Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams began a full Brooklyn day event celebrating Caribbean-American Heritage Month in the community room of Borough Hall. To a contingent from St. Gabrielle Senior Center in Flatbush and other attendees he emphasized that: “This building is yours!” and “I want everyone to feel comfortable using it.” The first event of the day was a program of films on culture followed by conversation.
First screened was “Miss Melodie,” an autobiographically inspired documentary film, completed in 2011 by Monique Campbell, while she was in high school. In this short, she and a few of her friends describe their experiences of being raised (left behind) while their moms came to the U.S. to work and make a better life. Those on camera all expressed the pain of not having their mom around as they were maturing in the islands, and the incompleteness of the reunion once here in the U.S. One of the interviewees summed it up; “She sacrificed her relationship with me, for work in America and to start a new life.” There are many who have experienced this sort of family fragmentation and the film is a good starting off point for group discussion.
The film was made as a project of Reel Works, a Brooklyn after-school filmmaking program that pairs young people, ages 14-21 and filmmaking mentors. (Applications are submitted in September for October starting program.) Reel Works also will have a summer program of film screenings–a student and full-length feature film, every Friday at 7:00 p.m., starting at their Gowns location 540 President Street, Suite 2F, starting June 27. For more information: www.reelworks.org or call: (718) 768-9000.
Also screened was “Project 2×1” by Hannah Roodman (2013), a Google Glass documentary about the Hasidic and West Indian communities of Crown Heights. The filmmaker, as an outsider to both communities overcame initial distancing from neighborhood residents until the possible subjects trusted her. They also became intrigued with Google Glass, actually wearing the glasses, as some became part of the filmmaking process. The film is a brief introduction to both communities that while sharing the same urban space, do not generally interact and previously had tensions in their midst. Members of the Hasidic community and caribBEING founder and director Shelly Vidia Worrell did a Q&A following the films.
One Trinidadian viewer (who lives in Canarsie) thanked the filmmaker, “I’ve always heard about 770 Eastern Parkway. It was always a big mystery, but never knew what it was. (A place of study for Hasidic men, and a place of worship.)
CaribBEING is also producing an outdoor series of films this summer, the first is at Amersfort Park, E. 38 between I & J on July 9. Cultural activities start at 5:00 p.m. and a film will screen at dusk.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Author Showcase was taking place outside on the steps of Borough Hall, presented by the ever-entertaining W. Wayne McDonald, of the Caribbean Cultural Theatre. Writers from Guyana, Grenada, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, Canada, Haiti, Jamaica and Panama were among those meeting and greeting the lunchtime crowd.
During the afternoon and early evening, four more feature length films by Caribbean filmmakers and a conversation on the “Art of Filmmaking” with producer and actor Warrington Hudlin, took place upstairs in Borough Hall’s courtroom.