Wednesday, 29 June 2016

NEWS + NOTES: Eric Hosin appointed IAJ President + 8 Jamaicans earn Cuban scholarships + Simone Clarke-Cooper joins Supreme Ventures family

SIMONE'S LATEST AD-'VENTURE': The Simone Clarke-Cooper success story keeps evolving beautifully. The career journalist, television hostess and all-round media pro is the new Assistant Vice President for Group Corporate Communications at Supreme Ventures Limited. The company made the announcement of her executive appointment on the weekend. In the new post, Clarke-Cooper will assume responsibility for “nurturing strong network, increasing awareness and developing an enviable corporate image by developing and executing an effective communications and media relations strategy.” A veteran broadcaster who has made her mark at FAME FM, TV-J (Rappin, Smile Jamaica) and headed up corporate communications at Grace Kennedy Limited for quite a few years, Clarke-Cooper holds Bachelor of Arts and Master degrees in the field of media and communications from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.

CALLING THE SHOTS: As the newly installed President of the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ), Eric Hosin has his work cut out for him. But he’s made it clear that he’s the man for the job. Hosin, who is the President of Guardian Life Jamaica, will put much of the focus on the reduction of insurance fraud and lobbying the government for the long overdue implementation of Phase Two of the Pension Reform programme, which is geared towards creating a greater incentive for Jamaicans to engage in retirement planning. Hosin, who also serves as President of the Insurance Association of the Caribbean succeeded Karen Bhoorasingh, President of Guardian General Insurance Company Limited.

THE CUBAN CONNECTION: “Cuba has offered and continues to offer cooperation, mainly in the fields of health and education, in countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean,” noted Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, Bernardo Guanche Hernandez (right), as he presented scholarships to eight deserving Jamaican students, who will pursue medical studies in Cuba (for the 2016/17 academic year) under the Cuba-Jamaica Cooperation Programme. “Not only Cuban teachers have rendered their services in many developing countries,” he added, “but also many students from those countries have studied and graduated free of charge in Cuban universities.”

EMERGING VOICES: Local filmmakers go behind the camera to explore children’s issues with UNICEF

SHARP FOCUS: Blackwood's body of work includes short films like Bully (above), filmed for the UNICEF campaign.

Ras Kassa was a no-show (due to unforeseen circumstances), but the remaining two filmmakers put on a stellar presentation that more than made up for his absence. Inside the Spanish Court Hotel’s Valencia Suite on Thursday evening, a sizeable audience of film buffs and KOTE devotees (occupying every available seat) gathered for Director’s Cut: A Filmmaker’s Perspective that provided a splendid showcase for the blossoming talents of Kurt Wright and Gabrielle Blackwood, two standouts in the contemporary Jamaican film world.

The three filmmakers (Ras Kassa included) took part in this year’s UNICEF/Keep Children Safe campaign, turning in terrific short films that examine the theme of child abuse from the classroom to the domestic space to the wider community. While Ras Kassa opted to look at the gang violence angle (his film was, unfortunately, not screened), Wright and Blackwood struck a nerve with projects that delved into sexual abuse (Unspoken) and bullying/peer pressure (Bully) respectively.

Wright’s work in particular elicited strong reactions from viewers for its visceral take on manipulation and rape (there’s a telling shower scene), while Blackwood’s short, inspired by the real-life story of a Kingston-based high-school girl at the mercy of her cruel peers, was an even tougher watch. They say high school can be torture, and Blackwood’s work vividly shows evidence.

Since the films’ release in May (for Child Month), UNICEF has been hard at work getting them shown in primary and secondary schools across the island. And what better way to accomplish this than to partner with the Office of the Children’s Advocate? “We will be doing a film-in-schools tour to get these films seen in as many institutions as possible,” says UNICEF rep Allison Mitchell, who spoke at Thursday’s screening. “We really hope to further broaden the audience that sees these films and enter them in some competitions.”

In the meantime, Kurt Wright and Gabrielle Blackwood are two names that seem destined to remain on the local filmmaking radar for years to come. Blackwood, a 29-year-old CARIMAC grad, shot a thought-provoking feature called Denis (also previewed on Thursday) about a 46-year-old man’s battle with ALS. It’s still a work-in-progress.

Wright, a New York Institute of Technology alum (now in his early 30s) who has collaborated with everyone from Jay Will to Phase 3 Production’s dynamic team, is into edgier stuff (witness his Refn-esque The Pick Up) and got his feet wet behind the camera shooting music videos for local entertainers – his most recent efforts including Chris Martin’s breezy romantic jam “Is It Love” and the Franklin Town-set “Shotta” for NoMaddz.

CULTURAL EXCHANGE: Simon Bolivar Centre spices up its offerings with Latin dance, Spanish lessons

CLASS IN SESSION: Salsa dancing and Spanish lessons are now on offer at the Parade-based cultural centre.

When the Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre was opened at North Parade, Downtown Kingston, in September 2015, it heralded the arrival of an institution that would foster the deepening of cultural ties between Jamaica and its Latin American allies, particularly Venezuela, whose government (under the Petro Caribe agreement) foot the bill to cover construction costs.

Months later, the Centre (opened Mondays to Saturdays, is doing much more than welcoming locals to learn about our relations with Latin America and Simon Bolivar’s life and legacy. The Centre has diversified its offerings to include an after-school programme for children, adult Spanish classes for beginners and intermediates, as well as salsa and merengue dance classes.

“We’re trying to appeal to a wide cross-section of the public and increase our visitation numbers, and so far the response has been encouraging,” explains Centre manager Nadine Boothe-Goodin, adding that they are committed to serving the community.

At the same time, she emphasizes, they want to rake in some revenue for the Centre, which falls under the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) umbrella. That’s why the introductory phase of these new offerings was free of cost but now they carry a fee. While the Latin dance classes cost $2,500 per month, it’s $8,000 per term to attend Spanish classes.

“When we just started, a lot of persons attended but since we added the fees, the numbers have dwindled. But things have been picking up quite a bit these past few weeks,” Boothe-Goodin points out, adding that professionals who work in the Downtown area are among their regulars. “Our aim is to market the Centre as much as possible and get more people to visit us regularly.”

Social media promotion is one particularly effective strategy that’s been pulling in visitors. On Monday of this week, the Centre hosted a front-of-house Open Day, complete with a sign-up campaign and attention-grabbing music. “These events give us the opportunity to interact more with the public,” the manager notes. “We are happy with the response, and as we market more and increase our activities, we are sure we will experience increased patronage.”

> For more info, visit the Simon Bolivar Centre at 10 North Parade, Kingston, or call 967-0378. Email:

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

FRESH TRACKS: Hear these sizzling new tunes from Etana, Protoje, Dre Russell and Shaggy

“I Got You”
Her sudden departure from the entertainment radar a few years ago left fans wondering, ‘Where is Jovi Rockwell?’ Turns out the rebel child was on a self-imposed hiatus from the spotlight but still nurturing her talent. Now, she’s back, sounding bolder than ever, as she lends Shaggy some sturdy support on this peppery track that’s all about ‘grown-folks business.’ But what distinguishes the tune from Shaggy’s previous heatseekers is the funky old-school sample it draws on, combined with bouncy dancehall pop and a hefty dose of Shaggy’s trademark swagger. B+ [Take a listen]

“The Way I Are (Natural Woman)
“Love me for me, not just for what you see,” Etana declares on this radio-ready slice of groovy reggae-soul. Production-wise, the track marks a slightly edgy departure for the seasoned songbird but lyrically it’s quintessential Etana – a talented songwriter and virtuous woman who is all about self-acceptance, self-worth, warrior love and natural beauty – while imploring her sisters (and brothers) to do the same. B+ [Take a listen]

“Weh Di Party At?”
From Usain Bolt’s Vybz Kartel remix to Darren Bravo’s “Champion,” Caribbean sportsmen have never been afraid of grabbing the mic to drop a few bars, letting the fans (and the world) know that their talents and interests go further than the playing field. Now comes Andre Russell’s “Weh Di Party At?”, a slinky, in-your-face track that meshes the worlds of dancehall and hip-hop. While Russell’s playful jam doesn’t hit us for a six, it’s respectable enough for a trip or two across the boundary. B [Take a listen]

“Glad You’re Home”
If there’s one thing Protoje has had going for him ever since he burst onto the roots-reggae scene, it’s his versatility – that alluring blend of consciousness, compassion and lyrical food for though and the occasional rude-boy lyrics for the ladies (“No Lipstick”, anyone”?). You get a bit of everything on this winner, a vintage-sampling instant classic about that “you-can-ring-my-bell” kinda love. As ever, the singjay’s clever wordplay and infectious melodies make you a believer. A- [Take a listen]

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Mutabaruka in ‘Sankofa’ + ‘Womanhood’ as art + Pantomime seeks fresh faces

THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE: On Saturday afternoon, TALLAWAH joined a handful of tastemakers and art lovers inside the Spanish Court Hotel’s pristine Worthington space for ‘Dimensions of Womanhood,’ a limited-run art exhibition celebrating femininity in all its guises, featuring sublime pieces by Gisele Gardner (gorgeous oils on canvas characterized by bold brush strokes) and Katrina Coombs (fascinating textile and hand-woven creations) juxtaposed with rigid studies in metal by Stefan Clarke. All three fine artists are products of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Art, who teamed up to showcase the inspired works that compelling evoke the strength, sensuality, fragility and adaptability of the woman. “The work here really speaks to their continuing development as artists,” one attendee was overheard saying in an animated conversation. Among the noted names who came out to support the artists were Dr. Veronica Salter, Ad-Ziko Simba, Annie Paul, Dr. Kim Robinson-Walcott and Petrona Morrison.

KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE: Celebrating 75 years of artistic excellence in 2015, the LTM National Pantomime solidified their landmark status as the longest-running theatre company in Jamaica producing top-class and wholesome family entertainment. In keeping with tradition, the LTM is again on the hunt for fresh faces, stage-ready new talents who can sing, dance and act well. The Company has announced that it is now accepting applications from those interested in participating in their audition process to become members. Age-wise, you must be at least 20 years of age and reside within reach of the Corporate Area, but the Pantomime Company is not recommended for full-time students. Application forms can be accessed via their website,, or by contacting 926-6129.

12 YEARS A SLAVE: Who knew Allan ‘Mutabaruka’ Hope was such a compelling actor? The cultural icon and controversial radio-show host truly impressed the large audience that descended on the Redbones Blues CafĂ© in St. Andrew last Saturday evening for a screening of Sankofa, a tragic and darkly entertaining feature film (directed by the Ethiopian Haile Gerima), in which Muta gives a memorable performance as a rebellious and strong-willed slave learning the power of community while experiencing the horrors of slavery. At its core, though, the movie (shot in Ghana and in Duncans, Trelawney) is about a vain Black American model who is spiritually transported back to a Caribbean plantation, where she is in for a rude awakening. There’s lots of spiritualism, black magic and island spice in the film that courted controversy upon its release back in the day, owing to its dark subject matter. But with its solid cast (Muta, Kofi Ghanaba, the late Reggie Carter, et al) and an unyielding meditation on the slavery experience and attitudes towards our horrific past, it’s an important film that’s as powerful as it is provocative.

50-SECOND FILM REVIEW: Independence Day 2 serves up loud, brassy entertainment

STRONG SUITS: Goldblum (left) and Hemsworth in a scene from the film.

“That is definitely bigger than the last one,” notes Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson. The eccentric scientist is referring, of course, to the massive spaceship that’s just arrived to unleash mayhem and havoc on earthlings. Two decades earlier, Planet Earth managed to stave off a serious alien invasion that threatened to forever alter life as we know it and now they’re back, so we are bracing for war again. Will we be as lucky this time around?

That’s the basic gist of Independence Day: Resurgence, director Roland Emmerich’s bold, brassy, big-budget sequel to the film that helped cement Will Smith’s status as a major action hero. But while Vivica A. Fox makes a cameo appearance, Smith is nowhere to be found in this super-loud, reasonably entertaining follow-up. 

Instead, we are introduced to their courageous son Dylan Hiller (played with enormous assuredness by newcomer Jessie T. Usher) who, along with a team of space cadets, including Liam Hemsworth’s Jake, are tasked with taking the fight to these unwelcome extraterrestrial guests. Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, William Fichtner and Sela Ward (as the tough-as-nails US President) round out the main cast.

From ground zero to the depths of outer space, what a bumpy and explosive ride audiences are in for. But then again we expect nothing less from one of the most highly anticipated popcorn flicks to come along in years. In a nutshell, Independence Day: Resurgence may not evoke the timeless, edge-of-your-seat thrill of its predecessor, but it’s certainly the most bombastic cinematic feast we’ve had all year. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Saturday, 25 June 2016

CONCEPT TO REALITY: School of Visual Arts’ final year show full of creative energy and vibrant imagination

THEIR OWN CREATIONS: Anthony Cookes (above) and Nicole Lyon are among the talented student artists whose pieces are featured in the show.

You can say this for the students of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Arts: they know the meaning of resourcefulness. Taking in the school’s 2016 Final Year Exhibition (currently on view through the end of the month), you constantly marvel at the clever, innovative use of a variety of mediums to craft bold works of art that tell powerful, sometimes amusing, but always interesting stories.

From exotic woods to cartridge paper to fabrics and textiles to plastic and metal, everything gets used. As such, the exhibition, which spreads across the school’s many departments and disciplines (taking you to many different rooms), is a splendid showcase of young artistic talent in bloom.

When it comes to printmaking, kudos to the likes of BFA students Shantel Mason, Nicole Lyon and Alex Thinstead for their brilliant execution of concepts exploring ideas, ranging from Jamaican proverbs to gritty social realities. In the area of animation, we caught a supercool video presentation by Jenille Brown, who is obviously a standout in her Visual Communication class. The art education students (like Alwaine Reid), meanwhile, produced truly informative and eye-catching creations targeting viewers of all ages.

But the major highlight for us, though, was Anthony Cookes’ “Seven Vices,” a print-and-sketch tapestry that offers a sly meditation on the seven deadly sins, as laid out in the Bible. Using the fictitious story of the seven members of a church as his inspiration, Cookes vividly captures how the indulgence of these vices (sloth, lust, greed, wrath, envy, gluttony and pride) can come back to destroy you when least expected. In short, it’s brilliant, haunting work from Cookes.

And you could say the same for the exhibition as a whole. A must-see show, it reflects a spirit of vibrant imagination and utter creativity, with a hefty dose of intellect, reminding us that the School of Art continues to do its job (one it takes very seriously) of producing outstanding artistic talents, who will go on to take their place among the next generation of the Jamaican and Caribbean art world.