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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 17, 2015
Filmmaker Amanda Wilson launches Cuffy biopic
As a child, filmmaker, Amanda Wilson, played in Guyana’s Square of the Revolution, under the shadow of the striking 1763 Monument, a masterpiece statue of freedom fighter Cuffy by the late sculptor Philip Moore.
Her mother told her the story of the 1763 Rebellion in Berbice, a former Dutch colony on the Berbice and Canje Rivers, and she never forgot the name of its leader – Cuffy, Guyana’s only national hero.
How could she? Moore’s imposing 1976 West African-influenced bronze sculpture of Cuffy, stands 15 feet high on top of an 18 feet tall concrete plinth. It towers over the Brickdam-Homestretch landscape in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown – defiant and proud.
The Square of the Revolution, represents Cuffy’s dream of nationhood. And it celebrates Guyana’s 1970 republic status – a permanent breakaway from its colonial past.
In 2013, on the 250th anniversary of the Berbice Rebellion, Wilson, who had spent more than a decade working as a reporter, editor and broadcaster in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, returned home to Guyana to celebrate the milestone, and her latest film was born.
The documentary maker this week launches Cuffy: Face of a Rebellion, which explores the origins and legacy of his rebellion, which occurred 12 years before the American Revolution and 28 years before the Haitian Revolution.
The 60-minute documentary, shot on location in the remote Canje region of eastern Guyana, draws on extensive research from archives in the United States, the Caribbean and Europe, and features exclusive interviews with leading academics and community leaders.
The film stars Guyanese actor Delroy Brewster, as Cuffy – the man who united more than 2,500 enslaved Africans to overthrow their Dutch oppressors, and seized control of the colony. Cuffy’s rebellion helped to lay the foundation for future revolts in the Caribbean and for the end of the brutal system of plantation slavery.
Wilson’s biopic, examines remarkable letters sent during the revolt between Cuffy and Berbice Governor, Wolfert Simon van Hoogenheim, played by Adrianus Vlugman, and reveals the reasons behind Cuffy’s rise to power and his struggles as a leader.
Cuffy: Face of Rebellion premiered on leading Guyanese television network Channel 9 on Sunday, August 16.
Wilson, CEO of Green Mango Media company, is at the vanguard of a new generation of Caribbean documentary makers seeking to reclaim the region’s history for modern audiences. She currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland.
Q+A with Green Mango Media CEO Amanda Wilson on her documentary:
What led you to make this documentary?
When I started my company Green Mango Media, I felt it was time to return home and finally produce a project on Guyana. Cuffy was my chosen topic because he is Guyana’s only national hero. His contribution to the rebellion movement should always be remembered. What was most disturbing to me was that many young Guyanese were unaware of his legacy.
What are you trying to achieve through this documentary?
I wanted to add to the conversation about the African Guyanese identity. We are descendants of Africans who were kidnapped and brutalised by Europeans for the sole purpose of free labour. We lost our native language, religion and most of our traditions, but we never lost our survival spirit.
Guyana was built by my ancestors, from the canals to the townships that became a modern day republic. My ancestors survived enslavement because of determination, and they remained connected to Africa because that is the motherland, the starting point of humanity.
I represent the best of both worlds – Africa and Guyana. When I say I am an African Guyanese, I say it with pride because I have stories of survival and strength that I can be proud to tell.
What were the challenges in making this documentary?
The most challenging part of producing Cuffy: Face of a Rebellion, was securing the funding in Guyana and abroad.
What I have discovered through this process is that there is a conscious disassociation with the past in Guyana. Corporations and agencies readily get on board with projects about fashion or music, but shy away from the exploration of topics dealing with slavery and the realities of life.
On the government level, the local film industry is underdeveloped. The talent, hunger and vision is there but the structure and support mechanisms are missing. Creative groups have found their voices and I am hoping to see a change over the next few years.
I could not have done this project without the support of my family and main sponsors New Covenant Church of Philadelphia of the USA, ARKW Trading of Guyana and OneMart Superstore of the British Virgin Islands.
It was an amazing adventure filming on location in Berbice, Guyana. I worked with a great team of people in Guyana, the United Kingdom and Ghana.
How do you think the history of the Caribbean has been hijacked by others?
I live in Europe and I have seen so many programmes about the Caribbean and South America from the European perspective, the “great” British empire or the conquistadors’ legacy.
But they often brush over the other side of the legacy of European expansion – slavery and colonisation and the disastrous impact both systems had on the lives of the Native Indians and Africans.
It is time we corrected this. It is time we told our own stories.
The documentary will be broadcast in the British Virgin Islands month end and in the UK in October for Black History Month.
Who and what are your inspirations?
My ancestors who never gave up, my parents – Evette Wilson and the late Aubrey Wilson Sr. They were my first historians. And then it has to be Guyanese historian Walter Rodney, who explained to the world how Europe underdeveloped Africa.
The film is dedicated to my father who lost his battle with cancer in December 2014.
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