Wednesday, 28 March 2018

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: A Letter from the Editor

DOUBLE TAKE: Actors vibing on the set of Wilkinson's Heart of the City.

DURING our interview with actor Everaldo Creary (who costars in Yardie) a few weeks ago, he made the observation that as a film industry, we are still young in expressing our stories. We agree wholeheartedly, but it’s the industry’s small triumphs, ever on the increase, that inspired this month’s Film & Theatre Issue, our annual salute to Jamaican show business.

For one thing, the Jamaica Film Commission ought to be applauded for the ongoing efforts to make Jamaica the film destination of choice in this part of the world. Major Hollywood players, from Idris Elba to Eric Roberts, have visited our shores in recent times for projects and, by all accounts, many more are on the way.

The home-based Propella Initiative, which provides funding for talented filmmakers to showcase their work to an international audience, is flourishing, as it should, and we look forward to seeing the projects from the latest crop of finalists.

Great things are on the horizon – from the shooting of the book-to-screen adaptation The Mango Girl to the release of Maya Wilkinson’s foray into feature film, Heart of the City. But no forthcoming project is more avidly anticipated, long-awaited than Storm Saulter’s Sprinter, which is scheduled for a world premiere this summer. As its leading man, Kadeem Wilson (“His Time Now”), tells us, it’s a must-see that captures a heady mix of athletics and Jamaican culture.

Our cover star Glen Campbell (“True Original”) is a veteran of the stage, but he’s no stranger to film, having done such classic screen work as the 90s hit TV series Titus and, more recently, the 2016 short Shoot the Girl. Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell is appearing in the new Netflix movie Game Over Man and Jamerican star Adjani Salmon recently won raves for his web series Driving Whilst Black. So the Jamaican film industry has no shortage of talent to draw from as we advance toward a future, where the possibilities for growth and development are endless. 

So Everaldo is right: our movie industry is still young and small, but we are making great strides.

TRUE ORIGINAL: At 54, Glen ‘Titus’ Campbell cherishes his evolving success, his blended family and the view from the top

THE MUSIC MAN: "I am enjoying this time of my life," shares the actor and new grandfather who just added another Actor Boy trophy to his collection. 

Celebrating three-and-a-half decades of starring in stage hits, Glen Campbell is still at the top of his game after all these years. But there’s much more to him than accolades and wooing audiences. In a TALLAWAH exclusive, Campbell (currently starring in Right Girl, Wrong Address) dishes on his DJ skills and life at home with the family.

IT’s a truth internationally acknowledged: Glen ‘Titus’ Campbell steps on stage, utters a few lines and the audience erupts in laughter. Campbell has been tickling the funny bones of Jamaican showgoers for well over three decades now, building an illustrious career that spans theatre, television and film, to the point where he now stands, at age 54, as the most award-nominated Jamaican actor in history. (Did you know that Campbell has been up for an Actor Boy Award almost every year for the past decade and has been nominated for a Thespy every season since 2011?)

Sure enough, his turn in Right Girl, Wrong Address (now playing at Centrestage) saw him returning to the race yet again. In the brilliant play, penned by Patrick Brown, Campbell plays Ricky Pine, who runs a music production company with his kid brother Adam (played by Akeem Mignott). Ricky loves his liquor, and it’s one of the most fun aspects of the character for Campbell. “I enjoy playing Ricky. I mean, I’ve played drunks before and the best part is finding the nuances each time that are different from anything I’ve done before. But this one is a constant alcoholic, which made the character a lot more fun to play,” he explains one evening at Centrestage after wrapping another performance.

For costar Keniesha Bowes (who plays Nicey, a feisty cleaning lady who catches Ricky’s eye), Glen is simply “the best”, an actor who moves between the comedic and the dramatic with relative ease. Rosie Murray, who did numerous projects with him back in the day (including the 90s television hit Titus) looks back on those days with fond memories. “Filming Titus we had so much fun, especially that Gilbert episode. Glen has always been amazing fun and very, very disciplined. Those were the good old days,” Murray tells us over the phone, even recalling their very first collaboration, for a Barbara Gloudon-penned piece called Rabbit Punch at the Jonkanoo Lounge.

Of course, Glen, too, looks back on his halcyon days in showbiz with memory-lane fondness. What was he like back then? “I just remember my youthful exuberance, thinking I could do everything and play everybody’s role, to my own detriment at times,” he recalls, with a little laugh. But up to last season, in Frank the Freak, Campbell was tackling multiple roles with mucho gusto. Fresh, funny, with expert comic timing.

What keeps him going after all these years? “My audiences. Regardless of the fame and the popularity, the travel and the income, it’s my audiences. The man on the street who comes up to me to tell me about a show he saw years ago and can’t forget,” he says. Acting is also therapeutic for the leading man. “Even if I’m having a bad day, just coming to work and going on stage makes me feel totally different. Once I go on stage, the bad feeling and the stress just disappears,” he tells us. 

Another source of therapy? Music. In case you didn’t know, Campbell is a part-time disc jock (we didn’t get to ask if he has a musical alter ego), who has been honing his skills and playing more and more events in recent times, even collaborating with big shots in the game like Winston ‘Merritone’ Blake. “It’s another great love of mine. I’m usually playing with Merritone on a Monday night. We’ve done shows at The Deck and 100 (the new Hope Road hotspot). I work out my new mixes at home, so I have a lot of fun at these gigs,” says Campbell, who continues to add new DJ equipment and albums to his stash at home.
It’s a home he shares with Maxine, his wife of just two years. They made a rare public appearance at the Your View Awards (YVAs) last month, and a lovely picture of the couple was snapped for Page 2. Recalling their wedding day, Campbell says it was “a low-key affair” attended mainly by relatives and close friends. A devoted patriarch, he enjoys tending to his blended family (including two stepchildren). In December, his 28-year-old daughter Chaynae gave birth to her first child, a son – Glen’s first grandchild.

How does he feel about becoming a grandpa at the tender age of 54? “I think it’s about time,” he quips. “The family has grown, the family is still growing, and I like that. I am enjoying this time of my life.”

Glen Campbell will be the first to admit that he has a lot to be grateful for, not least among them his healthy, beautiful family and a career in theatre that keeps rewarding him. (At press time, he was named Best Supporting Actor for Right Girl, Wrong Address at the Actor Boy Awards.) “To see how much he’s grown, I remember those early years with pride,” says Rosie Murray.

It’s these kinds of acknowledgements that make Glen (who now serves the 20-year-old Jambiz Productions as an administrator) feel truly accomplished. He lives to make his patrons and his peers proud. And he’s still as passionate about the work as when he just started out. That perhaps explains why the accolades keep piling up. “Being nominated almost every year now for the Actor Boy Award says something about the level of work that I’ve been producing,” offers Campbell, whose tally of productions now surpasses the #70 mark.

He pauses, as if collecting his thoughts. “Apart from the body of work, the greatest thing for me is having everybody recognize you across Jamaica,” he says. “Having household-name status. And being rated among the best.”

Monday, 26 March 2018

FIRST LOOK: Grammy winners Sting and Shaggy team up on buzzworthy new album

EASY RIDERS: Shaggy and Sting have got your number.

JANUARY’s renewal of the Shaggy & Friends charity concert was memorable for several reasons, chief among them the addition of Grammy and Oscar winner Sting to the lineup for the first in the show’s decade-long history. It was at Shaggy & Friends that Sting and Shaggy, joining forces on stage, revealed their plans to release a collaborative album. They’ve made good on their promise.

44/876 (A/M and Interscope Records), which also comes with a deluxe version, is scheduled for release on April 20. “Don’t Make Me Wait” is the album’s lead-off single.

The album, a mélange of styles and sounds (reggae/dancehall flavour, pop sizzle, funky grooves), was recorded in Jamaica and New York, with the powerhouse duo being joined in the studio by various collaborators (musicians, writers, producers), such as hitmaker Robbie Shakespeare (Sly Robbie), deejays Aidonia and Agent Sasco, roots-reggae ambassadors Morgan Heritage, Branford Marsalis, Shane Hoosang and Sting’s guitarist Dominic Miller.

The iconic recording artists, representing two dynamic cultures: British and Caribbean, will be extending the collaboration by embarking on a joint European tour this summer. But before they hit the road, they have booked a handful of television spots, including appearances on Live with Kelly and Ryan (on April 24) and The View (on April 25). 

> Playlist: 5 Essential Shaggy Collabos 
“It Wasn’t Me” with Rik-Rok 
“Wild Tonite” with Olivia 
“Angel” with Rayvon 
“You Girl” with Ne-Yo 
“This Feeling” with Beres Hammond

I WILL FOLLOW HIM: Thin, revealing Mary Magdalene sheds light on the complex Biblical heroine

MARY, DID YOU KNOW? Acclaimed actress Rooney Mara is cast in the central role.

THERE is a scene in the new movie Mary Magdalene in which Mary’s older brother Daniel (Denis Ménochet) almost drowns her, casting out the demon that has so obviously possessed her because of her refusal to marry the man her father has selected for her. It’s one of the most telling moments in this thin but provocative feature centred on one of the most complex, seemingly misunderstood women in Biblical lore. Mary is played with endless warmth and steely resolve by multifaceted actress Rooney Mara (Carol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Directed by Garth Davis, the movie not only attempts to rescue Mary’s story – (the lie that she was a prostitute persists to this day) – it highlights her humble origins and her virtues (the good-natured sister, the dutiful daughter accused of shaming her family by being headstrong and independent) and how she met the rabbi Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix) and made the bold, unpopular decision to become one of his followers (the sole woman among the disciples).

In other words, the Mary of Magdala that we encounter is a virtuous, kindhearted woman from a seaside fishing village in Judaea (circa 33 CE) who refused to be defined or imprisoned by her oppressive society. “I am not made for that life,” she admits. 

Meanwhile, we get lots of open country and hilltop vistas, as Jesus, Mary and the gang (including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Simon Peter) trod from village to village giving sight to the blind, healing the sick, raising the dead, converting and baptizing new believers, preaching and teaching. 

Unsurprisingly, the movie glosses over details of the Jesus narrative, but climaxes with Judas’ betrayal, the arrest and the Crucifixion. “We don’t live in a good age for baptists and prophets,” and older female relative tells Mary in an early scene. And, by all appearances, it wasn’t a good age for women who chose to go their own way. But, as the movie makes vividly clear, Mary had no choice: she had to follow her heart. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

TALLAWAH MONITOR: PEP to replace GSAT; Fae takes on ‘Profile’; Rabalac Lions in 7th heaven…

> All We Do Is Win
Seven straight! Calabar High continued their dominance of schoolboy track-and-field on Saturday, securing yet another hold on the coveted Mortimer Geddes trophy, as the curtains came down on the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Championships inside the National Stadium. At the end of the five-day championships, the Rabalac Lions amassed 368.50 points, ahead of Kingston College (278), Jamaica College (224.5), St. Jago (146), STETHS (95) and Wolmer’s Boys (94.5). The supergirls of Edwin Allen High made it five in a row, racking up 324 points to win over Hydel (289), Holmwood Tech (285), St. Jago High (178) and Vere Tech (105.5).

> Bye-Bye, GSAT!
Jamaica just had its final sitting of the GSAT. It will be replaced by the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) as the national placement examination in the 2018/19 academic year. Meanwhile, Minister of Education, Ruel Reid, says all students who have sat this month’s Grade Six Achievement Test will be placed in full five-year secondary-level institutions. Reid says that for the first time in the country’s history, there will be no need to place students who have taken the exam in a junior high-school’s grade-seven class.

> A Woman’s Touch
Fae Ellington is the new host of Profile, the iconic TV interview programme that became synonymous with its late conceptualizer and host Ian Boyne. “I know people are going to make comparisons. That is human and that is natural. This is not a programme where I will be trying to do what Ian did. It’s an interview and personality programme. That is a fact, but I will bring my own style and experience to it. It’s not about filling shoes,” she told an interviewer. “I feel at home, and Ian was my friend. This is not new to me.”

> Respect Due
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the North-South Highway is to be renamed the Edward Seaga Highway, in honour of our fifth prime minister. “[Mr.] Seaga was responsible for the development of downtown Kingston. He also initiated the development and expansion of Ocho Rios as a tourism destination. The North-South Highway creates that link, so it is only fitting,” Holness says. The 67-kilometre highway, constructed at a cost of US$600 million, extends from the Mandela Highway near Caymanas in St. Catherine to Mammee Bay in St. Ann.

> Sorry!
Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal that has rocked Facebook, placing adverts in multiple British and American newspapers on Sunday. The CEO revealed that an app built by a Cambridge University researcher leaked the Facebook data of millions of people four years ago. “This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” Zuckerberg noted. “We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Saturday, 24 March 2018

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: Funny Jamaican tales, a sublime poetry collection, and a life coach points the way

Editor’s Pick! 
PERSONAL GROWTH: Life coach and lawyer Olubode Shawn Brown draws on two decades of experience in his field for Bloom: The Essential Journey, his self-development text, published by Banyan Tree Press. Packing 280 pages, Brown’s book explores five essential life nutrients, five life areas and offers a card deck of 25 new personality archetypes, while examining life-balancing paradigms rooted in the five elements of nature. The thick text also introduces stories from the author’s own journey of self-discovery and pursuit of happiness and purpose. And he also shares conversations with clients to cap this journey of 21 guideposts. 

THE BEST MEDICINE: Any Jamaican writer looking for inspiration need only take a walk down the street. Patrick Newman has first-hand proof. The first-time author and bonafide Jamaican uses his debut collection of short stories and vignettes, My Life as a Joke: Laugh Till Yuh Belly Buss, to share “amusing” and “thought-provoking” tales from his travels throughout Jamaica and from his days growing up in the rural parts. According to publishers Minna Press, Newman’s nearly 70 stories (“My Grandfather and His Belt”, “My Uncle-in-Law as Deacon, “The Bellevue Experience”) are filled with innuendoes, puns and humour that bring to colourful life the characters and their predicaments, while capturing customs, traditions and the general mores about what it means to be truly Jamaican. 

TASTE AND SEE: With such titles as “Recognizing Leon” and “Bottomless”, the 21 poems in Raymond Antrobus’ new anthology, To Sweeten Bitter (Outspoken Press) have been hailed by critics as everything from “open and searching” and “wanting and volatile”, in the tradition of early Derek Walcott. Writer and publisher Margaret Busby concurs. “These are poems aching with the loss of a father from dementia even before death,” she reports, “and Antrobus in these pages moves skillfully between reclaiming and letting go of memory.” 

>> Also new on bookshelves:

FINDING GIDEON by Eric Jerome Dickey. (A professional job turns personal for one investigator in this latest pageturner from the immensely popular and prolific bestselling author.) 

DR. DEATH by K. Sean Harris. (Hide your daughters! In this edge-of-your-seat psychological portrait, a gynaecologist harbours a dark secret: he’s a descendant of the notorious Dr. Hutchinson, Jamaica’s first serial killer.)

ON HIS MIND: NBL coach Pete Matthews talks travel, playing the game and his thing for Hondas

YES, COACH: "I've just always been in basketball," Matthews says of his passion for the sport.

BASKETBALL is Pete Matthews’ life. He’s not only coached at the national level; he’s served on the board of the Jamaica Amateur Basketball Association (JaBA) since the 1990s, currently in the capacity of committee member. But, by his own admission, the 55-year-old veteran coach also loves cool cars and occasional travel. As his team, the UWI Runnin’ Rebels, competes for top honours in the newly revived National Basketball League, he takes a moment to reflect. 

He was a whiz at making 3-pointer shots: “That was in the 80s, when the three-pointer was just introduced. I used to play for a club called Utopia Trailblazers, made up of KC old boys, and that is what I was known for on the team. I wasn’t a great player, but I was a strong shooter.” 

He’s used to the adrenaline rush of coaching in big finals: “I was the national coach from 1983, and I’ve coached at all levels since then. I remember one particular Caribbean U-19 final that really went down to the wire. Very close. All our big games in those days were closely contested.” 

On treating himself to a vacation: “(Laughs). I haven’t had many of those. I mean, I enjoy travelling, but for the most part I’ve just always been in basketball.” 

His favourite Bob Marley song: “‘Who the Cap Fits’ stands out.” 

The first cool car he ever owned: “I used to drive a Ford Cortina in the 80s. I had to save up to buy it. Since then I’ve always stayed with Hondas. I have two Hondas now and a Toyota Prado.”