In recognition of Caribbean Heritage Month in June, AFI Silver once again presents the DC Caribbean FilmFest, now in its 17th year. The festival is co-presented by AFI Silver, Caribbean Association of World Bank and IMF Staff (CAWI), Caribbean Professional Network (CPN), Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) and Africa World Now Project. Highlights include “Journey of a Soca King”, a hotly anticipated documentary about Trinidadian soca superstar Machel Montano; “Live Cargo”, a suspenseful Bahamian thriller starring Lekeith Stanfield; “Give Me Future”, a Sundance-debuted documentary about Major Lazer’s landmark 2015 concert in Havana; the U.S. Premiere of “The Watchman”, an award-winning Dominican drama; and Gang of the French Caribbean”, a France-set gangster thriller from Guadeloupian filmmaker Jean Claude Flamand Barny.
The 17th DC Caribbean FilmFest runs from June 9–12.
This year’s feature film lineup follows below. For tickets and full calendar of events, visit AFI.com/Silver.
— MACHEL MONTANO: JOURNEY OF A SOCA KING
Q&A with filmmaker Bart Phillips
Fri, June 9, 7:30 p.m.
Trinidadian musician Machel Montano is the undisputed king of soca, a genre of music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1970s that blends calypso, reggae, bhangra and funk. Making music for more than 30 years — he started at age nine — Machel is known for his fast-paced, energetic and unpredictable style. A mainstay at Trinidad and Tobago’s annual Carnival celebration who has recorded songs with international artists like Ariana Grande, Sean Paul and Pitbull, Machel is now also a sought- after movie star, following his acting debut in 2016’s BAZODEE. MACHEL MONTANO: JOURNEY OF A SOCA KING tells the story of one man’s mission to bring soca music and Caribbean culture to the world. Featuring live performances, archival footage and interviews with collaborators such as Major Lazer, Beenie Man and Trinidad James, this exuberant documentary takes an in-depth look at Machel’s incredible life and legacy. DIR/SCR Bart Phillips; PROD James Few, Lee Harris. Trinidad and Tobago/U.S., 2017, color, 78 min. In English. NOT RATED
–GIVE ME FUTURE
Fri, June 9, 9:45 p.m.
2015 was a landmark year for electronic dancehall superband Major Lazer. After topping the EDM charts with their international hit single “Lean On,” the band continued its world tour, mounting elaborate shows, not only in traditional destinations but also in more challenging locations around the globe. Fueled by a dream of “making the world smaller by making the party bigger,” the group furthered their mission of peace through music with a free concert in the unlikeliest of venues — downtown Havana, Cuba, where no American band at the height of their fame had previously been allowed to perform. Without knowing whether anyone in the country even knew who they were, they hoped to reach a potential crowd of 50,000. After half a million exuberant fans showed up, music history was made on a massive scale. In what began as a concert film intended to document this groundbreaking event, director Austin Peters turns the camera on a burgeoning youth movement, fusing exhilarating performance footage with authentic stories of cultural and political shifts in a country on the precipice of change. (Note courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.) DIR/SCR Austin Peters; PROD Diplo, Jay Peterson, Jack Turner. Cuba/U.S., 2017, color, 85 min. In English and Spanish with English subtitles. NOT RATED
–MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART
Sat, June 10, 3:00 p.m.
Suspecting that there was something ugly in her family’s past, documentary filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo excavates the buried secrets surrounding her uncle Miguel’s death, cracking open a Pandora’s box of unresolved family drama. After searching for Miguel’s partner Robert for two years without success, Robert turns up: but he’s not the same man. He has reinvented himself as Father Aquin, a Franciscan monk with 25 years of pent-up grief and bitterness. For the first time, a member of Miguel’s family wants to hear Aquin’s side of the story — but is it too little, too late? This story, about the mistakes of the past and the second chances of the present, is a cautionary tale about the unresolved conflicts wrought by AIDS, and a nuanced exploration of how faith is used and abused in times of crisis. DIR/SCR/PROD Cecilia Aldarondo. Puerto Rico/U.S., 2016, color, 70 min. In English. NOT RATED
— SERENADE FOR HAITI
Sat, June 10, 4:45 p.m.
Q&A with producer Anne Flatté
“Music is our refuge,” says a student at the Sainte Trinité Music School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. “With music…we feel we are in another world, far from troubles.” Recognizing those troubles but celebrating the refuge, this documentary is a testimony to the role that art can play in creating community and sustaining hope under the most difficult circumstances. Shot in Port-au-Prince over a seven-year period both before and after the 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and reduced much of the city to rubble, SERENADE FOR HAITI finds a sanctuary of hope at Sainte Trinité, which has been training young people in classical European and Haitian musical traditions since the 1950s. Replete with vivid images and joyous sounds, the film focuses on the students — most of them poor, some orphaned by political violence — and their teachers, many former students themselves. All speak eloquently about how the discipline of music has helped them discover their own voices and value in the world, but nothing speaks more forcefully than the glorious music itself. After the quake, with the school’s stately white buildings in ruins, lessons and practice continue outdoors, maintaining a rhythm of resilience. In one teacher’s words, “The country is destroyed. All the buildings are destroyed. Music must go on. Life goes on.” (Note courtesy of San Francisco International Film Festival.) Official Selection, 2016 DOC NYC Film Festival; 2017 San Francisco and Miami film festivals. DIR/SCR/PROD Owsley Brown; PROD Christy McGill, Anne Flatté. Haiti/U.S., 2016, color, 70 min. In Creole and French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
— GANG OF THE FRENCH CARIBBEAN (LE GANG DES ANTILLAIS)
Sat, June 10, 7:00 p.m.
In 1970s Paris, recent Guadeloupian transplant Jimmy Larivière (Djedje Apali, PALM TREES IN THE SNOW, YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL) struggles to make ends meet. Needing to support his young daughter, he falls in with “le Gang des Antillais,” a criminal gang of dispossessed Caribbean immigrants like himself, some politically radicalized, others just opportunistic. After a string of hold-ups, Jimmy gains a taste of money, power and excitement, but at what cost? Official Selection, 2017 African Diaspora International Film Festival, BAMcinématek’s New Voices in Black Cinema. DIR/SCR Jean-Claude Flamand-Barny; SCR Philippe Bernard, Thomas Cheysson, Yves Nilly, from the novel by Loïc Léry; PROD Sébastien Onomo, Serge Lalou. Guadeloupe/France, 2015, color, 90 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
— KING OF THE DANCEHALL
Sat, June 10, 9:00 p.m.
Nick Cannon directs and stars in this high-energy musical about a young man from Brooklyn who gets caught up in the vibrant Kingston music scene during a visit to Jamaica. When Tarzan (Cannon) hatches a ganja-based scheme to cover the costs of medical care for his sick mother (Whoopi Goldberg), he has to decamp from his native New York to Kingston, Jamaica. Once on the Caribbean island, he solicits the help of his fast-talking cousin (Busta Rhymes) and makes quick headway in the world of weed. But there’s another, much tougher scene that he’s not prepared for — the dancehall. (Note courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival.) DIR/SCR/PROD Nick Cannon; PROD Roger Ubina. Jamaica/U.S., 2016, color, 100 min. In English. NOT RATED
— AYITI MON AMOUR
Sun, June 11, 2:30 p.m.
A grieving teenager discovers he has a superpower; an old fisherman thinks the cure for his ailing wife can be found in the sea; and a muse struggles to exit the story her author is penning, in this magical neorealist fable set in Haiti five years after the devastating 2010 earthquake. While the pain of the destruction remains evident — in the rubble of decimated buildings and in ghostly images that float beneath the ocean’s surface — filmmaker Guetty Felin’s film eschews the images that saturated screens after the disaster and refuses to tell a tale of victimhood. Instead, she places the island’s narrative back in the hands of Haitians, tapping into her past work in the documentary field to infuse the realities of modern-day Haiti with a lyrical touch. (Note courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival.) Official Selection, 2016 Toronto, San Francisco and Stockholm film festivals. DIR/SCR/PROD Guetty Felin; PROD Jessica Anthony, Hervé Cohen. Haiti, 2016, color, 88 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
— THE WATCHMAN (2017) (EL HOMBRE QUE CUIDA) U.S. Premiere
Sun, June 11, 4:30 p.m.
Taciturn Juan (Héctor Aníbal) is a watchman at one of the lush holiday villas lining the Dominican Republic’s seaside, properties owned by the urban elite and used as playgrounds for the rich and famous. When the spoiled son of the villa’s owner turns up with a friend, Juan’s fragile tranquility is shattered. Brooding over his wife, who recently left him and is already carrying another man’s child, Juan tries to focus on his work. But the rich kids have him on 24-hour call, and their selfish demands push the situation even further out of control. Winner, Yellow Robin Award, 2017 Curãçao International Film Festival Rotterdam. DIR/SCR/PROD Alejandro Andújar; SCR/PROD Amelia del Mar Hernández. Dominican Republic/Puerto Rico/Brazil, 2017, color, 85 min. In Spanish with English subtitles. NOT RATED
— BEFORE THE ROOSTER CROWS (ANTES QUE CANTE EL GALLO)
Sun, June 11, 6:30 p.m.
Puerto Rican teenager Carmín dreams of leaving her village high in the mountains of central Puerto Rico to go live with her mom in America, but her hopes are dashed when her long-absent father moves in with her and her strict grandmother after years spent in jail. She is reticent to accept the charming newcomer, but eventually her father’s presence becomes a salve for the sting of being away from her mother. As their relationship develops, so does Carmín. With confusing emotions swirling in her head and her budding sexuality complicating the situation, she must cope with the pangs of growing up. DIR/PROD Ari Maniel Cruz; SCR/PROD Kisha Tikina Burgos; PROD Andrei Nemcik, Tristana Robles. Puerto Rico, 2016, color, 98 min. In Spanish with English subtitles. NOT RATED
— THE HOUSE ON COCO ROAD
Sun, June 11, 8:45 p.m.
This touching documentary is an intimate portrait of activist and teacher Fannie Haughton, who moves her children from Oakland, CA, to participate in the Grenada Revolution in the 1970s only to find her family in harm’s way after the U.S. military invasion in 1983. Haughton’s son, filmmaker Damani Baker, blends compelling contemporary interviews (with Haughton herself and activist Angela Davis, among others) with illuminating archival footage to tell a story of liberation, resistance and self-determination that resonates today. Score by DC native Meshell Ndegeocello. DIR/SCR/PROD Damani Baker; SCR Eisa Davis, Jon Fine, Cameron Russell; PROD Danny Glover, Belvie Rooks. Grenada/U.S., 2016, color, 78 min. In English. NOT RATED
— LIVE CARGO
Mon, June 12, 7:20 p.m.
Following a devastating loss, Nadine (Dree Hemingway, STARLET) and Lewis (Lakeith Stanfield, ATLANTA, GET OUT) retreat to a small Bahamian island where Nadine’s family has kept a house for many years. As they try to heal and move forward with their relationship, the community on the island shows signs of unraveling, with the island’s mayor (Robert Wisdom, THE WIRE) squaring off against Doughboy (Leonard Earl Howze, BARBERSHOP), a human trafficker who manipulates an impressionable homeless teenager (Sam Dillon, BOYHOOD) into assisting with his smuggling operation. AFI Conservatory Class of 2014 alumnus Logan Sandler’s debut feature balances suspense with poignancy, with a sharp eye for the small details of everyday life in the Bahamas. Winner, Best Film, 2016 Bahamas International Film Festival; Official Selection, 2016 AFI FEST, Tribeca Film Festival. DIR/SCR Logan Sandler; SCR/PROD Thymaya Payne; PROD Rene Bastian, Lauren Brady, Mortimer Canepa, Randolph Hearst Harris, Tina Preschitz. Bahamas/U.S., 2016, b&w, 88 min. In English and Creole with English subtitles. NOT RATED
— PLAY THE DEVIL
Mon, June 12, 9:30 p.m.
A gifted student from a working class family, Gregory is favorably positioned to win a coveted medical scholarship. Yet he secretly cultivates a desire to become a photographer. James, an established businessman, uses his wealth and access to pique the young man’s latent artistic inclinations. When James cannot accept Gregory’s boundaries, the relationship spirals into a fateful, carnal dance during the “Jab” (devil) play, on Carnival’s Monday night. Bursting with confidence, style and vision against the lush landscape of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival, Bahamian writer/director Maria Govan’s sophomore feature complicates notions of masculinity, privilege and sexuality in this nuanced yet brutal coming-of-age portrait that deftly thwarts any easy moral judgments of her characters’ actions and desires. (Note courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival.) DIR/SCR/PROD Maria Govan; PROD Abigail Hadeed. Trinidad and Tobago, 2016, color, 89 min. In English. NOT RATED
The 17th DC Caribbean FilmFest runs from June 9–12. For tickets and full calendar of events, visit AFI.com/Silver.