Recap on the Caribbean Cinematic Festival

Four days. Six films. Four countries. Two directors. One actor. One curator. Four discussion moderators.

When you blend all these ingredients what comes out of this mix is the Caribbean Cinematic Festival.

The festival, an annual staple of Black History Month, took place between Feb. 5 and 8 at the Community Folk Art Center, located at 805 E. Genesee St.

Jamaica was the Caribbean nation most covered in the festival with three films (“Better Mus Come.” “Akwantu: The Journey” and “Fyah”). Cuba, Grenada and Haiti tied at second place with one movie apiece (“El Medico: The Cubaton Story,” “Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution” and “Toussaint Louverture: L’Envol de L’Aigle et Le Combat des Aigles,” respectively).

Joshua Bee Alafia

The only filmmaker to participate in a live post-screening discussion was Brooklyn-based Joshua Bee Alafia. The other, Bruce Paddington of “Forward Ever,” addressed questions and comments via Skype.

Alafia’s documentary is about dub poet Oku Onuora, who picked arms and robbed post offices to fund schools and health centers in Jamaica. Onuora said that his actions were inspired by Black Power advocate Stokely Carmichael and Argentinian-Cuban firebrand Che Guevara. Although he fled twice from state custody, one by jumping from a second-floor window, Onuora ended up being incarcerated by the government of Prime Minister Michael Manley.

“Oku is an unsung hero in Jamaican music. He was discovered by reggae icon Bob Marley,” Alaifia said. “Oku embodies the rebellious maroon spirit of escaped slaves during the colonial period.”

Alafia met Onuora in Brooklyn where the poet now lives. The director said that he has been 14 times to Cuba to shoot movies. One of these was titled “Cubamor,” which impressed Onoura so much that he approached Alafia to tell him his life story, Alafia said.

“I found it to be a very cinematic story,” he said.

Alafia described Jamaica as a feudal system, where establishment politicians from the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labor Party, which alternate in power, follow a “divide and conquer” policy against the people.

“The politicians even brought in M16 rifles from Vietnam to pit one segment of the Jamaican population against the other,” he said. “As a Pan-African filmmaker, I attempt to highlight Oku Onuora’s voice of dissent against the system.”

— Article by Miguel Balbuena, Community Correspondent for The Stand

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