When many folks consider the Caribbean, it is very rare that the full breadth of the culture comes to mind. This can be attributed to many things, but particularly the fact that many images in mainstream popular culture paint the Caribbean as a vacation destination, a place where outsiders can benefit from its lush natural setting, dance out of rhythm to calypso or reggae music, and essentially relive the colonization that has occurred in these nations and commonwealth for over a hundred years.
Third Horizon Film Festival flips this very idea on its head, inviting filmmakers to showcase an insider’s look at the joyous and harsh realities that exist in these contrasting but connected cultures. Founded by a collective of Caribbean filmmakers, including CASSIUS’ Creative Class member Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, the festival celebrated it’s the third year in Miami, Fla., home to the largest population of Caribbean immigrants, this Fall over a four day weekend in September. Many of the films were followed by lively and thoughtful discussions between the festival staff and filmmakers.
Each of the pieces showcased at Third Horizon touched on integral aspects of life that are specific to the culture but also highlighted identities that intersected and complicated what it means to grow and thrive in a colonized culture. Opening up with New York native Jamaican filmmaker Khalik Allah’s “Black Mother,” the audience bore witness to a first-hand look at the island from Allah’s point of view, free of tired stereotypes featuring reggae and marijuana.
In “The Sun Will Rise,” Gessica Généus explores the complexities of religious hysteria and mental health as they relate to Christianity and Vodou in Haitian culture. Généus particularly takes us closer to home as she showcases how this has directly afflicted her mother. Jamaican artist Rodell Warner showcased his exhibit, “You’ll See,” in the festival venue at O Cinema Wynwood, in which he took average family photos and remixed them with kaleidoscopically dynamic animation, turning the way we reminisce on childhood memories on its head for a more fantastical feel.
While every single nation in the Caribbean has it’s own individual history with colonialism, one island that has yet to fully establish their independence is Puerto Rico. In “1950: The National Uprising,” José Manuel Dávila Marichal captivated the audience with a forgotten history lesson about the uprising of the island’s Nationalist Party, led by “El Maestro” Pedro Albizu Campos. The spirit of the film was highly relevant to the island’s current troubles as they strive to rebuild post-Hurricane Maria with little to no help from the American government and the debate between statehood and nationhood rages on.
One theme that we often don’t see addressed in Caribbean culture is queerness and trans identity. “Bixa Travesty” lays it all out for the audience, giving folks an unfiltered insider’s look on queer culture in Brazil through the life of trans Afro-Brazilian pop performer Linn Da Quebrada. Through Linn, we learn what it means to exist and thrive in a trans body within a culture that prioritizes traditional gender roles.
While radical and innovative in its film choices, it’s imperative to convey that the true heart of Third Horizon beyond the cinema space. Everything from the passion and humility of the organizers and their volunteers to the vibrancy Miami’s colorful streets, the ambiance created is what truly grounds the festival in its Caribbean roots. This type of gathering creates a rare but necessary culmination and discussion between islands, achieving ultimately what the founders set out to do — serving as a mirror to highlight our cultures in all their brilliance for the world to see.