I attended the Lignum Vitae Film festival yesterday with fellow Filmmaker Craig "Amaziyah the great" Kirkland who I met at the 2012 Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival through Barbara Blake Hannah. One of the gentlest giants you could ever meet.
I picked him up at the Toll Road round about in Spanish town and we drove down to Mandeville not having a clue how to get to NCU. Luckily with Android GPS we were able to locate it. We arrive 3:53 PM giving us enough time to ask around for directions to get to the front door by 4 PM. It was held in a large auditorium that I estimate holds about 200 – 250 persons and it was packed with as many people if not more. I kid you not these were the most enthusiastic movie watchers I have had the pleasure of encountering. Not even Carib during a kickers compares.
The event started with the national anthem being sung by all in attendance, followed by opening remarks a prayer and the showing of the films. The screening opened with my film “Protect and Serve” the black and white silent film about a cop who turns to alcohol abuse after shooting a 9 year old girl while on duty. This makes the second time this film has opened a screening, the first being Kingston on the Edge 2012.
I was extremely nervous. Sweating profusely and even though the AC was not working I guarantee you this was not just the heat. I kept wondering, what if no one enjoys it, what if people don’t get it? Man I hope this girl next to me doesn’t recognize me in the film. To my amazement, when the film ended, everyone applauded. Like Amaziyah said, complete strangers. I was shocked. They actually liked it. The next film in the category of Silent film was a film called “Roses”. Now let me tell you, I have a special place in my heart for my film “Protect and Serve” but without a doubt the emotions I felt while watching “Roses” I knew right away it was the winner. The film was amazingly clever, the story telling was excellent, the imagery, cinematography was great. The crowd was ecstatic. They were driven wild by every moment of it. Man these kids are amazing I thought.
There were only two silent films in the category so the next segment was the animation category. I was the only one that entered an animation, so I figured I had won, but since there was no competition, I was listening for the crowd’s approval to determine whether this film was a winner. Again this film was dear to me because it’s my first proper animation over a minute. The crowd was not only excited by the driving action but they were bowled over by the comedic moments. I was very grateful for that. To hear the laughter I thought man, I need to do more of this.
Then came the short film section which had over 12 films each potentially running 10 minutes each. I can’t get into each film at this point as there were so many good ones. One was a documentary, so unfortunately it was stuck in a category it couldn’t possibly compete in and the rest were story based. The crowd had a mix of emotions all the way through. When “Stay Firm” played, the crowd was definitely emotionally invested. Amaziyah’s film was certainly a hit. Palace amusement would love this crowd. It really proves that people like to see themselves or their own people on screen.
After the screening it was time to mingle and eat. Amaziyah was snapping pictures, making everyone a star. Several people came up to us and complimented our films, took pictures with us, we had discussions on varying aspects of films and then we went back inside to hear the judges announcements. I was first to receive an award for best animation. It was a very proud moment. It was the only award I expected based on the competition (LOL) so I pretty much wasn’t paying much attention from that point until a former colleague hit me on the shoulder and said go collect your other award. I was like what? Huh? Only to look at the podium and see people staring at me. I collected the prize and came back to my standing spot and asked my former Colleague, “what did I win this for?” she laughed and said best Foley for “Enter the Blackeberri”. Wow, I was shocked. I was never expecting that film to win an award. I did work very hard on the sound but never thought it would be recognized.
After I collected the second basket I thought man wouldn’t it be great if Amaziyah won something, but with all this great competition I wondered what the chances were. When best script, best story and best actor past I thought well, it looks as if it was just wishful thinking. Amaziyah was busy snapping away with the camera playing director when all of a sudden I heard “Best director goes to Criag Kirkland for stand firm”. I don’t know whether he didn’t hear, or he heard and thought his hearing was going but he wasn’t budging. I extended my arm to grab his camera and he stared at me as if to say “Did they just call my name.” I had to say out loud to him, bro give me the camera and go collect your prize big director. It was then he proceeded to do so.
What a big night. Never would have expected all that. We did our photo ops and interviews and it was time to head back in at 9:35. All the way back Amaziyah and I were talking about how we weren’t going to enter or show up because the timing was inconvenient but we persevered and it paid off. I drove a little bit faster to shave some time off the 2 hours journey so I could get home and get back to doing some work at 11:30 PM till 2:00 AM, all the while occasionally looking over at my trophy. Thinking, that’ll do Kev...that’ll do.
I am a Filmmaker, Animator and Writer. I love telling stories and making them come true. You will see me on the big screen soon enough.