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…regional film competition to put spotlight on Guyana
By Lisa Hamilton
Throughout the years, Guyana has produced
some of the best academic achievers and outstanding creatives that have proven that the country has an ever-increasing number of young people with the drive for excellence.
However, existing simultaneously are the country’s shortcomings in ensuring that these individuals are equipped with the means necessary to pursue their passions and are justly rewarded for their skills and talents.
In an interesting way, a video submission from Guyana in the Digicel Group PlayGo Emerge regional short film and photo competition has shone the spotlight both on Guyana’s potential and its need for improvement.
It all started with Moriah Hamilton, a 19-year-old former student of Queen’s College who was seeking financial assistance to attend Howard University in the United States after she gained acceptance and a partial scholarship.
Hamilton has a streak of excellence, having placed first on the Top Merit list for Green Engineering at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in 2019 and fourth on the Top Merit list for Green Engineering at CAPE in 2020. She was accepted to Major in
Civil and Environmental Engineering and Minor in Communications at the University.
In seeking financial support from the public, Hamilton’s story touched the hearts of many who hadn’t known of the steep hurdles she mounted to secure a better future for herself and family. She is one of three children of a single-parent mother and has faced
numerous financial difficulties throughout her life, including being homeless twice.
A DIFFERENT PATH
About three years ago, she came into contact with Patrick Stephens, a retired remigrant who has been mentoring her since then. He has a deep passion for helping to motivate and facilitate the development of young people.
Stephens helped organise a fundraiser back in June, hoping to help Hamilton gain the finances she needed to attend Howard University. As part of their fundraising plans, the team wanted to create a video that would help the public better understand Hamilton, her journey
thus far, and her aspirations.
Stephens reached out to the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cineffx, Jason October and he and his team began working to bring the creative plan to life. The film was produced by Stephens and Mark Archer and directed and shot by October.
However, prior to the completion of the video, the necessary funds for Hamilton’s studies overseas were raised. Stephens and the others decided it would be unethical to continue with the video as a fundraising venture and therefore faced the uncertainty of what to
do with it.
As fate would have it, October learned about the PlayGo Emerge competition. He requested permission to enter Hamilton’s video as his submission. It suited the competition, which seeks to celebrate the community of talented, diverse storytellers throughout the
Caribbean. It is designed to inspire youth, emerging and professional content creators to share films and photo essays around the theme ‘Celebrate the National Pride of your Country’.
Stephens weighed the pros and cons of October’s proposal and, along with Hamilton, agreed.
“I’ve always approached Moriah’s situation not from a singular perspective, but from the perspective that she is representative of lots of young men and women in this country who have a lot of talent, but for one reason or another — most times financial — don’t
get a chance to realize their potential. So, I thought that the story would be good and not only as a memento for Moriah, but for it to be out there to motivate other people, and Jason did an excellent job in producing it,” Stephens said.
Fast forward to the present, October’s entry is now within the eight finalists to be reviewed by the judges and is in first place thus far in the People’s Choice segment, which closes along with the competition on September 30, 2021.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
However, besides the fact that it is competition, there is a deeper motivation at play.
It is widely known that, for a number of years, Guyana has been ranked the best or among the best performing countries in CSEC and CAPE. Yet, the reality remains that many students who have worked to put the country on the map through excellent performance are
left to fend for themselves after the country briefly celebrates their achievements.
Many students have had to turn to fundraising efforts to attend the international universities for which they gained entry. Some are left with no other option but to solicit donations from the public to afford their plane ticket, boarding and the other financial
requirements that come along with attending university in a foreign country.
Hamilton’s story, Stephens said, should be an eye-opener to Guyanese that more must be done for students who have already fought against the odds to secure their academic future and added struggle cannot be the reward.
He said: “For me, this is not just about winning the contest, for me, this is about really bringing to the forefront something that I feel is a big problem in this country. We push these children through Grade Six, we grind them through CXC and at each stage,
the numbers keep reducing…getting some public support for this, using the film as the vehicle to get people interested is great, but we’ve got a bigger mission than that. It now affords us an audience that we can start doing things differently.”
On the other hand, Stephens also pointed out that the competition allows for talented persons, like October, to have an outlet to showcase their creativity and receive benefits from the same.
When the Village Voice News spoke with October, he couldn’t agree more. The young Cineffx founder is responsible for organising and hosting Guyana’s first-ever Photo and Film Expo back in November 2018. In 2017, he and his team began planning the biennial event
because they realised that there aren’t many avenues for photographers and filmmakers to showcase their skills in Guyana.
Today, he is still pushing for the creativity of Guyanese to be seen on the international stage. He hopes that, through the competition, Guyana can be recognised as a source of talented young people and that persons who face similar challenges like Hamilton’s can
receive the solutions they deserve.
“There is still no platform [in Guyana] that consistently allows persons to show their work,” he said. “I want to bring attention to Guyana because it’s a regional competition and most times we don’t get this limelight that we have filmmakers in Guyana. I want to
show that we do have the potential to produce films and also to make Guyana a destination for film.”
Stephens added: “Jason is somebody with a dream and a vision and the system that we have in this country does not facilitate it. So, in making this film and in terms of him pursuing his career, it’s the same situation [as Moriah’s].”
October hopes that seeing Guyana rated among the best in the competition will inspire other filmmakers and creatives locally to continue producing work that sets the bar higher.
He said: “There are so many stories that can be told that haven’t been told as yet. It’s really to give a wake-up call to the film industry and to get people shooting and producing more content locally.”
For the contest, which ends September 30, a final Grand Jury composed of industry experts will choose the Grand Prize winner among the pre-selected finalists. Meanwhile, the winners will be announced on the PlayGo website and social media platforms.
Guyanese and other interested persons have but a few days left to show their support. Stephens and October have encouraged persons to show this support for Guyana’s outstanding academic achievers and creative minds by voting in the People’s Choice segment via the link https://rb.gy/vkazs9