A Dominican short film called “Territory” by director Jael Joseph has bagged the award for Best Short Documentary at the 18th annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF). Incidentally, this was the director Jael Joseph’s first submission to the festival and she was elated to win an award on the first try.
The festival was held from the 6th to the 22nd of September, 2023. The win didn’t come easy though as “Territory” tied for the award with “Negra, Yo Soy Bella” made by Puerto Rico’s Vashi Korin.
“To win on my first try, it’s just an incredible feeling and I dedicate this win to my late parents and the Kalinago people of Dominica, who are still navigating how to best protect and retain their culture, traditions and identity and whose trust and openness allowed me to share their stories.” Jael said, after receiving the award.
In her acceptance speech, Jael made it a point to be thankful of all the support and love she received from family, friends, colleagues and mentors singling out CTFF founder, Frances-Ann Solomon whom she called a great “inspiration and influence.”
The Caribbean Tales Film Festival is known for its focus on celebrating and appreciating, not just established but emerging talents as well. They cater to not just Caribbean film makers and artists but to those from Africa as well, adding another dimension to their repertoire.
As a result, the Caribbean Tales Film Festival has become the home of a multi ethnic cauldron in which many intriguing and dynamic films and artists come together to deliver diverse forms of storytelling.
Eco survivors became the theme of 2023, reflecting the general mood in the region. This was undertaken with a special focus on highlighting the effects of climate change on Caribbean Small Island States (SIDS) and Canada.
A programming committee consisting of film industry professionals– actors, producers, critics and tech. They review selected films and are responsible for deciding the winners in each category. They act as a representation of the various facets of Caribbean culture, especially with regard to the Caribbean film industry.
When it comes to “Territory” being nominated and eventually winning in its category, the CTFF festival director Diana Webley believes it is down to the fact that the film “provided a rare peek inside the Kalinago Territory in Dominica.”
“It is a film that reflects the current political situation and we wanted to shed light on it, she adds.”
For the purpose of filming “Territory”, Jael and her crew followed Anette Sanford, Samoza John and Natasha Green, descendants of the island’s first people, for a span of 10 days. Each of them is a descendant of the original inhabitants of the island and were gracious enough to give their opinions on the individual and communal challenges they faced as residents of the 3,700-acre Kalinago Territory.
This area on the northeast of the island was ceded to the Kalinago about 120 years ago. Through the film, Jael delves into the economic struggles of the community, the political issues they face and the loss of their language with time. Another major issue is the fact that the Kalinago have not been able to leverage their land holdings into economic benefits and growth.
As if that wasn’t enough, they also had to suffer the wrath of the category-5 Hurricane Maria and then the scourge of COVID-19, including the after effects it brought.
The film also featured Kalinago Chief Lorenzo Sanford and Cozier Frederick, parliamentary representative for the area. This helped bring a well rounded and comprehensive perspective to the entire endeavor.
Jael herself is a woman of many talents and works as a media entrepreneur and communications consultant as well. She also splits her time between Canada and Dominica. This film was inspired by her research paper which she prepared as a part of her studies at the Toronto Metropolitan University.
Her research paper carried the title, “Territory: Commonalities between the Reclamation of the Kalinago Language and Connection to Land.” For the purposes of research, she interviewed 25 people and also developed a podcast out of 10-minute snippets of those interviews.
To Jael, at a personal level, this award is less the achievement of a singular being and more a triumph of storytelling. “It’s my hope that territory continues to serve as a beacon of the storytelling tradition, shining a light on untold narratives and fostering understanding and unity in our diverse world,” says Jael.
“I am really rooting for my Kalinago brothers and sisters. This documentary is just the start. I want to bring positive change to the community and commit to using my platforms to share their story and to impact their lives for the better” says Jael.