Many women can attest to the exhaustive measures they employ in their daily lives just to reduce their chances of experiencing sexual harassment or becoming targets of sexual assault.
To highlight this, regional production house Watooka Films has partnered with local advocacy group EndRapeCulture JA for the inaugural staging of its upcoming Cin?Sips film festival, which aims to raise awareness about the extent of gender-based violence and women’s issues in Jamaica.
Promising ‘an evening of cocktails and film’, the event that will be held today at the Senior Common Room on the University of the West Indies, Mona campus will feature Watooka Films’ latest creative work in the horror genre titled ‘Nice Lady’.
It will show alongside three other locally produced short films that also aim to educate the public on rape culture, misogyny, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Watooka Films’ founder and director Kaiel Eytle said, “My inspiration to do this film – and now this film festival – came when a brave friend of mine chose to come forward on social media to share her real-life story. Through that story and others since I learned about the trauma that comes with the harassment that women face in our society daily. We wanted to showcase this in the movie so that persons can truly understand how it feels for women.”
EndRapeCulture JA is one of the newest anti-sexual violence non-government organisations (NGOs) in Jamaica that utilises public education and behaviour-change programmes to effect major change in attitudes and policies locally. Shanique Palmer, its founder, said, “I believe real change can only be accomplished through intensive collaboration at every level. So, this partnership will be the first of many. And it’s important because sexual violence has to end. We, women, are tired of it.”
The NGO’s mission started in early 2021 after Palmer committed to posting daily educational posts on her personal Instagram page that educated her followers about sexual violence under the hashtag #endrapecultureja. Also inspired because of an experience she had, she decided to do so when the notorious disappearance of Khanice Jackson began to gain traction on social media that year when it was widely believed that she was raped before she was murdered until investigations confirmed otherwise.
What resulted soon after Palmer’s posts was surprising to her, however. She explained, “In response, you would not believe the outpouring that I got and continue to get in my inbox from women who are survivors of rape. These are friends, acquaintances, and even strangers… all in my inbox just pretty much venting and telling me their stories of assault and abuse. Many of them are currently battling depression and constant thoughts of suicide. But they show up every day looking normal and you’d never know.”
‘Nice Lady’ tells a story about an ancient spirit that ‘preys on the souls of women and possesses men in the darkest part of their hearts’. The urban supernatural horror follows the female lead character Ally, played by popular actress and former entertainment TV personality Pepita Little, as she becomes the target for the evil Kanaima. The film also stars renowned actor Cornelius Grant.
Eytle, the Guyanese-Jamaican director and writer of the film, said, “In some indigenous tribes, they believe in the Kanaima – an evil spirit that is used as a method of terror and violence. Normally, it’s invited into the host through ritual.” The film received critical praise and favourable reviews when it premiered earlier this year at Jamaica’s premiere film festival GATFFEST, having been partially funded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.
Speaking to the future, Palmer plans to deliver a tech-based solution at various education levels and in the workplace as she feels it will help target the root of the problem. She said, “We have a strong rape culture in Jamaica and it’s because of a lot of misogynistic behaviours from men don’t get called out. And, sexual misconduct continues to happen since a lot of males don’t understand the basic concept of consent as they were never taught that in sex-ed classes or by their parents. That’s why we’re placing great focus on education and awareness.”
Considering the future, Eytle said that he is still raising funds to take ‘Nice Lady’ to a number of international film festivals as the visibility and credibility garnered could potentially lead to even more significant opportunities to make a full-length feature. He said, “This would delve further into the mystery and terror of the Kanaima and, more so, tackling the wider issue of gender-based violence.”