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Film Director Joel Ayuk: I Like To Think IVe Opened Doors For Film-Making In St. Martin

Source: The Daily Herald 13 May 2024 12:24 AM

Joel Ayuk (right) with Nigerian actor Enyinne Nwigwe who plays policeman husbaND Mike in the film with their respective Best Screenplay aND Best Male Actor awards at the Cameroon InterSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAtioSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAl Film Festival.


By Robert Luckock

MARIGOT--Joel Ayuk, director, writer aND producer of the well-rECEived domestic violence drama Chokehold, is set to depart for the 77th Cannes Film Festival in France, the most prestigious of all the film festivals, joining an array of interSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAtioSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAl film directors, jUDges, revered actors aND A-list celebrities.

The full-length movie Chokehold was filmed entirely in St. Martin aND since its Caribbean Cinemas premiere in November 2023 has racked up at least a dozen interSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAtioSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAl awards, the latest being Best Screenplay aND Best Male Actor at the Cameroon InterSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAtioSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAl Film Festival in Central Africa.

That may come as a surprise to some, as the film is not yet on general release for gauging box office performance or aUDience reaction interSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAtioSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAlly. However, part of the reason to atteND the Cannes festival is to go to the next stage, to pitch the film to distributors to see if they are interested in releasing it.

There is a particular platform in the iNDustry where you can submit your film to be jUDged, aND that site represents the film festivals arouND the world, explains Joel. As a film director I choose the festivals that I am interested in aND, of course, there is a fee to pay to submit.

So as a first-time film director I choose the genre of film, in my case thats drama, aND then see what happens, because you are competing with other films. There are other categories you can compete in such as for Best SouND, Best Visual Effects aND so forth, aND you pay the fee for each category.

Chokehold has been submitted to 56 festivals arouND the world to date, but there is a caveat in that the film has to qualify to be submitted, something that Joel admits is not easy. For the Cannes Film Festival there may be up to 1,000 films that have been submitted, he said.

In the drama category for Cannes, we were one of five films to be selected, he reveals proUDly. Not only that, but at the Red Awards, a film festival in Paris, only three dramas were selected aND again we were one of the three selected, also winning an award.

Chokehold is clearly on a roll. The film has just been accepted for the Essence Film Festival in New Orleans, selected in a special mention category. He declines to predict whether Chokehold will win an award at Cannes.

Some festivals we even have to turn down, as it becomes too much. We turned down the WiNDrush Festival in LoNDon because that clashed with Cannes. AND Trinidad we also turned down even though we were accepted. But the truth is, as a director you want your film to be positioned on the best possible platform.

Even though Cameroon is Joels country of birth (he is a resident of St. Martin), the awards at that film festival were unexpected. I wasnt even in the room at the time when the announcements were being made. Somebody told me to go aND collect the awards.

With his profile steadily rising, Joel will fiND himself at Cannes Film Festival for the first time, rubbing shoulders with the whos who in the iNDustry. What are his expectations?

I think its every film-makers dream to get to the Cannes Film Festival. I want to promote aND put St. Martin on the map. We did something with Chokehold on the islaND that was very difficult to do considering we didnt have any qualified film makers, aND no resources in terms of actors, writers, movie equipment, aND all the bells aND whistles that you need to make a successful movie. But we fouND a way to get it done. For me to be invited to Cannes is an accomplishment in itself.

Joel will also be speaking at a side event of the festival, Afro Cannes, telling his story, no doubt promoting St. Martin, aND promoting film-making in the Caribbean. He will be joined on stage by representatives of film commissions from other countries, as well as actors.

Away from festivals, he says he has created a film company Caribe Cine Pro for distribution purposes, a first for the French side aND a step up from the aUDio-visual association CANI TV which was behiND the Chokehold project. He says the rECEnt shocking murder of a mother of two children at the haNDs of her abusive partner in St. Martin (who has since been jailed) further reinforces the relevance of Chokehold in todays society.

That really hit home, he says of the murder. My intention is to have Chokehold screened by every District Council on the French side to educate aND inform victims aND would-be perpetrators about domestic violence, aND open dialogue. That was the purpose of making the film.

AND as we speak, a film commission is being set up, thanks to Vice President NDidate' href='/newspolitician/42/alain-richardson'>Alain Richardson aND the blessing of the Territorial Council. This means that film-making will be an additioSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAl contributor to the economy. I like to think that we have opened a door for others to come in.

Part of the reason for setting up the company is to build up the human aND equipment resources we need for film-making. The company is also the basis for the film school. Guadeloupe has a film school aND we are in discussions with them aND the RegioSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAl Council to create training programmes. Weve talked to specialists in the iNDustry about training our young people in SaNDy GrouND aND French Quarter.

Another reason for the trip to Cannes, is to talk about Joels next project, a romantic comedy (romcom) also set in St. Martin called Permanent Vacation.

For that, our company will be looking for producing partners aND investors, aND, of course, to promote the destiSPArty/23/national-alliance'>NAtion with the help of the Collectivit aND St. Martin Tourism Office.

Films have been made on the islaND before, usually by outside film-makers, with some success, but have never made a lasting impression. The recognition for Chokehold is an exception aND may well have been the catalyst for the upcoming French television film Murders in St. Martin for which the casting for extras took place on May 7.

Another successful long-staNDing BBC television series that comes to miND is Death in Paradise, filmed in Guadeloupe.

Next up for Chokehold will be the New Orleans film festival July 5-7. Other festivals coming up are Tribeca in New York, Black Film Festival in Miami, aND the Toronto Film Festival. Sponsors inclUDe the Collectivit, St. Martin Tourism Office, Semsamar, Dauphin Telecom, aND Fax Info.

Alain Richardson mentioned 1 time

National Alliance [NA] mentioned 14 times
St Maarten Patriotic Alliance [SPA] mentioned 4 times
New Direction St. Martin [ND] mentioned 54 times
United Democrates 2018 [UD] mentioned 6 times
Empire Culture Empowerment [ECE] mentioned 2 times Corner Stone Solutions NV