On June 10, the inaugural Hampton Roads Caribbean Film Festival took place at Slover Library in Norfolk, setting out to start a new tradition of sharing the importance of the Caribbean-American community through short films, features and documentaries.
With Coastal Virginia being a diverse home to numerous cultural and ethnic backgrounds, Founder and Festival Director Genice Phillips organized the event to celebrate Caribbean heritage with unique storytelling.
“I hope what people take away is an understanding and more appreciation for Caribbean life and Caribbean stories,” Phillips said.
Through the chosen films and documentaries, Phillips and her team wanted to reflect on the expansion of the Caribbean community, while also drawing on the parallels between current affairs in the Caribbean islands and America.
“I want to show that the stories and the experiences that Caribbean people have are similar and alike to what is happening here in the U.S.,” remarked Phillips.
One of the featured documentaries was My Father’s Land, which focused on the life of Papa Jah, a Haitian native who has lived in the Bahamas for the past 40 years. After hearing the news that his father is ill, Papa Jah decides to risk everything, including his tenuous immigration status, to return to Haiti in order to see his father again.
The date of film festival was specifically chosen to highlight the month of June for being recognized nationwide as Caribbean American Heritage Month. This month takes on the role of spreading knowledge and awareness of how Caribbean immigrants have contributed to America.
The themes of love, hardship, family, determination and courage are also present throughout the six films.
“We’re here, and we’re a part of the American fabric,” Phillips said. “Our stories are similar, and the themes from the films are universal.”
Phillips plans to continue the film festival by gaining support from the Caribbean community and collaborating with other Caribbean non-profits in the area.
For more on the Hampton Roads Caribbean Film Fest, please visit HRCaribFilmFest.com.