By Stephen Weir
Horrific crashes are the stuff movies are made of. The Titanic. The Hindenburg. The Twin Towers. And if the judges at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF) are right the next Jamaica feature film to be made is sure to be the second biggest train wreck of them all.
The CTFF has given the nod to a film proposal that wants to create a drama around the most famous Jamaican train wreck you have never heard of – the 1957 crash of a packed train near Kendal, Jamaica.
“Yeah you probably never heard of the Kendal. I didn’t, and I am Jamaican,” said award-winning filmmaker Gabriel Blackwood. “When I did learn about the Kendal crash I knew I had to tell the story. You know when the train derailed over 60 years ago, it was the world’s second worse train wreck!”
Kendal is the name of the feature length film the young Jamaican is gearing up to make, and her plans got a big boost last Sunday when she won the CTFF’s $10,000 “Big Pitch” Incubator competition.
It was held on Sunday morning in the second floor restaurant at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on King Street West. The Big Pitch had 11 filmmakers from the Caribbean, Canada and South Africa telling film and TV industry professionals why their movie ideas should get funding.
“The Big Pitch is the culmination of 3 months of preparation, followed by an intensive 3-day pitch and training session designed to refine their pitches,” explains the Caribbean Tale Film Festival organizers. The Big Pitch is one of the most popular events occurring during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).” The Big Pitch did indeed attract the film and TV industry as over a 100 people filled the restaurant to hear about the proposed movies.
There were two dominant and very different themes to most of the pitches – family dramas about the plight of women within the diaspora and supernatural films and TV series about Trini vampires, Haitian mermaids and Cuban ghosts.
There were three film proposals from South Africa (two of which won awards at the Big Pitch), two proposals from Canada, two pitches from Cuba and single presentations from Trinidad, Jamaica, Belize and an American Haitian proposal from the team that opened the festival last week with their thriller Rattlesnakes.
The winning pitch wants to combine the fictional story of a young girl who is raped on an ill fated Jamaican Sunday outing and the real story of the wreck of a wooden train near Kendal, Jamaica. There were 1,600 on the train that day, 175 passengers died and over 800 were injured.
The train went off its tracks on the return journey of an excursion hosted by St Anne’s Roman Catholic Church in Kingston. The investigators said the cause of the tragedy was a failure of the breaks, which were widely believed to have been helped along by vandals.
“The $10,000 is greatly appreciated, but we are still on the hunt for investors,” said Director Blackwood. “We are looking at filming in early 2021 in Jamaica.’
The Caribbean movie ideas that didn’t make the cut
Soucouyant. Teneille Newallo is an accomplished Trinidad and Tobago actor and filmmaker. Her outline for Soucouyant is a dark fantasy about Caribbean vampires, a Soucouyant, and desperate humans fighting it out prior to the arrival of Columbus to T&T.
Mother Water. Haitian American actor and producer Jimmy Jean-Louis proposed movie is about a couple that survive an air crash on Haiti. The husband and wife are taken to a village where the locals are holding a water festival. There are miracles performed and the wife questions what she is willing to sacrifice to the Mermaid to achieve her deepest desire.
Seven steps to heaven. Belize filmmaker Leon Lozano wants to make a feature film about a young jazz musician who travels to the homeland of his parents. He seeks out Lupita, a young woman he fell for when he last visited Belize as an adolescent.
The Grave and the kite. A Cuban child inherits a leaky home inhabited by the spirits of his African ancestors! Producer Frank Ernesto Carvajal pitched the film idea.
Nara. Two siblings, confined to their Cuba home due to a mysterious illness, struggle with independence after the death of their mother. Pitched by award-winning Cuba director, screenwriter and actress Rosa Maria Rodrigues.