Film festival explores issues, celebrates culture of the Caribbean

The second annual Caribbean Cinematic Festival takes place at the Community Folk Art Center, February 6 through 10.

The smell of yellow rice and Cuban sandwiches wafted through the air as visitors energetically discussed human rights and feminism at the Community Folk Art Center on Saturday night. It was the third night of the second annual Caribbean Cinematic Festival, which brought filmmakers, dancers, poets and photographers together to celebrate the culture of the Caribbean islands.

Photo: Submitted
Attendees at the Caribbean Cinematic Festival on Saturday night.

From Feb. 6 to 10, the festival showcased the Caribbean way of life using food, art, jewelry and performances. Filmmakers Selena Blake and Celiany Rivera were among those who had a strong presence during the weeklong festival, and they screened their different but cohesive works.

Blake investigates the issue of homophobia in Jamaica in her film, "Taboo ... Yardies." She interviews people from all walks of life but especially gives a voice to those "who dare to speak up and out about the intolerance and violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender."

"I don't believe the [Caribbean] culture is thinking at this moment, 'Maybe we need gay rights,'" Blake said. She went on to describe how strict laws against sodomy still exist throughout the Caribbean.

Blake said she was an advocate for human rights and injustice: "I feel as if I have to do something ... Right now it's about injustice in Jamaica for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender [individuals] there, " she said.

Filmmaker Celiany Rivera highlights the all-female Cuban hip-hop trio Las Krudas in her film "Queen of Myself: Las Krudas d'Cuba." The trio has taken Cuba by storm by revolutionizing feminism and highlighting the importance of women's issues with their mix of hip-hop and street cultural performance. They've even created Tropazankoz, a community theater stilt show.

"As a filmmaker I have the responsibility to film characters in a way to be remembered, moved and extremely triggering to the core as a woman," Rivera said. "We don't have a lot of lesbian movies because we don't have a right to a space. Any representation of queer issues is something, because there's nothing."

Syracuse resident Elizabeth Preston, 69, said that she saw the event in the Syracuse New Times and wanted to support the Center and all of its gifted performers, because women are a strong force.

The Caribbean Cinematic Festival ended on Sunday with a Caribbean brunch and three film screenings by Michele Stephenson, Sandra Stephens and Pam Sporn.

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