A lack of film output, along with rather patchy online availability, means my film choice for the tiny island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is a short film, albeit one with a great facility for the image. It’s hardly a wealthy nation, though, especially after recent hurricanes, but it has natural beauty, and that much has attracted a healthy tourist industry.
Antigua and Barbuda
population 96,000 | capital St John’s (23k) | largest cities St John’s, All Saints (3.4k), Liberta (2.2k), Potter’s Village (2.1k), Bolans (1.8k) | area 440 km2 | religion Christianity (77%) | official language English | major ethnicity Black African (91%) | currency East Caribbean dollar ($) [XCD] | internet .ag
An island nation in the middle of the Leeward Islands, made up of the two major islands in the country’s name along with a number of smaller ones, though the vast majority of the population is on Antigua (especially since a 2017 hurricane which destroyed much of Barbuda’s buildings). The island was settled around 3000 BCE by the Ciboney Amerindians, succeeded by the Saladoid people from the Orinoco, then the Caribs. The English came in the mid-17th century, and slaves were imported to work the tobacco and sugar plantations. It gained partial independence from the UK in 1967, followed by full independence on 1 November 1981. It retains the British monarch as head of state, with its own Prime Minister as head of government.
The first feature film made by the island nation was in 2001, so it’s fair to say it hasn’t had a huge history of film production.
I think sometimes short films can be perfect — in the sense of taking an idea and completing it, doing everything that can be done — but others are like fragments of a longer experience, and this feels like the latter. It’s gorgeously evocative (directed and photographed by the cinematographer who did Skate Kitchen amongst others), starting and ending with ravishing sunsets over his native island nation, and features a number of voices, whether the young kid seen wrangling a donkey, or an older man reflecting on his life. However, these feel like miniatures from what should be a full-length piece. Still, even as it is, it’s a fleeting elegy for a lost way of life (and I gather from the director’s notes that this area, almost a shanty town, was bulldozed), with a brief glimpse of a cruise ship looming ominously, portentously.
Directors Shabier Kirchner and Elise Tyler; Cinematographer Shabier Kirchner; Length 14 minutes.
Seen at home (Vimeo streaming), London, Saturday 9 May 2020.