With a whoop and a shout, Deron Douglas leapt onto the stage at the Institute of Jamaica. Before he accepted his prize for Best Overall Film from the head of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, he punched the air a few times. As Deron beamed (he couldn’t stop) I could not help noticing that his shoes were so shiny they reflected the wooden floor. He had polished them with gusto, this morning.
Deron was among twenty-something young finalists in the EU Competition. As the head of the judging panel (Yvette Rowe, a Lecturer at the Caribbean School of Media and Communication at the University of the West Indies) pointed out, these were first-time filmmakers. They gave it their all. Or as the hashtag went: #Allin4Environment.
The EU Delegation had promised to organize a short film competition in May of last year, at their annual Film Festival (the dates for this year will be announced soon). The competition was the brainchild of Althea Buchanan, the Press and Information Officer at the EU Delegation, we learned. Once the idea was born, it was a lot of hard work getting young people on board. So there was a huge feeling of achievement for the EU team, and great excitement and satisfaction for the participants.
Deron’s film was entitled The Tree Speaks. So, he had me right there. It opens with drone footage, as the camera soars over an expanse of green forest (could it have been in Portland Bight? I thought I saw some dry limestone forest). I have to confess that tears came to my eyes – ridiculously emotional, I know. Then there was the tension of a wide-eyed little girl, who felt the trees were speaking to her. The film switched to footage of a highway, and of trees being cut, the whining of a chainsaw; and a protest by young people (on Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, coming up on April 22). It hung together well.
As Ms. Rowe pointed out in her Judges’ Report, as first-time filmmakers there were some weaknesses. Among some of the films, there was a tendency to do too much “telling” and not enough “showing.” Let the visuals do the work! While there were technical issues, these were not a great concern, because “you can always improve,” Ms. Rowe noted. What is much more important is the filmmaker’s “commitment, creativity and ideas.” She also suggested that the creators could “allow for some silence.” That can do the work, too.
Apart from the Overall Award, there were three sectional awards. Danielle Mullings’ film on Protecting Port Royal’s Mangroves won the Best Storytelling Award (I couldn’t help wondering how much of those mangroves is actually left, after the latest incursion by the Floating Cruise Ship Pier into this Ramsar site). Kemanie Boothe won for Best Videography for the film It Lives and It Breathes. Latanya Martin won Best Editing for The Change Starts With You. Among the prizes were one-year memberships at the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA); four editing sessions from Frame of Reference Ltd. Jamaica, a Kingston-based post-production company; besides some very cool technology.
I was so impressed that the Met Film School in Berlin offered the Top Prize – sponsoring a short course for the overall winner. The Met Film School has a great history, with a second studio in Ealing, London. Scenes from one of my favorite classic movies, The Blue Angel, starring the wonderfully decadent Marlene Dietrich, were filmed at their Berlin studio. (I couldn’t help browsing through their course offerings, and have settled on their M.A. in Screenwriting! That is right up my street).
Tawayne Spence, a finalist in the competition from the University of Technology, also impressed with his closing reflections. He spoke not only of the challenges of the competition itself, but also eloquently addressed the most high-profile manifestations of climate change that may seem far, but somehow are so near and real to us: the Australian bush fires, the melting Antarctic, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
It only remains for me to say – many congratulations to the young man from St. Thomas, who will be off to Berlin; and to all those who lent their expertise and energies to make the competition happen – including the judges, who gave much of their time to watch and assess the films.
Most of all, the young people are truly to be commended for their enthusiasm, hard work – and passion. I hope they have all found a renewed love for our environment and a determination to protect it, as a result of this competition.