Asking a member of the entertainment scene anything about the local film industry invariably gets the same response – What local film industry? Perhaps this may change in the months to come.
Although a lack of adequate resources prevents many Guyanese artistes from expressing their creative talents through the medium of film this has not entirely stymied the ‘industry’.
The spirit of ingenuity that characterises Guyanese has allowed several productions of note to become a reality, usually as a result of the largesse and generosity of private citizens and organizations both locally and abroad.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport recently launched the Caribbean Press as a means of publishing local and regional writers as well as to re-publish the classics of Caribbean and Guyanese literature that have helped our cultural identity.
Drawing a parallel at that presentation President Bharrat Jagdeo spoke briefly on the fate of short films in Guyana. He said that he was looking into the possibility of offering grants for the production of at least ten short films since he had been approached by a number of persons in the industry.
In the last few years Guyana has had limited success with very short ‘film’ presentations mostly in the form of music videos for performing artists, shot and edited locally but even here the local performers are heading to other countries such as Trinidad and Jamaica, to have their videos shot and produced there and later released here in Guyana.
However there have been several actual films that have been shot locally either in part or wholly, though not edited in Guyana. Some of note are Rainbow Raani (2006) by Pradeep Samtani and Mickey Nivelli, Guyana 1838 by Rohit Jagessar and going back even further The Terror and The Time (1981) by Rupert Roopnaraine and Martin Carter, as well as In the Sky’s Wild Noise (1983) by Lewanne Jones.
There were the Right and the Wrong directed by Vivian Lee, and Agro Seizeman directed by F. Hamley Case
Footage from two of the named films was even reused in a documentary on the life and death of Walter Rodney that was released in November 2009 by Guyanese Cameron Chung.
The members of the acting community had something to say on the matter too, most were very enthusiastic about the idea and consider it a “giant step forward” for the industry, of these Mr. Henry Rodney, a well known local actor both on stage and television had this to say, “We see a lot of our country in International films and we do not realize or recognize that we are looking at Guyana because such a masterful job has been done by these international companies of editing and preparing the footage.
“The awarding of grants to fund such creative ventures would do much to lift the standards of the industry, and create wholesome artistic value, allowing us to perhaps even compete in the regional and international market.”
He noted that here at home and even in his travels it was becoming increasingly harder to locate clips and copies of films and documentaries based on Guyana or featuring it in some way.
He also said that there is no lack of talented and experienced members of the Guyanese acting community to spearhead such activities and projects, one recommendation that came to mind very easily for him was Paloma Mohammed, who has won the Guyana Prize for Drama on three separate occasions and the Caribbean Cacique Award for Contribution to the Arts, one of the youngest persons to ever have achieved that honour.
Enthusiasm and interest was unanimous among all the members of the acting community that were asked to comment on the possibility, they all felt that the time for such a step had long arrived and that it could only do more to improve the lot of the arts locally.
Among their concern was another deterrent to the production of local films, namely the lack of proper copyright legislation which means that a producer would invest in a film and be unable to regain his investment because anyone who feels the inclination to do so could simply get a copy from a friend or off the internet.
The actors and artistes also pointed out that if there was going to be any forward movement in the industry then those with talent but not the financial wherewithal to indulge their passion would have to be able to gain access to certain facilities to make local film production a serious force in the Guyanese entertainment scene.
It is a sad reality that every day talent is lost to the world because circumstances dictate other paths for these people and there is no opportunity for them to showcase their abilities.
According to one actor who also doubles as a video editor filming equipment is very expensive; HD cameras, boom mikes, audio reflectors, lighting setups all of which come at a steep cost if a producer or filmmaker chooses to use the services of a private contractor.
It was suggested that perhaps a studio could be built and equipped to create a forum for young artists, writers, directors and producers – a place where the experience of veterans could be passed on to a new generation while still preserving the ethics and traditions of the previous one.
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