Local players want better J’can representation in film
Capitalising on the recent Jamaica Screen Fund, film and television stakeholders are championing Jamaican representation both in front and behind the camera.
After showcasing her short film A Shade of Indigo at the Shot List film festival on Sunday, local writer and film-maker Tanya Batson-Savage told THE STAR that it is essential for Jamaicans to be at the helm of telling our stories.
"I think it is essential that we force our way in the door to be in more control of the way in which Jamaica is presented to the world. I think it is very important and it is okay for other people to write our stories as well. But it is critical that we are writing or producing or directing our stories because we don't only want to be a part of the story, we want to shape the narrative. And when you have creative lead, you shape the narrative," she said.
Agreeing with that take, Jamaican film-maker and creator of the series Dreaming Whilst Black, Adjani Salmon said, "I think it's paramount that Jamaican stories, predominantly, are told either from or with heavy involvement from Jamaican people, because Jamaica is a popular brand but Jamaica's brand is very unique depending on how you know the country."
He continued, "Some people might know Jamaica for music, or some people might know it for beach, or some people might know it for crime. But, either way, all those things are limiting things about the country. So I think that it is important that we tell our stories so that we can, one, control our narrative, but two, give layered and nuanced textures to those characters that someone from the outside may not have the insight to tell."
Doubling down on the identity Jamaica has been assigned in cinema, Batson-Savage expressed excitement at seeing how Jamaica and Jamaicans will be portrayed in upcoming projects.
"It's been a mixed bag, and I'm very curious to see how some of the more recent projects will shake out. Some of those have been shot locally, but they are just heading towards post production. So we haven't really seen them. So I'm very interested to see how that's shifting, because, in some of those cases, you have Jamaicans as a part of the head of the production, not just working below the line," she said.
"Historically, one of the biggest issues has been the representation of the Jamaican accent, [it] has been problematic. There's a way in which Hollywood has represented Jamaica as the exotic, the Rastaman, the obeah man, people who live on a beach and/or gangster. Those are the five and sometimes they cross, but those are the five main ways in which we've been represented in cinema, and we are much more than that. We sometimes fall into the same trap and represent ourselves that way as well. But I think there's a lot more breath and a lot more possibility for Jamaican representation in global media," she added.
Among the projects currently being filmed on the island is a biopic that will chronicle parts of the life of Jamaican music legend, Bob Marley.