To the rest of America, the countries of the Caribbean might seem like nothing more than a bunch of beachy vacation destinations. But when Jason Fitzroy Jeffers imagines the region, he sees the future.
Jeffers, who is from Barbados, says the Caribbean is a microcosm of mixing.
"The people of the Caribbean, the stories of the Caribbean, serve as an example of where our society is going, like it or not," says Jeffers, the cofounder and artistic director of Third Horizon, a group of Miami-based writers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians with ties to the Caribbean. "Even though there are people that are opposed to the idea of racial mixing and kinda want to stay in their corner, it's happening. In the next hundred years, there are gonna be a lot more brown people in this country than there ever were before. When I say brown, I mean there is blending of all different types of races.
"I mean, what is Miami anyway?" he asks. "Is Miami an American city? Is it a Latin American city? Is it a Caribbean city? It's probably all three. It's probably more Bermuda Triangle than anything else, but it's a little bit of all those things."
The Third Horizon Caribbean Film Festival, debuting this weekend at O Cinema Wynwood, aims to add depth and complexity to touristy ideas about the Caribbean. It's also replete with movies about change. Some of the films explore these themes in the face of destruction, such as the festival's opening-night movie, Ayti Mon Amour, a drama set in postearthquake-damaged Haiti that recently screened at the Toronto Film Festival.
Jeffers, who produced the acclaimed 2014 short documentary Papa Machete, also shot in Haiti, says, "It's such a cliché to say that it's a magical place... I think that [Ayti Mon Amour] is able to explore the weight of loss and the power of resilience in the wake of disaster and just poetry in people's lives that is so beautiful."
He also points to the documentary The House on Coco Road, a film illustrating a different kind of violence effecting change, this time in the former colony of Grenada. "The idea that Ronald Reagan sent American troops to the tiny island of Grenada in the early 1980s to stave off this — in my mind — overblown threat of communism is one of these facts that isn't widely known enough, and I think the film is so elegantly constructed to tell that story through a personal angle."
Other features include Generation Revolution — a documentary from the UK about young "black and brown" activists seeking change in that country's fraught political landscape — and a sci-fi allegory about a post-alien invasion in Ethiopia called Crumbs. The fest will also screen a "classic of the Caribbean canon," the 1976 film Pressure.
As a sidebar to the films, the fest will host a panel to benefit filmmakers called "Bruk Out: How Caribbean Film Can Reach a Global Audience," featuring industry insiders. Jeffers says, "It's basically a conversation about how filmmakers and creatives from the Caribbean, or really any kind of marginalized group, can kind of break into the international film market — like, what are the strategies maneuvering through that?"
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Beyond the films and visuals, Third Horizon has lined up a concert featuring London-based performance-artist-turned-musician Gaika, who is of Jamaican and Grenadian heritage and stands as an embodiment of the hybridization of the Caribbean. Jeffers describes his music as a "really kind of avant-garde, underground, dark, industrial, dancehall type of thing."
As proud as he is of his roots, Jeffers has no illusions about the region's postcolonial struggles. That too is something he and his cofounders at Third Horizon want to show, and even celebrate, as creating positive change even if that change can be difficult and strained.
"It's not about saying that the Caribbean is better than anything else," he says. "That's not it at all. It's about saying there's something that happened there that is worthy of a deeper look because it's more than lying on the beaches and drinking some rum. No, something happened there that is prognostic to what the rest of the world is going through right now."
Third Horizon Caribbean Film Festival
Thursday, September 29, through Sunday, October 2, at O Cinema Wynwood, 90 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-571-9970; thirdhorizonfilmfestival.com. Tickets for all films cost $12 plus fees, and include a free Red Stripe beer. Admission to Gaika is free for the first 50 RSVPs and costs $10 after that. Admission to all other events is free.