STRONG SUIT: "If Pulse and Saint can manufacture models, I think I can manufacture actors," insists the 41-year-old filmmaker.
Standing outside the Triple Century Sports Bar in New Kingston on a crisp Sunday evening, Kanhai Condison is reflecting on his journey as a filmmaker and being the creative force behind the seven-year-old Jollywood Productions. Sunday saw the premiere (hosted by Triple Century) of his brand-new full-length features Kane and Abel and The Candidate.
"I've done a lot of short movies over the years," explains Condison, impeccably turned out for the occasion in a pastel-hued suit and a shocking red tie. "But I'll be the first to tell you that it's still a learning process. I don't know everything. I'm still trying to get to that place where it's like smooth sailing. I consider this a building process, so I'm not afraid to show people my earlier work."
Set in a futuristic Jamaica, where an eye for an eye law is taking root, Kane and Abel is the filmmaker's meditation on the dark and weighty themes of retribution and jealousy. By slight contrast, The Candidate's plot centres on an ambitious third-generation politician with his eyes squarely fixed on Jamaica House.
By all appearances, Condison, 41, is keenly interested in telling stories that reflect the authentic Jamaican experience, whether past or present. But like the smart businessman, he's ever conscious of the bigger picture. "The primary focus for Jollywood right now is to draw attention to the Jamaican film industry. A Usain Bolt and an Asafa Powell weren't training overseas when they got big, and what they accomplished attracted people to Jamaica. I want to do the same thing with film," he says. "The aim is to help get the industry to the point where people will look and see that things are happening here and want to invest and be a part of it."
At the same time, Condison is all too aware that the dividends won't appear overnight, hence his meticulous approach to the filmmaking process, including the chore of finding actors for his pictures. "I do auditions sometimes, and I will rummage through Facebook every now and again for people who look like they have the potential," he explains. "One of my beliefs is that if Pulse and Saint [International] can manufacture models, I think I can actually manufacture actors."
A Calabar High old-boy, Condison (who has the chiselled good looks of a model himself) spent years toiling in the insurance field (at Life of Jamaica back in the 90s) before he quit and hopped on a plane to the States to chase his dream of becoming a successful actor. "I travelled extensively. I was even in South Africa for a long, long time and I did proper stuff down that side," he recalls. Acting jobs, he means. And that's when his passion for the craft firmly took root. He's been pursuing it with relish ever since.
As patrons trickle on by, intent on seeing his movies, I ask Condison what he ultimately wants to bring to Jamaican cinema. "Some awareness," he replies without missing a beat, before emphasizing his global outlook. "The tagline for Jollywood is 'Build it and they will come.' I tell people all the time, I'm not doing a Jamaican movie; I'm doing a movie with Jamaican actors. The content for my movies is different; it's not about the zinc fence and the gunman and the badness. I want to give you a nice story where you can sit back and say, Yeah, that's a real Jamaican thing."