Tuesday, 24 April 2012

REGGAE FILM FEST 2012: Byfield, Belafonte, and a ‘blind shotta’

The meaning of Belafonte

If there’s one thing the documentary Sing Your Song expressly captures, it’s the inspirational essence of its subject Harry Belafonte, the celebrated artist, activist, father and humanitarian. “If you don’t have optimism, you can’t manage hope, and the world is in need of hope,” Belafonte remarks in his voice-over narration. And it’s clearly a belief that guided his own life and the journey that took him to the four corners of the globe, armed with his songs of uplift and messages of empowerment.

We witness his encounters with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sidney Poitier, Miriam Makeba, Robert Kennedy and Marlon Brando (pictured above). But the docu also grants viewers a front-row seat to such singularly significant events as the Civil Rights Movement in America and the awful Apartheid that all but destroyed South Africa.

Full of insight, passion and a sense of reflection, Sing Your Song reveals the man behind the legend and proves that it only takes a spark to get a fire going. In the words of Makeba, “Belafonte means a lot to people around the world because he took all our struggles and made them his own.” [A]

See no evil

Among the festival’s entries that sought to combine comedy with gravely serious issues was Diavallon Fearon’s feature Blind Shotta, about a sightless ‘gangster’ out for vengeance against those who wronged him. As expected, the film delivers the occasional laughs, but otherwise I found the storyline too absurd to pique my interest. Though things start out promisingly, the film quickly loses its way. In the end, Blind Shotta boils down to a case of out of sight, out of mind. [C]

Lights up

Centred on three homeless male friends who make a living under the traffic lights on the mean streets of Kingston, Red Amber Green is Chris Byfield’s engaging treatise on struggle, youthful zeal and wised-up aspiration. What’s more, the short film seems to fully engage with concepts that matter deeply to the young filmmaker, particularly the hard-knock experiences of Jamaican young men, the art of dealing with adversity, and the ambition it often requires to liberate oneself from trying circumstances.

For non-trained actors, the film’s three stars (Byfield, Adrian Wright and Damarah Danni) give surprisingly natural performances and even the supporting players (Jean-Paul Menou, Lady Rennae, and street denizens) play it with subtlety. Mixing lighthearted humour with apt dialogue and grittily serious matters, Red Amber Green shines bright. [B+]





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