Reggae Rhythm at The Revue
Caribbean film fest features Jamaican cult classics, events for youth
by Ellen Moorhouse
Originally published on June 25, 2008
The Revue Cinema will feel the rhythm of reggae when the four-day Caribbean Tales Film Festival opens at the theatre Thursday, July 10. First on the big screen will be documentary filmmaker Stephanie Black’s Africa Unite, a tribute to the late Bob Marley. It documents the Marley family’s 2005 journey to the Ethiopian concert that marked the reggae master’s 60th birthday.
This year’s Caribbean Tales festival, titled Fokus Jamaica, centres on Marley’s island home. “Jamaica is a prolific filmmaking community, and it has a very distinctive brand,” says Frances-Anne Solomon, the Toronto-based filmmaker who launched the film fest three years ago. “I wanted to provide an overview of some of that fantastic work.”
The festival includes 18 screenings, sessions with well-known Jamaican filmmakers and actors and special programs for at-risk youth. Events take place at The Revue, U of T’s Innis Town Hall and the High Park Library.
River, the restaurant across Roncesvalles from The Revue, will also be holding meet-and-greet opportunities and serving free Jamaican food to people with tickets to screenings and events.
Solomon, who was approached by the Jamaican consulate to showcase the island’s films, is hard-pressed to single out just a few not-to-be-missed events. “I think the program is full of must-see items. I deliberately did that,” says Solomon. “The titles are not just known to the Caribbean; they’re known to film buffs everywhere.”
Among the highlights:
- The Harder They Come, the 1972 crime film starring singer Jimmy Cliff, is a cult classic that put reggae music on the world’s radar
- As well as Africa Unite, the festival includes Stephanie Black’s Life and Debt. According to Solomon: “It’s an extraordinary moving and visual documentary feature, which analyzes the effect of the IMF and the World Bank on the Third World, which sounds dry but it really goes for it from the point of view of the people.”
- Two shoestring blockbusters, Dance Hall Queen (1997) and Third World Cop (2000), will be screened at The Revue. Produced by Chris Blackwell, whose Island Records brought Bob Marley to international prominence, these films made history. “They sold out in cinemas wherever there were Caribbean audiences for nine months on a stretch, which had never happened before in the Caribbean,” says Solomon.
- Film enthusiasts can also meet well-known Jamaican actress Leone Forbes, and young people can attend a hands-on music video production workshop Saturday at the High Park Library with Ras Kassa, who directed Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock video.
On Friday, July 11, the festival will also feature special activities for young people, including screenings, discussion sessions and workshops with Jamaican celebrities and film industry professionals. At screenings of her film, A Winter Tale, which will also be shown at the festival, Solomon involved young audiences in “Talk it Out” sessions with actors and others who made the film.
She has launched a business sponsorship program to support the festival’s events for youth, encouraging companies and individuals to buy tickets for at-risk kids. “I can’t tell you what it gives young people from disadvantaged communities to come to events like that where they get to meet the filmmaker and see films about their culture that are really entertaining and enjoyable,” Solomon comments. “So it’s not all about ‘Black people are terrible and shoot people,’ but it’s actually about ‘Look at what we can create, look at what we can do.’ ”
TD Financial Group is supporting the youth program, and others interested in doing so can contact Caribbean Tales at 416-598-1410.