Monday, 12 September 2016

Documentary about Jamaica's first Pride celebration to premiere at film festival in Toronto

Documentary about Jamaica’s first Pride celebration to premiere in Toronto
By Neil Armstrong
Simone Harris at a preview exhibition of Nuit Rose, a festival of queer art and performance, at Artscape Youngplace during Pride Month in Toronto in June 2016.

Simone Harris in one of the photos in her exhibition, TRIBE, at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto.

A documentary about Jamaica’s first Pride celebration held in 2015 will have its North American premiere at the 11th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival (CTFF) in Toronto.

“Rainbow Revolution,” a 50-minute documentary directed by Jamaican journalist and filmmaker, Kaneal Gayle, and produced by J-FLAG, will be the feature-length film alongside some short films shown on September 15, under the theme, “LGBT Love.” 

The film was first shown in Jamaica on August 4 during this year’s Pride Jamaica celebrations in Kingston.

It documents the first ever week of Pride events in Jamaica 2015, a country often labelled as one of the most homophobic countries on earth. 

The focus of the film is on the face of PRiDE JA 2015, Simone Harris, featuring her life, bravery as well as her contribution to what was Jamaica's first ever Pride week-long celebration. 

Gayle has been a working journalist in Jamaica since 2008 with Television Jamaica-TVJ and CVMTV. 

He chose to document the first Pride celebration in Jamaica's history to capture the raw emotions of the LGBT community during this history-making occasion.

In June, Harris was in Toronto to participate in the Nuit Rose, a festival of queer art and performance, during Pride Toronto’s Pride Month celebrations.

Her exhibition, “Tribe,” documents her self-discovery coming out of an almost 10-year  relationship, her vulnerability, and her freedom to be herself.

The documentary features representatives of J-FLAG, members of Jamaica’s LGBT community, Dr. Angela Brown-Burke, the mayor of Kingston, and others talking about the significance of the celebration.

Dane Lewis, executive director of J-FLAG, references the history of the gay freedom movement in Jamaica.

He noted the significance of holding the celebration at the time of Emancipation and Jamaica Independence celebrations and having a flash mob at the Emancipation Park statue.

“We claim freedom from a different oppressor,” he said, in part.

Someone in the film noted that the Pride Jamaica celebration shows that LGBT people are not afraid to be visible in Jamaica.

Among its activities were a ‘coming out’ symposium and demonstrations of healthy relationships with love at the core, which according to someone in the film disrupts the negative narrative of LGBT people in the country.

The short films that will be featured that night are: “My Silky Blue Frog Shortz,” “Cold,” “Dying Swan,” and “Pieta.”

“My Silky Blue Frog Shortz” by Lezlie Lee Kam, a community activist, is an erotic and hilarious story about a brown Trini dyke dealing with getting older and becoming disabled, how she survives and thrives. 

“Cold” by Salvador Sol Valdez tells the story of Elena who cannot forget the lucid memories of a past relationship. 

An effervescent love, full of passion and ardor, pushes her to fall into a state of mind that may impede her to continue. Faced with a precarious situation, Elena will have to make a drastic decision.
It stars actors and writers, Gilda Monreal and Judith Rodriguez Perez. 

“Dying Swan” by Christopher Laird is about mas artist, Peter Minshall, producing his first mas for carnival in nearly ten years, which reinterprets Mikhail Fokine’s classic ballet, The Dying Swan, for a ‘Moko Jumbie’ (a stilt dancer) in drag. 

This film chronicles the assemblage and performance of this mas at the King of Carnival competition in February 2016. 

Christopher Laird has produced over 300 documentaries, dramas and other video productions with Banyan Ltd. over the past 40 years garnering a score of national, regional and international awards. 

“Pieta” by Melanie Grant tells the story of a young woman who finally returns home to her ill mother to find someone from her past nursing her. 

Grant is a film student from Barbados and a queer and feminist activist.

The film festival kicked off on September 7 under the theme, “Caribbean Love,” at the Royal Cinema in Toronto with the Canadian premiere of “Diary of a Badman,” a USA/Jamaica production by Diemiyuaya Deniran.

The theme of love runs through different nights of the festival.

CTFF closes with the Canadian premiere of “Dreadlocks” by Linda Ainouche, and a short film, “10 Miles Bull Bay.” 

“Dreadlocks,” examines the spiritual links between Jamaican Rastafarians and Indian Sadhus.

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