Words by Nneka Samuel
The diversity and artistic contributions of Caribbean films have been celebrated in festivals and theaters worldwide. 2014 proved an especially exciting year for the diaspora, with films garnering prestigious accolades, competing at the box office with Hollywood heavyweights and challenging taboos.
As we prepare to usher in a new year, POTENT takes a look at 2014’s top Caribbean films.
Destiny, a romantic drama co-written and directed by Jeremy Whitaker, was the number 1 film in Jamaica for over 3 weeks in a row. The film opened in Jamaican theaters on October 16 and held its own against several Hollywood films – Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer, Fury, starring Brad Pitt, and Robert Downey, Jr.’s latest effort, The Judge.
The film follows Lisa Pullen, played by Karian Sang, a woman struggling to find her way after a tumultuous breakup and the death of her parents. Upon returning to Jamaica to sell the land she inherited, Lisa not only uncovers family secrets, but opens her heart to finding love again.
In an interview with Jamaica’s The Gleaner, Whitaker said the film is about “our best Jamaican selves,” a theme that obviously struck a chord with movie-goers hungry for homegrown talent and storylines that reflect Jamaican culture and identity.
Anticipating the film’s global following, Tuff Gong International acquired the global distribution rights to the film’s soundtrack, featuring music by Karian Sang, Chris Martin and Spice, among other local talents. Destiny will release beyond the Caribbean in January 2015.
Arguably the Caribbean’s most well known instrument, the steelpan was the star of the hit film, Pan! Our Music Odyssey. Written by Dr. Kim Johnson, a revered steelpan researcher hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Pan! is a global dramatization of the sole new acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century. Told via reenactments that depict pan history, the film premiered to a packed audience at the 2014 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival and opened in Trinibagan theaters on November 5.
Director and writer Ernesto Daranas’ Behaviour (Conducta) was a breakout hit in Cuba. Released in January, the film was chosen as Cuba’s official selection for the 87th Academy Awards and was also voted Best Narrative Feature film at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.
Behaviour depicts the unlikely friendship between Chala, an at-risk 11-year-old boy, and his teacher, Carmela, a woman more than five decades his senior. After Chala is sent to a government sponsored reeducation facility, Carmela fights for his release, igniting a conflict that highlights the bureaucratic and educational dynamics between contemporary Cuba and the Cuba of yesteryear. In defense of the film, notable Cuban filmmaker Enrique Pineda Barnet wrote, “This is the movie our country needed.”
If this year were any indication, film enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to from the Caribbean in 2015.