by: Charissa Lawrence
PEMBROKE PINES – Though the strong winds and rains of Hurricane Sandy had been felt just hours earlier, South Florida Jamaicans took hold of a rare opportunity to experience an international film premier with producer and fellow country man, Zachary Harding.
At around 1:30pm on Saturday October 27th, more than 150 members of the South Florida Jamaican Diaspora began gathering outside the Performing Cultural Arts Theater at Broward College in Pembroke Pines. A passerby asked a small group, “What’s going on here?” The patron enthusiastically responded, “Culture!!!” By 2pm everyone was seated and the lights were dimmed. Though silent, viewers were ready and excited to embark on what would be a cultural journey that would follow Jamaicans across the globe.
The film opened with a scene of archival still images featuring founding political leaders Sir. Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley and other significant historical pictures. A black and white montage appeared over an instrumental track produced by Mikey Bennett and composed by Dean Fraser specifically for the documentary.
The documentary, entitled ‘OnePeople: The Celebration’ was created to celebrate Jamaica’s global reach and significance in her 50th year and how that came to be. Interviews featured Jamaicans both at home and abroad. Some in the Diaspora that were interviewed include icon Harry Belafonte, essayist Malcolm Gladwell, General Colin Powell, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Minister Louis Farrakhan, financier Ray Chang, Mr Golden Krust Lowell Hawthorne, the Jamaican Maurice Ashley who holds the distinction of being the first black man in the world to become a Chess International Grandmaster, the poet Elizabeth Alexander and many more.
On the home front Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller, Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, Most Honourable Edward Seaga, Michael Lee Chin, Yohan Blake, Shaggy, Rita Marley, young private equity guru Richard Powell and host of other natives engaged enlightening exchanges with the films creators.
One segment of the documentary even allowed for interactive viewer participation… When the interviewer began asking Yohan Blake, Sean Paul and other notable Jamaicans what their favorite dishes were, the crowd began to yell out their own favorite meals. “Curry Goat, Stew Peas, Mackrel & Bannana, Poridge, Steam Fish!” There was no consensus on a favorite, but it is safe to say that Oxtail and Ackee & Saltfish top the list!
The film was genuinely moving as evidenced by the outbursts of laughter, feelings of camaraderie and tears of pride that were evoked.
After receiving multiple rounds of applause and numerous calls for encores, Zachary Harding, one of the creative minds behind the feature documentary, engaged in an open forum Q&A session with the viewers. Through the discussion, Zachary was able to share details surrounding how the film was financed, what operational challenges were encountered, and when the film would be made available for purchase.
After the event, folks lingered outside of the library reminiscing about their days in Jamaica and sharing stories of their cultural experiences on and off the island. The film was also successful in activating a number of sensory glands, particularly taste buds, as evidenced by the fact that a number of people were craving some ‘cook food’ and subsequently made plans for dinner at local Jamaican eateries.
Both the spectators and the film production team recognize that they were part of something special on Saturday afternoon. It’s not often that South Florida is the chosen host for a film premier. And, the fact that the film is debuting during Jamaica’s 50th year celebrations made it all the sweeter for local Jamaicans.