Film-maker taking H2O to the world
CLISH GITTENS is a film director, actor and poet who had a vision. It was one he braved the odds to see right through to fruition.
He conceptualised the documentary H2O for his thesis which was part of his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Arts at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus.
It was a journey for him, and one he enjoyed.
“I like to call the film a journey. Just as water has a journey: it comes from the sky and falls to the Earth but does not finish there. That was the concept of the film.”
Sitting relaxed on the lawns at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination (EBCCI), laptop perched on his legs, there is a sparkle of excitement in his eyes as he described the documentary, which was filmed in 13 Caribbean islands as an artistic blend.
“It was like a cultural melting pot, a combination of science, art and creativity. My goal was to create a documentary unlike the usual thing. I wanted to tell a story that when people watched the film they are taken on a journey by the visuals while learning the science behind it all,” he said.
H2O has so far won three awards – two local and one international.
The two local awards are the Ministry Of Environment Award and a silver award in its category at the National Independence Festival Of Creative Arts (NIFCA), while the silver international award was won in China after the film was entered in the Handle Climate Change Film Festival.
“To win something locally is an achievement within itself. What pleases me the most is the recognition to get the film screened in China. Just winning an award is one thing, but to have it screened internationally is what we as film-makers live for: to tell our stories, not just in our small island spaces, but to send it out to as many people as possible. That has been the most humbling experience since the film was launched. We were the only two by four country among the entrants and it has been an overwhelming feeling,” Gittens said, smiling broadly.
Presently, the 32-year-old is on a mission to expose the film to as many film festivals as possible.
“Although we may be disqualified from some [festivals] because of our region, we don’t mind; we’re trying everything. We are also looking at entering film festivals regionally that will allow us to tell the story of our film,” he said.
Support for the film was very forthcoming, and for that Gittens is eternally grateful.
“There was support from UWI, EBCCI, CERMES, Dr Adrian Cashman and Andrew Hutchinson, who gave of their time. The general public was also helpful; the entire artistic community was behind me every step of the way: spoken word artist Adrian Green, poet Keisha “Empress Zingha” Griffith, dancer Renne Plenty and my child star, a baby girl by the name of Krissy,” he said.
However, Gittens believes that in the field of “the arts” more support needs to be given for artists to achieve their dream.
Making it happen
“In the broad span of support in the arts in Barbados, especially in the film world, it is difficult. It’s a self-motivated, driven field where there is not much in terms of funding. One thing I have since learnt is that if you are not in a position to know people who could guide you along the way, it will not fly.
“You cannot just decide to wake up one morning and say I am going to make a film, get a loan from an institution and it happens like that. I find that you need to find avenues in terms of international corporate entities; otherwise help is minimal,” he said.
Using Machel Mantano’s movie Bazodee as an example, he said: “The corporate world would go behind Machel because Machel is a brand, and then he brought in Bollywood guys from India to act in the film because he has the budget for these things.
“Making a living as a film-maker means you have to go into ads, news, commercials, dabble here and there to make it happen and pay the bills. There is no clear-cut way to say this is how we goin’ do it and this is how we goin’ buss. It’s sad that sometimes we have to achieve recognition outside before our locals embrace us first,” he mused.
Concerning the direction he will go from here, he is still unsure.
“How it works for me, I am an impulse person. Something would happen and a film would come out of a reaction to that. I don’t just sit on scripts and say I have a film on this script for the last 20 years; that’s not my creative process. I call myself “the vibe man”. Somebody would bring a vibe to me and I turn that into artistic expression.
“Clish is a modest and humble individual and I believe the universe has this journey and path designed and we just fall into play. I can’t say I will just be Clish, the film director, or Clish the actor, or Clish the poet because I dabble in everything, so I am not sure. I just plan to go with the artistic expressions, and embrace them as they come,” he concluded.