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A Meeting of the Minds

Wednesday, October 18----The first of several professional panels was held today at the Turks and Caicos International Film Festival, exploring the connection between cinema and music. An intimate group of filmmakers, musicians, industry executives, film critics and cultural officials convened at the Palms Resort for a lively discussion of the challenges and opportunities of mixing the two art forms. The discussion was led by film journalist David Poland, along with film director Sanaa Hamri and music industry executive Robin Kheperah Kearse.

Hamri is one of the most inventive directors of music videos in the industry, having worked her magic with such artists as Mariah Carey, Destiny's Child, Dr. Dre, Prince, Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Sting and Indian Arie. This past year, she realized another one of her dreams by directing her first narrative feature film, the romantic comedy SOMETHING NEW, which was distributed to great acclaim by indie powerhouse Focus Features.

Kearse has been in the music industry for the past 15 years, having first cut her teeth in the A&R division of Def Jam Records, and then moving on to artist development and urban marketing and promotion for such leading labels as Columbia, Epic, Arista Records and independent label one + one records. She is particularly interested in the development of new artists, as well as serving as a mentor for the Hip Hop Project, a unique after-school program that teaches inner city high school students the workings of the music business.

Others participating in the conference were Jasmine Guy, Executive Director of the Festival; Karolyn Ali, a music video producer and Programming Director for the Festival; Keith Young, a rising performance artist; David Bowan, a local musician and current Culture Director for the Turks and Caicos; Raymond Gayle, director of ELECTRIC PURGATORY (which is screening at the Festival), representatives from the Hip Hop Project and the Tupac Shakur Foundation , and assorted Festival guests.

Keith Young

Much of the discussion centered on the ways that both filmmakers and musicians can keep true to their original artistic choices, despite the pressures from the industry and sometimes even their own management to conform to pre-set ideas of what can be successful. "It's all about being passionate, true to yourself and always challenging yourself to find a new direction", Sanaa Hamri offered.

A concern of many of the participants was how to communicate to young people that they have choices in how to develop their artistic journeys. Representatives of the Hip Hop Project (about which a film will be screened tomorrow for a delegation of local youngsters) and the Tupac Shakur Foundation contributed that music can be a transformational force for troubled young people and contribute to their self-development and personal discovery.

A lively discussion ensued about the inevitable labeling and pigeon-holing that restricts the artistic choices of both film and music artists. "It's very important not to get bogged down by negativity", Sanaa Hamri added. "It's very empowering to find and follow your own voice, even when there is tremendous pressure to just follow the advice of others".

Sanaa Hamri

Participants also mused about the vagaries and limitations of success in the entertainment world, both for people who are not equipped to handle it emotionally or artistically. A number of people pointed to the career of music artist Prince, who following his major successes in the 1980s, pulled out of his contract with corporate conglomerate Warner Records in order to chart his own course. It was noted that while he sells fewer records now than when he was with a major label, his core audience has remained loyal and he has served as an inspiration to other musicians who may want to take a more independent route in their musical careers.

Prince

The correlation to independent filmmakers was clear to many in the room, with comments on how independent filmmakers who have taken their own individual courses have inevitably had longer and more sustained careers. The struggles to experiment with new material or to occasionally (and honorably) fail was acknowledged as two of the most difficult conditions that spanned both the film and music worlds.

All participants were encouraged by the theme of the Festival and its avowed purpose of bridging the gaps between artists of different media. "This is a unique event", one person noted. "It is very rare that film and music people get a chance to network at the same place and at the same time. The Festival is really bring us all together."


Sandy Mandelberger
Festivals Editor

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Online Dailies coverage of the 3rd Turks and Caicos International Film Festival, October 16 to 21, 2007

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