Last Sundays – January 25, 2015, feat. Smallman, The Solitary Alchemist and the Jamaica Biennial 2014

Last Sunday 25 2015-01-01The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme continues on Sunday, January 25 with a screening of two films: Smallman: The World My Father Made (2013) and The Solitary Alchemist (2010). Visitors will also have the opportunity to view the main exhibition of the Jamaica Biennial 2014. Doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm and the film screening starts at 1:30 pm.

The Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which opened on December 7 and continues until March 15, can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica, which houses the main exhibition, with satellite exhibitions at Devon House and National Gallery West in Montego Bay and one project, by Bahamian artist Blue Curry, on the streets of Downtown Kingston. The exhibition features Jamaican artists, both local and from the diaspora, and, for the first time, also specially invited artists from elsewhere in the Caribbean. One of the National Gallery’s largest and most popular exhibitions to date, it has already received significant acclaim as a landmark exhibition, which provides exposure to the diversity of contemporary art from the Caribbean region and its diaspora and serves as a platform for new development. Among the artists in the exhibition are the winners of the 2014 Biennial’s two awards: the Aaron Matalon Award winner Ebony G. Patterson (at Devon House); and the co-winners of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award, Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford, whose work can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

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Still from Smallman

The films that will be screened on January 25, Smallman and The Solitary Alchemist, were both directed by Mariel Brown whose documentary film Inward Hunger: The Story of Eric Williams recently won the Best Local Feature Film jury prize at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, and has been screened in London, England; Kingston, Jamaica; Florida, USA and Port of Spain, Trinidad.

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Still from The Solitary Alchemist

Smallman: The World My Father Made, a short film, tells the story of John Ambrose Kenwyn Rawlins an ordinary Trinidadian of modest means. He was a great father, grandfather and husband; an obedient public servant. Yet the most vivid part of his life was lived in a small workshop beneath his house. In there, at the end of his workday, he made things. From simple push toys to elaborate 1/16th scale waterline battle ship models and dockyards, miniature furniture and dolls houses, he painstakingly constructed everything from scratch, sometimes spending upwards of a year on a single model. The film is an exploration of the worlds both real and imagined that Kenwyn Rawlins made, as remembered by his son Richard Mark Rawlins, who is also one of the specially invited artists in the Jamaica Biennial 2014.

Still from Smallman

Still from Smallman

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National Gallery West Premieres ‘The Price of Memory’ in Montego Bay

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The Montego Bay Cultural Centre and National Gallery West are pleased to present the Montego Bay premiere of the documentary ‘The Price of Memory,’ a documentary film by Karen Marks Mafundikwa, on Saturday, October 18, starting at 7 pm, at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Sam Sharpe Square. The film maker will be in attendance to introduce the film and to answer questions afterwards. Admission will be free but donations in support of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre programmes will be gratefully accepted.

Filmed over the span of eleven years, ‘The Price of Memory’ explores the legacy of slavery in the UK and Jamaica and the initiatives and debates surrounding reparations. The film starts in 2002, with Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Jamaica as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations, when she is petitioned by a small group of Rastafari for slavery reparations. The film traces this petition and the first reparations lawsuit to be filed in Jamaica against the Queen, while interweaving stories of earlier Rastas who pursued reparations and repatriation in the 1960s. The filmmaker travels to the UK, exploring the cities which grew wealthy from slavery and the British monarchy’s legacy of slavery, and follows the debates about reparations in both the Jamaican and British parliaments. ‘The Price of Memory’ premiered at Pan African Film Festival 2014 in Los Angeles and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the upcoming Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival 2014 in late September. The Jamaican premiere was at UWI-Mona on September 7 and the film received a standing ovation from the capacity audience.

Karen Marks Mafundikwe is Jamaican filmmaker who originates from Montego Bay and the opening scene of ‘The Price of Memory’ is set on Sam Sharpe Square. She holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Anthropology from New York University and an MSc in International Development from the Tulane University School of Law. Mafundikwa is also credited with another  documentary feature ‘Shungu: The Resilience of a People’ (2009 which won the Ousmane Sembene Award at the Zanzibar International Film Festival 2010 and Best Documentary, Kenya International Film Festival 2010.

All interested persons are cordially invited to attend the Montego Bay premier of ‘The Price of Memory’ on October 18. This event also launches the National Gallery West/Montego Bay Cultural Centre film programme.

Introducing Countryman (Dir: Dickie Jobson, 1982)

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The NGJ is planning to develop a Caribbean film programme and, eventually also, collection and as our first steps in this direction, we have started integrating film screenings into our Last Sundays programme. We started with Storm Saulter’s Better Mus’ Come in January and have continued today with an earlier Jamaican film Dickie Jobson’s Countryman (1982). Below is Nicole Smythe-Johnson’s introduction to the film and its relevance to the themes of the Natural Histories exhibition.

You could describe Countryman (1982) as one of two things, depending on how generous you’re feeling. You could call it a B movie … or you could call it an arthouse film. To my mind, those descriptions are equally appropriate, though the self-proclaimed “a bush movie’ is probably best.

This is a ninety-minute, overtly low budget film made in Jamaica in 1982. Though there is some gratuitous nudity – early in the film, the female lead (Kristina St Clair) surrenders her blouse to be used as a weapon against an alligator, revealing her bountiful bosom – a great deal else is happening here. There are the stunning vistas, mystical aspects and a narrative that is almost anti-progress, unusual in early 80s Jamaica. For me, all this does not fully emancipate Countryman from B movie status but makes it endearingly so. In the vein of other cult classics such as The Little Shop of Horrors or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it is refreshingly off-beat.

The director of the film- the late, great Richard ”Dickie” Jobson – was a close friend of both Perry Henzell and Chris Blackwell. So Countryman is very much part of that moment of indigenous film exploration that produced the earlier and more popular The Harder They Come (1972). Born in St Ann, Jobson lived in England for much of his life working with the Island group of companies, including a stint as Bob Marley’s manager. Countryman was Jobson’s only feature film, though at the time of his death in December 2008 he was said to be working on a screenplay based on Bob Marley’s song Mr Brown. Continue reading

Last Sundays: January 27, 2013 – featuring Better Mus’ Come

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The NGJ is continuing its Last Sundays programme, whereby it is open every last Sunday of the month, in addition to its regular opening hours, and will thus be open to the public on January 24, 2013, from 11 am to 4 pm.

As a special feature, the NGJ will be screening of the Jamaican feature film Better Mus’ Come (2010), which will start at 1:30 pm. Better Mus’ Come is a dramatic love story framed by a fictionalized account of the political violence of the 1970s in Jamaica. Directed by Storm Saulter and written by Joshua Bratter, Paul Bucknor, and Storm Saulter, the film has received significant acclaim and received the Best Feature Awards at Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival and Bahamas International Film Festival, the Best Director Award at the Pan-African Film Festival, and the Best Actor Award at American Black Film Festival. The film has also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the British Film Institute. The African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) recently announced the launch of its new label, ARRAY, dedicated to multi-platform distribution of black independent film and the label’s first acquisition is Better Mus’ Come, for all US distribution rights.

Visitors will also be able to view the 2012 National Biennial, a special performance piece by Ebony G. Patterson and the NGJ’s permanent exhibitions. Storm Saulter is in one of 86 artists represented in the Biennial.

As has become customary on Last Sundays, general admission and tours are free on that day. The film screening attracts a contribution of $ 200 per person and seating is limited to 80 persons in all, to be admitted on a “first come and first served’ basis. Tickets for the film can be purchased in advance from the NGJ – please call 922-1561 for more information.