknownst to me, right as I think, when I think of film, I think of the classics, the 70s, as I, you know some of the ones that I mentioned a little although are from that period.

Speaker 1:

But film in the Caribbean, or films that at least took place in the Caribbean, depending on how you want to frame that, stem really as far back as the 19th century.

Speaker 1:

But some of those films at that time, you know, based off what we also know about history and colonialism during that period of time, these films that were potentially set here or, you know, they were oftentimes with foreign producers and filmmakers coming in and really trying to paint us, paint the region as exotic, Something that's, you know, hasn't necessarily ended per se, but I definitely did want to uphold and make note of that that. You know, some of the histories of Caribbean film or, you know, cinema in the region are really stemming from a perspective of colonialism, of imperialism, right, and then, moving on a little bit from there, we really start to see films in the 20th century as well, still take shape in that sense prior to that 70s moment. And so what are some of the ways really you've seen early Caribbean films sort of just affecting the region in terms of this perception of us being exoticized and other based off this sort of foreign gaze.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, that's a really astute and, I think, complex observation. Right, because the Caribbean, I think, has always been a complex place because of its positioning and its history and relationships with everywhere else around it. Right. So its relationship to the Americas, to Africa, to Europe, as far back as the indigenous peoples right. So we've always had this kind of injection of otherness coming from different places. So when I think about the Caribbean I always have that in mind, that we've always been a sort of a place that was susceptible to penetration, where we've always been a kind of a perforated sort of region in a way. If you look at a map of the Caribbean, that's what you see perforation, right, and some of that perforation has been good and bad, depending on how we look at it. It's funny because even when we define the Caribbean, often we think about just the islands, right, the archipelago, but we often forget that parts of Central and South America are also touched by the Caribbean sea.

Speaker 2:

Like I started looking at a couple of films from the 60s I believe it was with Ima Sumak, who was a diva from around that time. One of the big issues even then was the fact that she was this big Hollywood star, this singer, this musician, and they were making a film about her culture where she starred, but they portrayed her people as sort of simple and a little bit money-grubbing and kind of not very, not as interesting as the European main characters. And well, that's the problematic side of it. Where American or European main stars visit the region and they are sort of the main antagonists and protagonists of the story, and the Caribbean is sort of just a supporting background with supporting characters, and even that support is kind of underfoot and not really equal. We're often servers, waiters, barrisque, guides, that type of thing, and it's interesting that you mentioned that it's still happening in a way, because these days in the Caribbean we're going to get political. I don't know if you really want to talk some of the things.

Speaker 1:

Go talk the things. That is what the podcast is for.

Speaker 2:

So one of my, I guess, more critical observations even of contemporary Caribbean film, which you can say is a lot more authentic. We're telling more quote unquote, authentic stories. The stories are more originating from the region and that kind of thing, which is great. But there's a lot of industry pandering, and I mean American style industry pandering, where, hey, if you wanna get this feature shot in the Caribbean, get a big American film star to be the main character and that's where you're gonna get it funded, and that's saying it's like, yeah, but we have really good actors here too who can be really good lead characters, lead men and women. We have excellent talent here as well. I don't want to have to do the usual thing where we in some way pander to the North, and that has always been the challenge from the get, from the jump in the Caribbean cinema is how we are

Speaker 2:

positioned both economically and through a narrative sense, in relationship to the North America, the UK, europe. But then on the flip side, right Because of this early interest from the North, right, even though it was exoticized interest, they brought their cameras and their film crews and everything like that and we got some really interesting visuals captured of the region. We get a sort of a slice of life at. You know how we were. Even unintentionally, you'll capture our landscape, the community designs of the time. Music has always been a thing that has benefited a great deal from the film industry and vice versa. So, like a lot of those early films in like the 70s and 80s you know there's a lot of them were about music. You know, the harder they come dance all queen was a big one my faith, my faith.

Speaker 2:

So they really sort of help preserve parts of our culture, right, even though we can know, with a modern, more contemporary and, I guess, more warp lens, look back at some of those films and say, well, you know, they were kind of promoting Shata culture and they were promoting the kind of ghettoization and kind of making women out to be, you know, overly sexualized objects and also promoting other careless things and stuff. But at the same time, you know, damn it, our culture was still, you know, time capsuled in a way, so we can just toss it all out. And then I also think about the fact that, like no, okay, the story is in our hand, right, the scripts, you know we are. We're producing more on our own. We have these great film festivals around the region. We have great associations that are being formed in different islands. Shout out to places like, I don't know, film, co-tnt or Jaftpro, jampro, jaftopropello programs.

Speaker 2:

We have all these different organizations that are supporting Caribbean film. We literally just formed a new alliance called Kaftpro, just recently, just launched, and this is out of a group of us who attended the European film market or the FM Berlin this year, and we just sort of came around the table and realized, yo, we need to unite and we need to be able to, like, go after funding in a collective way and support each other as a unit, right? So there's all these different types of associations, I think farming known, and in the support that's now being created for Caribbean film, we have stuff to talk about, even if it's stuff to correct, which is correcting some of the miseducation of us as this remote place, redefining what it means to be exotic. You know, all these different things that we're correcting. We have content, we have something to kind of push off of, and that's what we need as artists you know, artists are always sort of responding to a stimulus of some kind, you know.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, we have a weird relationship with the North, but it's still a part of who we are, in a kind of way.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, that makes complete sense to me, especially when we considered the fact that, like there were three James Bond's shot in Jamaica, right. So you have Dr. No, you have Live and Let Die. Those are 1962 and 1973, respectively, and no Time to Die, which is in 2021. There's a whole big thing around James Bond and Ian.

Speaker 1:

Fleming in Jamaica, james Bond Beach, et cetera. Even I was really surprised to learn that that tail end piece if anybody's seen Shawshank Redemption, the very end piece when they're like off on the beach was shot in the US Virgin Islands. So, as you're saying, right, there are all these connections that continue to happen, especially as I you know, as we've talked about several times on the podcast with movement and migrations of our people. There is that push and pull in a sense. But I definitely do want to hail, as you were talking, some of the movies like the Heart of they Come.

Speaker 1:

Right, there are definite ones that, as we're seeing in our sort of post emancipation period, right, primarily I'm thinking the 70s here there is this moment where that, I think, for me sort of is the pinnacle of films of our generation, right, as you were saying, us branding films for ourselves, describing what it is to be like, that connection to music and culture. So you have the Heart of they Come, you have BIM, there are several, I mean, the list can go on and on right, how critical do you think that period was in establishing Caribbean filmmaking, particularly for some of the parts of the Anglophone region? There are parts of, like you know, cuba in particular had a little bit of an earlier start to some of the other islands. But that 70s period, how do you think it sort of impacted the trajectory moving forward?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, you know, I think a lot of it has to do with this sort of independence movements that started popping up around that time. We kind of took hold of the baton around that time in more ways than one right Politically, economically and also through story. Because we realize now our call, it's our time to tell our story. And that sort of begins with the most basic declarations, right, the national anthem, the flags, these are things that form the name of a country, the identity, and these are artistic expressions, right. And then following from that, we get film. But even before film, it's funny because I was doing some research recently for a project I was proposing and still proposing I really hope somebody gives me money for it where I want to shoot a series on the kind of pillars of independence in San Quetzanillas, right. So I'm calling this the project Stalwarts, because Stalwarts is in our national anthem. Right, as stalwarts we stand and it's like who are the stalwarts of our independence? You know, you have the first prime minister, first premier, but then also the artists.

Speaker 2:

So I started looking into what was the guy who wrote the national anthem man and the person who designed the flag. But then also around those times we started to establish our carnival and started to define what our sort of national celebrations and symbols and things would look like Because of that creative expression which seems to have been, I guess, a reflex. Like is it that when a culture is experiencing a pivotal moment, something like an independence, there is a reflex which is a need for creativity, for us to express ourselves as we are, what we're feeling, what we're thinking, the things that are important to us. We see this in modern times in meme culture. I was making the point of a colleague the other day that during challenging times the society runs to artists. You ever noticed that they run to creatives to ask us to make things, to help society make sense of what's going on and to help us talk about what's going?

Speaker 2:

on and what we're feeling and that kind of thing. We run to artists for that. So we run to writers and we run to singers and musicians and then filmmakers, the calypsoanians that's when they had the most to say. And then also, when you think about these kind of milestone, creative moments in the region no, as we're in what? The 20th, 21st century, something. So we use those milestones to define who. We are right, if you want us to talk about, well, what is Caribbean music and what is Caribbean politics and what is Caribbean art? Something we draw for movies and we draw for calypsos songs and we draw for marley songs that capture the time and things. So you say, well, what's the importance to the films that are made? Are these milestones and these kind of like snapshots of our evolution? You know, I don't know if that's too metal, but I don't think so.

Speaker 1:

I don't think so at all. I think there's a way when, especially as we come to understand independence movements for the region, particularly right, especially thinking with some of these films from the 70s, the film industry prior to this moment really wasn't captured from our perspectives right, like if you sit on and think of Da'an's Hall of Queen well, that's a little bit later, but you know BIM or Rockers, the harder they come right, the way that those films are even shot, the people who are included. When you see the sceneries, you see you know what I mean. They are fully authentic and, I think, descriptive and political right. They may not have necessarily been like, wow, you know, jamaica is so grand and palm beaches and palm trees and coconuts, or whatever the rhetoric typically is. I may have cast challenges that we've had, the urban plight, et cetera, but they are still very true to what was going on in their markers of the time, as you said. So I agree that I don't think that it was a meta-answer at all. I think it was one that you know highlights the importance of how we're captured and who does the capturing, recorded song or otherwise. And I mean I've shot it out, bim quite a few times because I think it's one of my favorites, but that one went on to win several awards in the 70s, both in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Speaker 1:

I think it was also shown at the LA Film Festival, if I'm not mistaken. So there are ways that you know, when we have the ability to really do the work right. Again, maybe this is gets to sort of the earlier point about the engagement with the north, with the global north, but it highlights something completely different that they've never seen and I think that is sort of a testament to why we can do some of these things and still go elsewhere and go win the awards and mash up the place and all of the things that we do right, and that's not the stereotypical. We're at the beach and picking coconuts or whatever. That's not. That is not the lived experience, that's not the end all be all of who we are.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, even though I love me some beach and some coconuts. Oh yeah, no, no no, not this thing.

Speaker 1:

So, definitely that too, but there's more to it, right? I touched on a point talking, I think, about funding and technology and stuff that I definitely wanted to uphold, especially as we're understanding this evolution of cinema, and even maybe broader your own definition of cinema, because I think for some people they might think of it in terms of, like big feature films, right, so you know the dance hall queens and things to that nature, but then there are also like documentaries and short films and stuff, and so what is maybe your definition of Caribbean cinema and how do you think it's been impacted by funding and technology and even sort of evolving now into the 21st century?

Speaker 2:

Well, look, something I wanted to say earlier is that even before the 70s, right, those films that you referenced before any kind of accessibility, even though it was externalized accessibility in a sense, I love that you can start making films. We were always telling stories, right Through Calypso, rage, rishali, through. Our cultural expression was always there, and film is really a micro-cousin of cultural expression. Right, it's an amalgamation of all of the things. Like, as I was teaching a photographer I don't know my idea either, because if you're in contact with photographers, I don't know what their thing is where you have great photographers who are afraid to do video, afraid to do film. So you know, I think it's so intimate.

Speaker 2:

I'm like bro, you're only just pressing record instead of the shutter button, you're just making the photo move. You're doing the same thing, and I also even tell writers this. And you know, everything is a frame, right, every page is a frame, every stage is a frame, every, you know, in film, literally call it a frame All expression is done through a frame, and sometimes the things in the frame does be moving and sometimes they don't be moving. So, even when you say cinema, I always think about cultural expression in general, because, yo, we live in a movie. When was the last time you took a country bus to go from Kingston to Mobile? When was the last time you jumped on one?

Speaker 1:

of those bus Couple of months ago.

Speaker 2:

Yo, that's a movie.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what do you mean? Caribbean people?

Speaker 2:

Hello, caribbean people is a whole movie Every day. We are just constantly on set and a man only had to press record and to me you just have perfect cinema. So when we call it cinema, what do we mean? Do we mean that we just captured it on a device? Okay, fine, and not to answer your questions. So because of that, I think that Caribbean cinema is as diverse as the Caribbean itself, and Caribbean is just pure diversity when you think of it.

Speaker 2:

You know, even from small we learn that there are different ways to define the Caribbean in social studies class. Well, you know, there's the political Caribbean, there's the geographical Caribbean, there's the cultural Caribbean, there's the deafness of that. But then you know, some islands are larger, some are smaller, so you have different levels of metropolis and sort of cosmopolitanism happening in different parts of the Caribbean, different languages of course. So the Caribbean, yeah, there's all this intersectionality, right where we can find distinctions, but there's also so much of like a vendingogram in these islands. You know Spanish speaking. So okay, musically, what is Danzal and what is Soka? Define the totem for me. You know, it ain't got no difference between Danzal and Soka these days. Yeah, you know. And then I've been saying to people soon. You know, we say different speaking Caribbean, spanish speaking, caribbean, the speaking. There are so many of the language groups moving into the other islands and establishing sub communities that are then growing into other communities. So in the next few generations we're going to see all this type of these influences from other parts of the region feeding into each other as well and because of that our storytelling is the same way. Right, sukhya Lajables, all Haig. You know, they're kind of similar things in a way, definitely, and I think that's the same thing. You know what is masquerade versus? Who started it first? Well, you know, in our island we do this this way, but it's the same version of that but a different thing. And I think that's the same blend up that we are as a region and I and I find that the cinema that I most appreciate coming out to the Caribbean is the same kind of mix up and blend up.

Speaker 2:

Something I like when a documentary can also fictionalize. I like when something is between a feature and a shot, so it's kind of like 30, something ish minutes. Going to is not really a feature, but it's not too short, you know, because sometimes we talk long and sometimes we talk short. Sometimes the story is a long story, sometimes the story is a short one, sometimes it's it's part fiction and part true. You know, in Jamaica they say if it not goes so it near goes. So To me that is. You know, that itself is a genre right near go. So that's my new genre. I'm not a documentary and I shoot near go. So you know, I like when we lean into that aspect of it. I find I do so much like when we are trying to recreate an American three act structure. Somebody tell me about save the cat. I'm like the cat yo, I can't bother you know it's like I find.

Speaker 2:

I find I get it okay, writing within a certain structure the three acts and then the rising action. I had this and that and the thing and this. The character must be in parallel on page nine and he must find himself to whatever that had done this page and thing. I get the science behind of it, but it's almost coming like cooking Caribbean people we don't use measurements and then something they will cook with it. Just it's like your hand good or your hand ain't good.

Speaker 1:

And we know, and we start when it with Sayaman, the ancestors tell me Sayaman, yeah yeah, that kind of vibe.

Speaker 2:

So, so, so, so when I see us trying to recipe our cinema, I'm like yo, I can't bother with it. The same Hollywood, this is a different place. So so that's my thought. You also what asking me about technology? Our technology is, I think, is obvious because, because you know, you have more platforms. Actually, I find that's that's impressive. There are some platforms that are originating from the region and that are dedicated to Caribbean film, and then also, you know, outside of the streaming platforms and oh yeah, they're blanking on me and no studio and non-season one, what was the other one I was talking about? And the film code does a kind of they have their own platform. There's another one whose name I'm blanking on, I'm sorry, but even outside of that, you know, through film festivals around the region, we're able to do screenings. There's more online events happening and also people's access to mobile technology as well.

Speaker 2:

So you know, everybody's a filmmaker, you know. So what is a photographer? What is that? What? Somebody who has an iPhone? That's a photographer, yeah, so so that's definitely a kind of an equalizing. It's like a democratic thing that technology is doing right. But with the funding thing, it's a touchy one for me because, because I've been, I've been trying to fund projects for the last few years. I've had some success. I would like to see more private sector funding happening for the film industry in the Caribbean and it sort of speaks to a wider thing, because when we talk about industry, right, what is that industry? And this part of where it started, twin Island cinema as well, because in the early days of me trying to produce more, than just an added right.

Speaker 2:

I realized, okay, a film is a fairly challenging thing to make, but there are other ways I can participate in the film industry than just making a film. This film festivals is showcasing and I realize that in in my country and actually in many smaller islands, we don't have as much of a grasp of what there is to consume film-wise around the region. We don't realize that there are really good features being made, really good sci-fi animations, kids stuff being made around the region. When you go to some of these festivals Trinidad Film Festival, shout out to. Mary Film Festival in Diana right now started by a very, very, very dear colleague of mine, ramona Lucas, who I owe a lot of my career in filmmaking too, excellent work that she's been doing over the last few years. So I started Twin Island to showcase films here, to promote films to big up you know, actors and directors and writers around the region. So that was my contribution to the industry.

Speaker 2:

When we talk about industry, we're talking about more than just content. We're talking about economy, we're talking about legal structures, we're talking about international relations. Right, there's all these things that go into an industry if all you have is films but you don't have nowhere to show them and you can't make the money. You don't have an industry. You have a lot of films and what's gonna happen is that, because a film is so blasted, challenging to make, if you are, another creative and artistic person cares a lot about quality and you sort of want to make a name for yourself and think it's like bloody hard thing to do, right, especially if you are in a small island or if you're in a place in Caribbean that's somewhat remote or whatever. So you want to. You want to get some juice out of your squeeze, right. You want to set yourself up in a way that you can sustain yourself over time. You want to. You want to have some incentive. You want to make money. Damn it anybody who sort of said oh you know, just do it for the love, do it for the love. Listen, I can eat for the love. I could do a lot of other things for the love, but I need money. Yeah, I need. This is my career, this is what I do for a living, is why I pay the bills. So it's got to pay the bills.

Speaker 2:

So we need to do more work, I think, in the region, as far as not just telling our story, which is great. I think we'll naturally tell our story. A couple people love chat right, but we needed to focus on making an industry and economy out of film. Right, and how do we do that? I think you need the private sector to come along. A lot of us we try to go to governments and some governments do around the region have been supporting to an extent, but I think you need a private sector more as well, because the private sector is gonna ensure that us as artists stay competitive, that we create with a mind for return on investment, that we establish ourselves professionally, that we have proper legal structures around our thing, that we're licensing things properly, that we're signing proper waivers, that we have contracts between ourselves and that kind of thing. So the question that you asked was about funding, but it's a bigger issue, which is just a lack. It's a. It's a. It's a somewhat impotent industry and that's why we don't have no funding.

Speaker 1:

I'm gonna switch gears because I have a slightly mix of question facts you are more mixed up just just from your expert opinion.

Speaker 1:

One thing that's always interested me in how sometimes we are portrayed in film, or whether that is, you know, by the north or you know even just some of the the politics around our own films. There are obviously things like the politics of language. I always hate to see a film that is, you know, from foreign producers casting quote-unquote us, and by quote-unquote us I mean some random person that is not Caribbean, and then they've been asked to put on a Caribbean accent, or you know. There's also this dynamic of us showing up as bad people and really and truly sometimes I'm like, yeah, man, we are bad people, still right, and all of these things, sure, how do you think some of those things you know sort of pit us into particular bubbles when it comes to filmmaking you know what bubble I'm more afraid over?

Speaker 2:

and it's related to that. I think it stems from a feeling that in the, in the region right, in order for us to be relevant and accepted as artists and creators, right, in order to justify, why are you making something as frivolous as a film? We kind of have to make it about something social. There has to be a kind of a political statement. We have to kind of weave in something about the struggle. You know, it's like we kind of play into. I think we unconsciously play into that prescribed narrative, right, because it's out of a need to justify and which we do.

Speaker 2:

A lot of us Caribbean people, we spend a lot of the time justifying. Listen, american filmmakers, a man only have to say, okay, so it's a film about a shark and a tornado, and it's, it's a lot of sharks and it's a lot of time. It's shark, sharp, nato, that's what, and it's good, and I need $50 million and I need to, and they're on the ground and they're gone and it's like there's no, there's no stopping them. There's no stopping Americans when it comes to what they want to do, right, um, money that's been spent on on terrible movies.

Speaker 2:

But for us, in order for us to get the resources and stuff that we need, and think all the time we often have to kind of okay, I read, yeah, man, you know we have to kind of do that sort of song and dance. And what I want us to do more of is not just break out of this stereotypes in terms of in terms of content, but also break out of the stereotypes in terms of form too. So make a film because it's fun and because it's interesting to you and because because it's pretty, you know, and because whatever it, because it's as artists that's kind of our freedom. Right is is to do a thing because it, it pleases us and the rest of the world Becomes inspired by it, and they make it into a thing and whatever. But we still have a little bit more breaking out to do, you know I.

Speaker 1:

Think on that point. What is one of my favorite questions of all to ask? We've talked about several Films, so feel free, you can sort of repeat one or two if you want, but I think we've given some Recommendations. What are some of your favorite Caribbean films? And that could be, you know, a big feature film, a documentary, anything at all.

Speaker 2:

Oh gosh, yeah, boy, you know this question is like it's because there's so many. Um, it's like gosh, it's almost like asking me what's my favorite Constellation, or something like that. But, um, okay, so yeah, we did talk about some of the classics.

Speaker 2:

Right, the Dan, the Dan saw Queen the shot there were the world cup, those kind of original them, or cheese, smile, our range, those other things, um, but. But there's also a lot of cool stuff happening in the short space as well. Oh, right now, um, right now, cheese is out from. I believe His name is Damien Marcano. I believe is Marcano I hope I'm not saying the first name wrong cheese. Yeah, damien Marcano, from Trinidad. I believe Um cheese was a shot that we we showed a couple of years ago, and now the future is out. I haven't seen the future yet, but yo, this shot is so good and so Creative I don't want to spoil it.

Speaker 1:

We won't give it to me for the.

Speaker 2:

So cheese is good. Um she, paradise. The feature is all is also out recently. I think it was like last year it came out, maybe earlier this year, as my a cosier from Trinidad the shot was out a few years ago and that the shot was really really good. So now they've made the feature Tamera from festival is. You can screen some of the films that are on Timmeri right on their site. So I would suggest that Okay. So why I thought about Tamera was because it was a really cool shot by Ray Wilshire, who is a new filmmaker, and it's called and I saw the the rough cut for it too. So that's why I'm kind of Bios. But I know in the new thing it was called Eating Pop on the seashore. Okay, yes, yeah, eating pop on the seashore. That's the name of it. Really, really, really interesting film.

Speaker 2:

There's a documentary as well right now and to Mary is screening it. It's called the Kalinago. Yeah, the Kalinago dream. Right, that one is very, very cool. It's by Teddy Dwight Frederick but it's about the sort of, I guess, cultural and historical evolution of the of the Kalinago people and also it's like featuring the. He's like a. He's there, he's their first, he's the first Indigenous Parliamentarian, I think it's a minister of government, right, so sort of centers on its story. So I think it's very cool and and sort of represents that kind of cultural turning point too. Because I actually think that and they're so Lately I've been so interested in our indigenous cultures, the kind that the Kalinago, the Taino, the arrow, I have the curves, the maroons as well.

Speaker 2:

I've been following the maroon, the maroon movement in Jamaica very, very closely. We are sheltered. Chief curry, I think, he's doing a fantastic job in terms of in terms of raising the profile of them, of the maroon culture there, and there's also some movies coming out that are, I guess, reflecting that zeitgeist as well. So there's a movie about it's about nanny of the maroons, and I forget the name of it now. So so lately I've been very interested in in the stories that come from our indigenous cultures and and I'm looking, looking into how do we, we connect or open up our awareness to, to that, because the Caribbean, we connect everything.

Speaker 2:

We, we think we're British, we think we're Spanish, we think we're French, we think we're American, we think we're Dutch, we think we're all kind of things, but we don't realize that they're, that there were people here before as well, who are also part of us in our spirit and in our culture and that, even though ethnically a lot of us are not necessarily Of that lineage, or although we might well be, actually that's exactly what it is it's.

Speaker 2:

It's us not even realizing how Physically connected we may be to the indigenous peoples, because, because this idea of maroons, a lot of the maroons, what we now know of as maroons, are actually indigenous people who are living in the hills, who sort of took in In runaways and you sort of had that kind of blending and things. So a lot of us may have Kalinago and Tyno running through our blood and we don't even realize. So, um, so you have been very actually to an island cinema or our logo is, it's a Kalinago symbol, the? It's the two eyes with this sort of face. The historian told me that, uh, it might have been like an owl or type of bird, that that it would draw its phone on off to their petroglyphs. I thought it was really inspiring, so I, so I sort of adapted it to the logo, you know as you've brought up um Twin island cinema.

Speaker 1:

You I've mentioned a little bit briefly that you are one of the awardees for the tithing access fellowship. So again, props to you, um. And I think you'll be doing some work on indigenous films or the history of indigenous people in the caribbean through that fellowship. What is your advice for, you know, the next generation of people coming up and really hoping to break into the film industry?

Speaker 2:

uh, I would love to advise myself. I always feel like, uh, like I'm all before my time giving giving advice. You know, I'm at that age. Um, what I would say is, I guess, a bit of what I said earlier, which is, um, make stuff that you like, right, everything that is important to you, that speaks to you, is relevant and it's part of the zeitgeist. So don't feel like you have to make a film about this thing or that thing, or that it has to have a political statement, or it has to be socially important or whatever it is. It could also just be fun and cool and exciting and interesting and just a vibes. You know, it could really be anything.

Speaker 2:

And and also to, I would encourage people to try and see the culture through Through the lens that I look at. The culture, which is the whole of the caribbean, is a movie. Everything is a is a movie, everything is a scene out here. So If you, if you're struggling to to think of what to make, just point your phone or something and you get the inspiration. Go, walk down, go walk downtown kingston and the things that you hear people say, that's that, that will spark a storyline or whatever. It is, um, a question, you know. So just I would say, I would say make everything and anything you know. Make the horror, make the romance, make the, make the drama, make the sci-fi, make the action, make the documentaries, make the biopics, make the Every. Just bring it all, bring it all, bring it all to the table. All of it is nice.

Speaker 1:

And vibes, it's all a vibe.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Clea, thank you so much for joining me for this discussion. I feel like I'll have to have several more episodes on caribbean films because, as we were naming them, I was like wait, but I didn't say so you know I might have to.

Speaker 1:

Right, I might have to go into a special series on particular films or something in the future, but thank you again for you know, sharing your expertise and your experiences in the industry and, you know, really just helping to ground us in, I think, something that is on minds in a sense sometimes and we're like, oh yo, sprinter to pun Netflix, that bud, right, and then it's like, okay, but Something, even for me it's been difficult. It can be difficult now I think it's changed a little bit as we're talking over time but, um, to access certain films, right, that accessibility issue can even be a thing historically. So again, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of strictly facts. I really enjoyed it likewise to my listeners.

Speaker 1:

I hope you did as well and till next time, little more.

Speaker 2:

Little more big up yourself.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for tuning in this. Strictly facts. Visit strictly facts podcast, calm. For more information from each episode. Follow us at strictly facts pod on instagram and facebook and at strictly facts pd on twitter.

Caribbean Films
Creativity in Caribbean Cinema's Impact
Caribbean Cinema and Cultural Expression
Exploring Caribbean Indigenous Cultures and Filmmaking
Caribbean Films and Access Issues

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