Picks and finds from the Conch Shell International Film Festival

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The Caribbean is an extremely fertile ground with a vibrant cultural life where artists of all trades thrive sometimes unbeknownst to the rest of the world. That’s a challenge Festival Director Magaly Colimon-Christopher has decided to take up with the creation of the annual Conch Shell International Film Festival (CSIFF).

Conch Shell International Film Festival

CSIFF has given itself one mission: celebrate short films written or directed by indie artists from the Caribbean and the larger Caribbean diaspora. Held exclusively online, the festival welcomed industry experts, movie enthusiasts, artists, filmmakers, actors, etc. who could share their experiences, industry best practices and discuss challenges they can face within an industry that shed very little light on the Caribbean diaspora.

“Founding Conch Shell International Film Festival is my way of saying “Welcome. We see you. We honor your brilliance.”  to talented artists of the Caribbean diaspora and the Caribbean. It’s a means by which to empower, encourage, and celebrate the cultural influences of the 26 Caribbean nations on the creativity of generations of artists.  It is a space for us to remind each other our voices are vital and essential,”

Magaly Colimon-Christopher

CSIFF was also the opportunity to discover a selection of indie movies by Caribbean creators around this year’s theme: The Hero and Shero. Here’s a rundown of my favourite four. 

Plowing The Stars / Fouyé Zétwal by Wally Fall

Synopsis: On her way to meet her dad, a woman reflects on her life. Along the way, the country looks empty to her and, slowly, memories of past lives are coming back to her. Is it real ? Or is it only a dream ?

I promise there is no chauvinism when I urge you to watch this movie by Director and Writer Wally Fall. Plowing The Stars is nothing but poetry. The luscious imagery is an ode to Guadeloupe and Anyes Noel’s silvery tongue laces the movie like a tender embrace. The comedian not only stars, she also authored the poem echoing her character’s reflexions. Originally in creole, the English captions give access and insight into an experience that transcends language. 

Where The Sun Sets by Ryan Latchmansingh

Synopsis: Ten years after a tragic accident claims the life of his mother, Luke Singh struggles to make ends meet while working as a fisherman. Unable to take care of himself and his sick grandmother, Luke is presented with an opportunity to make a lot of money, but the decision comes at a much greater cost.

If someone asked me what makes a movie inherently Caribbean, I would immediately think about Where The Sun Sets. From the first second, everything shouts Trinidad. Yes, Where The Sun Sets is about the struggle for providing for oneself when offered limited opportunities, but it’s also about compassion and forgiveness. Luke has to let go of a burdenning grudge to do the right thing and become the hero he wants to be.

Jelani Ade-Dada: A Celeb’hair’tion by Chaquillie Elliott and Akeem Anderson

Synopsis: A black, bantu-knot-headed woman goes for a job interview and is left to question the institutionalization of Afro-Centric hairstyles.

Black hair in its natural state is both controversial and revolutionary. The Caribbean diaspora is no stranger to the stigma that is bearing a full crown of kinky-curly hair. We tame it, (de)texturise it, torture our scalps, not one strand should fall out of place – ever. And going natural can come with unintended consequences, from dirty looks to full on discriminations even from our own! A must-watch 10-minute film to contend with a collective traumatic response to centuries of racism and colonialism.

Only Seen As Three by Caleb Grandoit

Synopsis: Based on a poem called “Same Ole”, the film depicts three stereotypes that Black men are often “only seen” to be, want to be, or the only things “they can achieve to be”.

With Only Seen As Three, Caleb Grandoit explores how society shapes our perceptions of each other and particularly Black men. It has a dual impact. Reduced to stereotypes, Black men find themselves imprisoned by the world at large which refuses to acknowledge their inherent human complexity and in their own minds which limit their own possibilities. Another must-watch under 10 minutes bringing poetry to the screen to question our realities.

For more on the Conch Shell International Film Festival, click here. You can also find them on Instagram and Youtube for trailers, interviews and more. 
Photo by Dominik Müller on Unsplash