Black River Film Festival set to light up rural Jamaica Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The inaugural Black River Film Festival is set to make waves on the shores of Black River, St Elizabeth, from June 27 to 30, 2024.

Founded and organised by Dr Ava Brown, a Diasporan returning to St Elizabeth, this groundbreaking festival aims to shine a spotlight on the often-overlooked stories and talents of the vibrant South Coast, cultivating a platform for economic and cultural growth.

The festival, taking place at Independence Park, Central Road in Black River, marks a departure from tradition by choosing rural Jamaica as its venue.

Brown expressed her inspiration for initiating the film festival, stating, “Returning to St Elizabeth, I was inspired to initiate the film festival to spotlight the often-overlooked stories and talents of the vibrant South Coast. My goal is to create a platform that not only celebrates our rich cultural heritage but also fosters economic and cultural growth in this dynamic region of the island.”

This groundbreaking event is not merely a film festival; it is a journey of discovery, celebrating untapped potential and showcasing the creative spirit thriving in the heart of rural communities. The festival’s primary goal is to act as a catalyst for local talent, inspiring youth to explore the realms of filmmaking, documentary creation, and various creative expressions, all within reach through their mobile devices.

The festival serves as a bridge, connecting undiscovered talent in rural Jamaica with international luminaries, including casting directors and producers. This exchange is about more than showcasing; it’s about providing invaluable opportunities for growth, fostering collaboration, and unveiling the rich tapestry of talent that flourishes in the often overlooked corners of Jamaica.

In endorsing the festival, the St Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce-Black River Chapter publicly declared its support for the initiative. The statement from the Chamber emphasised the significance of the event in promoting the creative arts and its potential to bring renewed interest to the historical town of Black River.

“We believe that an event of this nature will undoubtedly bring renewed interest to the Town of Black River, as we boast on the Jamaican landscape a rich cultural and historical heritage that is losing its significance and, in other ways, unexplored,” the chamber stated. “And so, we applaud the entire management team of the Black River Film Festival group and its supporters for their efforts which are largely supporting other significant activities in the Parish, highlighting the significance of our Towns and by extension our parish as a place to live, work, do business, and raise families.”

Floyd Green, Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Western whose constituency will host the Black River Film Festival, believes Black River is the ideal venue for the prestigious event, stating, “I can think of no better home for a festival of this nature than Black River. St. Elizabeth has already developed worldwide acclaim for providing a platform for some of the islands most creative literary talents and now Jamaica’s most storied capital provides the perfect backdrop to catalyse our film industry. Looking forward to not only hearing from the best and help to highlight and showcase some of Jamaica’s talent but also excited to play host to the world.”

The Black River Film Festival also presents an opportunity for filmmakers to participate in workshops and masterclasses, further enhancing the benefits of the festival. These sessions will provide insights and skills to both aspiring and experienced filmmakers, enriching their cinematic journey.

Masterclasses will be led by luminaries that include the United Kingdom’s Jeremy Zimmerman – Casting Director; Nigeria’s Judith Audu – Nollywood Production; Dr. Ava Brown – Book to Script; the UK’s Nicolas Beveney – Script to Screen; Kwame McPherson – Science of Storytelling; and South African Carolyn Carew –Success to the Great Documentary. An exciting panel of guests has also been assembled to lead stimulating discussion. They include Zenande Mfenyana (Actress in Generations), Zolisa Xaluva (Kings of Joburg) Connie Chiume (Black Panther) and Cornelius Grant (One Love Movie).

McPherson, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2023 Winner, Caribbean and Global, expressed his support, stating, “A first for Black River, the Film Festival provides Jamaica and the island’s South Coast, a forum for homegrown and Diasporan talent to be seen by a local, regional, and international audience. As the first Jamaican to win a global literary award and a storyteller, I am proud to be contributing and participating in this groundbreaking event that will generate great benefits for St Elizabeth, filmmakers, residents and visitors alike.”

Beveney also emphasised the importance of film and media in the diaspora, stating, “Film and media in the diaspora are the most important and overlooked mediums. It is a source not only of rich cultural learning experiences but important in the documentation of our experiences and historical events. It is important that our platforms and sources for audiences connect, learn and share.