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Bahamian films “My Father’s Land” and “Passage” featured during the 2018 Beijing College Student Film Festival


Original Text By: Vicki Cann, PhD Candidate at Communication University of China

Bahamian box office hits “Passage” and “My Father’s Land” opened night two of the three-day Beijing College Student Film Festival, held at the Beiguo Theater on the campus of Beijing Normal University in Beijing, China. The event was especially significant as 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the Beijing College Student’s Film Festival and also the first time the Caribbean took center stage. During the opening night, Mr. Zhou Zuoyu, Vice-President of Beijing Normal University, delivered the keynote speech. "After 25 years of development, the film festival has become an important stage to display and popularize excellent domestic films, an effective platform to promote communications and dialogues among film-makers, film researchers and movie-goers, and the cradle of developing and cultivating new talents in the industry," Zhou said.

Huang Huilin, founder of the Beijing College Student Film Festival and director of the Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture, reviewed the 25-year history of the film festival, saying that the spirit of inheritance is very important to Chinese filmmakers. "It is really a relief to see that the Beijing College Student Film Festival has become one of the top film festivals in China. Over the past 25 years, a total of 6,566 domestic films have been short-listed for competition, and 377 films have won awards. Meanwhile, more and more universities have joined the festival, which reflects the ever-growing significance of the film festival," Huang added.

Bahamian Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China H.E. Robert Sterling Quant, along with a list of other diplomats, distinguished guests, and representatives from The Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, UNESCO, and an audience of enthusiastic film industry experts and friends of the Caribbean, were also in attendance to witness this historic event.

“Passage”, directed by Kareem Mortimer, documents the smuggling of Haitian immigrants through The Bahamas to the United States. While “My Father’s Land”, by K. Tyler Johnstone, executive producer, captures the life of a Haitian gardener, depicting a familiar Caribbean narrative that touches on immigration, culture and identity, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of migration to improve the quality of life for all involved.

In the words of Ms. Ayesha Wharton, Charge d’ Affairs a.i. from the Embassy of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, “The Beijing Caribbean Film Festival gives Chinese viewers an opportunity to see the Caribbean on screen. We hope to redefine the Caribbean in the eyes of Chinese viewers. The Caribbean is the perfect location both to make blockbuster films and to create and produce engaging local films from within its own vibrant industry."

Organized by Beijing Normal University and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Radio, Film and Television, the mission of this year’s festival is to promote, support, increase and heighten interest and awareness of Caribbean films, filmmakers, screen writers, producers and directors in the Caribbean Basin and the Diaspora. The films highlight the true Caribbean reality. They also allude to poignant matters that remain key concerns in our post-colonial societies; issues involving, immigration, race, identity and the constant struggle for a better life.

The Caribbean Embassies in Beijing have joined together to harness synergies between the vibrant and thriving film industry in China and the burgeoning Caribbean film industry while deepening connections between the two in the process. Hopefully, Caribbean films can support the objectives of various Embassies in regards to tourism promotions, support for local cultural and creative industries and other public diplomacy initiatives.