Wednesday 19 June 2024


On meeting Amanda Hernández, one is immediately struck by her infectious energy and her generous sharing of information about Puerto Rican writers and books. At a recent literary festival in the Caribbean - the BVI Lit Fest in the British Virgin Islands - she urged participants for instance to check out the works of several emerging authors from her home territory.

A poet and publisher, Hernández is carving out a place not just for Puerto Rican poetry but also for independent publishing on the island, producing attractive volumes through specialist methods. 

She and fellow poet Nicole Cecilia Delgado run La Impresora, which they describe as an “artist-led studio dedicated to small-scale editorial work and allocating resources to support independent publishing.”

Based in the north-western Puerto Rican town Isabela, La Impresora specializes in Risograph printing, a mechanized technique that is also referred to as digital screen printing. Risograph uses “environmentally friendly” paper, ink and other materials, and is becoming increasingly popular among independent graphic artists and publishers worldwide. Along with this, Hernández and Delgado state that one of their main objectives is the “learning, use and improvement of traditional publishing, printing, and hand-made book-binding techniques.”

Another important objective is the translation of poetry and other genres by Puerto Rican writers, especially underrepresented authors. Such translations are published in bilingual, handcrafted books, as La Impresora seeks to “strengthen the link between literature and the visual arts”, and to reach readers both within and beyond Puerto Rico, the directors say.

“Our poetry reflects on our shared context of resisting injustices and finding new ways of creating revolutionary practices and dynamics, battling the austerity measures and violence imposed upon us,” Hernández and Delgado declare on La Impresora’s website.

Regarding language, the poets say that this is essential “when creating content and thinking about accessibility, distribution, outreach, and possible networks.” Although they have mostly edited and published Spanish literature written by Puerto Rican authors from the island and the diaspora, they have been “integrating more bilingual (Spanish/English) publications” and translation projects.

“We acknowledge that English is not our mother tongue and represents complicated colonial power relationships in Puerto Rican history. However, we also know it works as a lingua franca that allows for communicating with people from all over the globe, enabling alliances and collaborations,” they explain.

Hernández expands on different aspects of the poets’ work in the following interview, conducted by fellow writer and editor Alecia McKenzie, SWAN’s founder. The discussion forms part of an on-going series about translators of Caribbean literature and is done in collaboration with the Caribbean Translation Project, which has been highlighting the translation of writing from and about the region since 2017.

SWAN: How important is translation for your mission of editing and producing “contemporary literature in Puerto Rico, with particular emphasis on Puerto Rican poetry written by underrepresented authors”?

Amanda Hernández: We recognize the importance of translation as an overall way of tending to accessibility; reinforcing the distribution of our titles outside of Spanish-speaking countries; as a means of establishing new collaborations and possible co-editions, and as a way of growing our network of readers and collaborators. We started publishing mostly in Spanish, and we still do, but we’ve been acknowledging how translation projects (Spanish/English) have helped us widen our scope as an independent editorial project, throughout and outside of the Caribbean, at the same time helping us carry out our mission of publishing and sharing the work of contemporary Puerto Rican underrepresented authors. 

SWAN: You’ve stated that “language is essential when creating content and thinking about accessibility, distribution, outreach, and possible networks.” But you acknowledge that English is not your mother tongue and “represents complicated colonial power relationships in Puerto Rican history”. Can you tell us how you navigate these issues when La Impresora publishes bilingual / translated work? 

AH: The nature of our written and graphic content, the poetry we publish, the artists, writers, and projects with whom we collaborate, including our personal views, politics, and editorial methodology, are based upon alternative and subversive practices that challenge precisely these complicated colonial power relationships that have forcefully tried to shape our Puerto Rican history and literature. We decide to use the colonizing language as a weapon, as a vehicle to suggest new and politically committed ways of writing, publishing, and thinking about our context and geography.

SWAN: You both speak several languages, including Spanish and English. Where and how did you begin learning languages?

AH: We are both fully bilingual (Spanish and English). In Puerto Rico, currently, the education system teaches English as a second language. It started in 1898, when we became a colony of the U.S. territory, having been a Spanish (Spain) colony before that since 1493. During the 1900s, English was forced upon the Puerto Rican education system in an attempt to assimilate the population, but failed to be stated as the primary language. In 1949 Spanish was again reinstated as the official speaking and learning language all through primary and secondary school, and English became a “preferred subject” that has been officially taught in schools until the present time. So, we both grew up learning to read and write in English in school, also through television and movies.

SWAN: How did your interest in translation begin?

AH: My interest in translation has developed alongside my desire to work on and publish my poetry, and the poetry of other writers and colleagues. The possibility of being able to participate in a broader network of readers, writers, publishers, literary festivals, and so on, has proved to be a gratifying and important formative experience. Recognizing the value of translation as a practice that considers the importance of broadening the scope and circulation of the literature and books we create has been a realization I have assumed both as a poet and editor.

SWAN: You’ve translated and published works by several writers. Can you tell us about the particular challenges of bilingual publishing?

AH: We have published translations of our work, either translated by us or by other colleague writers. In some cases, we’ve worked with and published writers who also self-translate their work, like the Puerto Rican poets Ana Portnoy Brimmer and Roque Raquel Salas Rivera. We greatly admire their work.

We’ve also published bilingüal broadsides including poetry from the Cuban writer Jamila Medina and the Puerto Rican poet Aurora Levins Morales, alongside others. One of the first bilingüal projects we worked on (2018) was a reedition of a book by the Peruvian poet José Cerna Bazán titled Ruda, originally published in Spanish in 2002. Our edition included a translation and notes made by the North American Hispanic Studies professor Anne Lambright. This project was funded by Trinity College, Connecticut. More recently we published Calima, by the Puerto Rican literary critic and professor Luis Othoniel Rosa. This bilingüal publication includes two experimental historic-science-fiction narratives, an interactive graphic intervention by the Puerto Rican artist Guillermo Rodríguez, and was translated to English by Katie Marya and Martina Barinova.

Some of the challenges we’ve faced working with bilingüal publishing, aside from the aforementioned complicated relationship we Puerto Ricans have with the English language, have had to do, mostly, with our approach to design and with the complexity that comes with poetry translation. Poetry requires the translator, and editor, to pay attention to many more details aside from the literal meaning of the written word. There is also what is suggested but not literally stated, idioms, the flow and rhythm of the poem, the versification, its metric structure, tone and style, and these all have to be simultaneously translated.

Regarding the design of bilingüal poetry publications, finding new and well-thought-out ways of addressing format, aesthetics and the overall reading experience and fluidity of the books we publish has given us the chance to experiment and challenge our editorial approach. We don’t have a standardized composition and/or design for the books we publish, so each one involves an original conceptualization process that takes into account the weight of their content in relation to their physical materialization.

SWAN: How important is translation for today’s world, especially for underrepresented communities?

AH: As publishers we mostly work on the editing, designing, printing, and distribution of contemporary Puerto Rican poetry, focusing on content that represents our true motivations, struggles, and rights as Puerto Ricans. We recognize the power and autonomy poetry provides as a shared practice and cultural legacy, as a way of reflecting upon and passing down to younger generations a critical and compromised poetic that intends a genuine portrayal of the underrepresented history of our archipelago. Translation becomes a way of widening our reach and sharing our true experiences as Caribbean islanders with the world.

SWAN: In the Caribbean, as in other regions, it sometimes feels as if countries are divided by language. How can people in the literary / arts / educational spheres help to bridge these linguistic "borders"?

AH: Including translation practices in the work we do and publish as a Caribbean community is a great step towards bridging these linguistic gaps or borders. Publishing bilingüal editions; including interpreters in the work we do and the events we organize, not only for the written or spoken language, but also considering sign language and braille; allocating resources intended for the discussion, research, and workshopping of translation as a way of strengthening our creative networks are achievable ways of connecting the geographically disperse and linguistically diverse Caribbean we live in.

SWAN: How do you see literary translation evolving to reach more readers?

AH: New technologies and editorial practices are constantly reshaping our views and the ways in which we circulate our content and share our literary resources with a worldwide network of readers and writers. The possibility of developing new readers, writers and literary communities and coalitions gains strength as we consider the importance of accessibility, representation and circulation. Translation is a key factor to consider when assuming strategies to achieve these goals.

SWAN: La Impresora combines graphic art, handicraft, poetry, and translation in its overall production. Can you tell us more about the significance of this combination?

AH: Our practice revolves around the sharing and learning of skills that combine poetry, graphic art, book art, translating, editing, editorial design and risograph printing. We edit, design, print, bind by hand and distribute the books La Impresora publishes. This combination of practices helps us sustain an autonomous and independent operation where we can envision, decide upon and construct the type of books we enjoy and the content we consider relevant in our Puerto Rican context. The artisanal approach to our publications is of great significance to the work we do, since all of the content we publish is handmade, and we celebrate the ways in which this has shaped the relationship we have with independent editorial work. 

SWAN: What are your next projects?

AH: Regarding bilingüal and/or translation projects, we just recently printed and published La Medalla / The medal by Marion Bolander, under a grant awarded by the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) and the Fondo Flamboyán para las Artes. Bolander is a Vietnam veteran and this book includes poems written by him during his time in service, poems written later on in his life and a compelling interview that contextualizes the author's relationship to military service, the United States, Puerto Rico and to poetry.

We have been working with the poet and self-translator Urayoán Noel on the publication of his next book titled Cuaderno de Isabela / Isabela Notebook, which includes texts written by the poet during his visits to our workshop in the coastal town of Isabela, in the span of three consecutive years, as part of a residency program for writers we recently established.

We are also starting to work on two publications by Central American women poets. In collaboration with the curator Vanessa Hernández, who runs a local art gallery called El Lobi, we invited the Guatemalan poet Rosa Chávez to Puerto Rico as part of a collaborative residency program between El Lobi and La Impresora. The possibility of a bilingüal poetry publication is currently being discussed regarding her residency and visit. The Salvadoran poet Elena Salamanca will also be visiting us in Puerto Rico, accompanied by her translator, the North American independent publisher Ryan Greene, and we will be working on the publication of a bilingüal edition of her latest book Incognita Flora Cuscatlanica.

SWAN: the Decade of Indigenous Languages began in 2022, launched by UNESCO. What does this mean to translators?

AH: The mobilization and resource allocation, regarding preserving and circulating the work of black, brown, and indigenous people, writers, and artists is long overdue. The role native languages have played in our development as artistic, cultural, and political civilizations is beyond question, and this recent recognition could be seen as an opportunity to honor their worldwide importance. There is still a long way to go in the search for reparations and equal opportunities for BIPOC communities at a global scale, and concerning translators, this provides an opportunity for the consideration and visibility of translation projects that uphold these standards. – AM / SWAN

Photos (top to bottom): Amanda Hernández and Nicole Cecilia Delgado, co-directors of La Impresora; display at a local art and book fair in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico; working on Risograph printing; producing Las horas extra by writer Mara Pastor; poets and visitors at the Feria de Libros Independientes y Alternativos (photo by Anita Rojas); Amanda Hernández during a poetry reading at the 2023 BVI Lit Fest (photo by AM/SWAN; all other photos courtesy of La Impresora).

Follow the Caribbean Translation Project on X: @CaribTranslate.

Saturday 25 May 2024


On a clear, chilly evening this week, the words of African American poet Maya Angelou filled the air in the centre of Rouen, as a vivid light show played across the façade of the French town’s imposing cathedral, and as a bright full moon rose in the sky.

Images of explosions, falling debris, a cheetah fleeing in the darkness – all sent a message that the world is in a precarious situation on many fronts and that urgent restorative action is needed.

Yet, along with the tangible sense of angst, the show seemed to call for hope, with the intoning of Angelou’s famous line: “But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

The 25-minute projection, by Texas-born experimental theatre artist Robert Wilson, forms part of the massive Normandie Impressionniste festival, now in its 5th incarnation and this year celebrating the 150th anniversary of impressionism, the art movement that scandalized critics when it emerged in the late 1800s.

Running until Sept. 22, and with a head-spinning 150 events taking place throughout Normandy - the region most closely associated with famous impressionist artists such as Claude Monet - the festival comprises exhibitions, installations, theatre pieces, concerts, and other shows.

It features both renowned and emerging artists, from across France as well as from countries including India, Japan, China, South Africa, the United States and Britain … all “in dialogue” with impressionism, and history, according to festival director Philippe Platel.

“We wish to show what’s happening now, to update the view of art, even as Normandy remains central,” Platel said in an interview.

The 1874 Paris exhibition that sparked the term impressionism (from the Monet painting Impression, soleil levant) was met mostly with disdain as conventional painters and critics opposed the breaking of academic rules. But the movement, with its focus on a different way of seeing and capturing light, would go on to have global impact.

Still, while the impressionists were seen as radicals, their first shows featured just one woman artist, Berthe Morisot. Now, the festival has made it a point to include almost as many contemporary women artists (47 percent) as men, said Platel - although it’s clear that the “blockbuster” exhibitions centre on male painters.

The Wilson / Angelou show, titled Star and Stone: a kind of love…some say” is presented as one of the highlights of the festival, and Platel emphasises that Angelou (who died in 2014) was an “immense feminist poet”.

Her words are transmitted in the original English and in French translation (read by French actress Isabelle Huppert), alongside music by composer Philip Glass. (Wilson and Glass have previously collaborated, most notably for the opera Einstein on the Beach.)

With its moving, intense images, Star and Stone evokes historical atrocities, including slavery and two world wars. It recalls the damage inflicted on Normandy during World War II, but it also reflects current brutal conflicts. (During the projection on May 22, a woman strode past, and, obviously angered by the visuals, or mistaking the show for a demonstration, shouted out the word “anti-Semitic” several times, to the apparent bafflement of spectators.)

Some of the projected scenes, especially against the full-moon backdrop on this particular night, conjured Monet’s iconic paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, works that themselves hang in an exhibition opening May 25 in Le Havre.

The harbour town, which saw entire neighbourhoods flattened in World War II bombardments, has over the past decades embarked on a cultural and architectural renaissance, and it hosts an impressive museum of modern art (MuMa) which is showcasing 19th-century photography in Normandy, as part of the festival.

Photographier en Normandie: 1840-1890 juxtaposes photographs and impressionist paintings, giving an idea of the medium’s development and the concerns of artists at the time: the rapidly changing landscapes caused by the industrial revolution, for instance.

It pulls together several iconic paintings of landmarks and the sea, while the photographs too capture marine scenes, daily life, and environmental transformations brought on by the building of railway lines during the 19th century. The show caters to both painting and photography buffs, or anyone interested in early picture-taking processes and their global impact, not least on artists.

Back in Rouen, another highlight of the festival is an exhibition by 86-year-old English artist David Hockney, who has been living and working in Normandy since the Covid-19 pandemic. His show Normandism at Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts offers a different kind of impressionism, mixing pop art with the quality of light so important to his predecessors.

Here, vibrant greens, yellows and blues pull spectators into the landscapes for which rainy Normandy is famous, and the exhibition also features striking portraits as well as paintings that Hockney has created via iPads.

The latter record his individual technique and take viewers on a journey from the first line traced to the colourful completed work.

In the “dialogue” between contemporary artists and the impressionists, a main theme is water - the sea, ponds, rain - with echoes of climate change. In one standout show, Oliver Beer, a British painter and musician, reinterprets Monet’s famous Water Lilies series, transforming soundwaves into visual depiction on huge azure canvases.

In another, renowned French artist Marc Desgrandchamps incorporates human forms into his portrayal of water and landscapes, suggesting fragility as well as the need for environmental protection.

While these artists have consciously accepted the call to use impressionism in their shows, the impressionists themselves drew from others, especially from Japanese artists, whose work Monet collected. The festival highlights these international links with an exhibition set to begin June 22 in Deauville: Mondes flottants: du japonisme à l’art contemporain / Floating Worlds: from “Japonism” to Contemporary Art.

Meanwhile, Tokyo-born, France-based artist Reiji Hiramatsu will hold a solo show, Symphonie des Nymphéas / Water Lilies Symphony in Giverny, the town where Monet lived, painted and created his water gardens. The exhibition starting July 12 will comprise 14 screens, inspired by certain Monet works… which themselves were inspired by Japan.

Other international artists include Shanta Rao (Indian-French), with an exhibition titled Les yeux turbides / Turbid Eyes in the commune Grand Quevilly, where she invites viewers to see how objects change with light; and South African Bianca Bondi who uses mounds of salt to create luminous landscapes for a show in Le Havre.

With the emphasis on light and dialogue across the festival, the words of Maya Angelou almost seem to form a refrain, calling out from Rouen, to rebut oppression and exclusion: "Leaving behind nights of terror and fear / I rise / into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear". – AM / SWAN

Photos (top to bottom): a still shot of Robert Wilson's Star and Stone: a kind of love...some say, picture by AM/SWAN; Maya Angelou, courtesy of Wiki Commons; the Rouen Cathedral on a moonlit night, picture by AM/SWAN; front cover of the festival catalogue, with a painting by David Hockney - Wind on the Pond; artwork by Marc Desgrandchamps, from the exhibition Les paysages demandent aussi un temps de pose, at Galerie Duchamp, Yvetot.

More information: Accueil - Normandie Impressionniste (

Sunday 21 April 2024


Alongside the exciting boom in writing from the Caribbean, the number of literary festivals has been growing throughout the region over the past two decades, and the newest event takes place April 27 on the north coast of Jamaica.

Named after the parish where it is being held, the inaugural St Mary Literary Festival is an addition to established lit-fests in the region, such as the Calabash and Bocas festivals, and it joins emerging celebrations in the Virgin Islands, St Martin and Cuba.

It will feature some 50 writers, including a dozen high school students, for a day of prose and poetry readings, panel discussions and live music, according to the organizers.

The one-day event is the brainchild of Paul Ward, a retired high-school teacher and college lecturer, who moved to Jamaica from the UK in 1970 and married a St Mary resident two years later. Both he and his wife (also a former science teacher) have worked in Nigeria and Zimbabwe as well the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.

An avid reader and non-fiction writer, Ward says he has long engaged in community activity, and the festival has grown out of that. In the following email interview, he tells SWAN about the background to the event.

SWAN: How did the idea for this new festival come about?

Paul Ward: Margaret Busby, author and the first Black woman publisher in the UK, stayed with me for a few days following the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach (Jamaica) in May last year. I was taken by her anthology of writings by women of African descent, New Daughters of Africa. I took her to speak with the children at our two local schools - and it went down well, especially at the primary school. Some grade-six children wrote stories after that visit, which I put together in a little booklet for them, Likkle Pickney Tell It So.

Treasure Beach is however a long way from St. Mary, and it makes attendance (at Calabash) very costly, being an overnight affair. Thus, the idea of a similar (though more modest community event) on this side of the island: easily within reach from Kingston, combining established writers with aspiring ones and also some schoolchildren.

SWAN: What are some of the literary activities programmed, and what kind of audience are you expecting?

PW: The intention is to have a series of spoken presentations, selected from those who submit written versions, to make a varied and engaging event, divided into three 90-minute sessions. Brief questions and comments after each presentation will be encouraged. If possible, a group discussion of some literary topic will be included in each session. Background music will hopefully be of the traditional kind, such as that provided by drum musician (and poet) Mbala at the meetings of the Poetry Society in Kingston each month.

Some submissions, especially those not presented verbally, will be displayed on notice boards. The hoped-for audience (no, participants) will include the writers themselves, others who already know they enjoy literature, those who didn't know, some schoolchildren and their families.

SWAN: How do you plan to tap into the wide range of literature being produced by Jamaican writers at home and abroad?

PW: We have a contact list of well over 100, including personal contacts, literary organisations in Jamaica and abroad, information in local media (already on IRE FM) and visits to high schools in the St. Mary / Kingston area

SWAN: Can you please describe the venue / general location of the festival?

PW: The venue is perfect. A spacious, hexagonal church hall (which can take 200+ chairs) right next to the sea in Port Maria, capital of St. Mary, and next to the Anglican Parish Church, the main Parish Library, and historic Civic Centre with plenty of parking space. It is within minutes’ walk from the town centre, a bustling busy place with all the charm and challenges of rural Jamaica, for those who don't know them.

SWAN: Literary events have blossomed around the Caribbean over the past two decades. How do you see the St Mary festival fitting into this tradition? 

PW: Most of such events in Jamaica take place in the Kingston area. It is important to make them more accessible for a wider-spread audience, for both enjoyment and edification, and for upcoming writers including schoolchildren as well as those already established. In any case St Mary is known as a special parish: “Is St Mary mi come from” - is a widely-used expression of pride.

SWAN: How can the Jamaican cultural community, both at home and abroad, be of assistance?

PW: By submitting writings (along with videos if attendance is not possible), by spreading the word, by attending (and bringing others along), by contributing ideas on how to make it work best, both this first time and in the future. Monetary contributions would help of course, despite it being a low-budget, community initiative. - SWAN

Photos (top to bottom): A flyer for the St Mary Literary Festival; editor and publisher Margaret Busby (left) with a colleague at the Calabash festival, photo by A.M./SWAN; the venue-by-the-sea of the St. Mary Literary Festival, photo by Paul Ward.

Wednesday 3 April 2024


Maryse Condé, the acclaimed Guadeloupean author, has died in France at the age of 90 - her death eliciting an outpouring of tributes across the world, particularly in the Caribbean.

Authorities in her homeland announced a community wake to be held April 6 in Pointe-à-Pitre, where members of the public could join in communion to celebrate the life and work of a writer who “always carried Guadeloupe in her heart”.

Born in 1934 on the island (a French overseas department), Condé studied in Paris, lived and taught in Africa and the United States, and wrote more than 20 books over her lifetime. She particularly addressed the history and legacies of slavery and colonialism and spoke out against racism, in Europe and elsewhere.

In 2018, she won the “alternative” Nobel Prize for her work, and she said she wished to share the honour with her family, her friends and, “above all, with the Guadeloupean people who will be so thrilled and touched by seeing me receive this award”.

(The honour replaced that year’s official Nobel Prize in Literature, which was postponed to 2019 following a scandal. Condé's award, formally called The New Academy Prize, was set up by “a wide range of knowledgeable individuals” who accepted the nominations of authors from Sweden’s librarians.)

In its citation for the award, the New Academy declared: “Maryse Condé is a grand storyteller. Her authorship belongs to world literature. In her work, she describes the ravages of colonialism and the postcolonial chaos in a language which is both precise and overwhelming. The magic, the dream and the terror is, as also love, constantly present.”

In paying homage after the announcement of her death on April 2, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “A literary giant, Maryse Condé paints a picture of sorrow and hope, from Guadeloupe to Africa, from the Caribbean to Provence. In a language of struggle and splendour that is unique, universal. Free."

Condé’s best-known books include the internationally lauded novels Ségou (Segu), Moi, Tituba sorcière (I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem) and, her final publication, L’Évangile du Nouveau Monde (The Gospel According to the New World). 

Her writing has been rendered into numerous languages, by translators including her husband Richard Philcox, and she will be remembered for work that moved readers across the world and influenced students at institutions where she taught - such as Columbia University in New York.

"Her life and writing have been an inspiration to many young scholars, students, writers - and will continue to be so," said Madeleine Dobie, professor of French and Comparative Literature at Columbia.

(For Columbia’s full tribute to Maryse Condé, see:

Although Condé wrote in French, her work has long transcended linguistic lines in the Caribbean. "Her contribution is beyond measure," Jamaican professor, writer and translator Elizabeth "Betty" Wilson told SWAN.

More than 30 years ago, Wilson and her sister Pamela Mordecai edited an anthology of Caribbean women writers titled Her True-True Name, which carried a story by Condé in English translation.

“I am so sad that she is gone,” Wilson said. “She lived life to the full.”

Sunday 24 March 2024


Spring is the season of film festivals in France, and one of the highlights is the always-stimulating Brazilian Film Festival of Paris, with its special guests, music features and topical issues.

Now in its 26th incarnation, the festival runs March 26 to April 2 this year and will screen more than 30 films at the Arlequin cinema in the famed Montparnasse neighbourhood. It is paying homage as well to the Brazilian actor and director Antônio Pitanga, acclaimed for a host of films from the 1960s to the present.

Spectators can enjoy some of the movies in which he has appeared and one of the films he has directed - Na Boca do Mundo (In the Mouth of the World) - as well as a documentary on his life and work, helmed by Beto Brant and Pitanga’s daughter Camila, a well-known actress in Brazil. 

“The most important element this year is our tribute to Pitanga,” says Katia Adler, founder and director of the film festival. “He has participated in more than 80 films, from Cinema Novo to now, and is an icon of Brazilian filmmaking.”

As honoured guest, Pitanga will be present on opening night for the showing of Nas Ondas de Dorival Caymmi (In the Waves of Dorival Caymmi), a documentary directed by Locca Faria about the famous composer, singer and musician, who blended elements of Bahian culture, samba and bossa nova.

Caymmi, who died in 2008 aged 94, composed some 100 songs over the 70 years he was musically active and is considered among the creators of the bossa nova movement.

Through the recollections of fellow artists, journalists, family members and friends, the documentary portrays his origins in Salvador, Bahia, the sources of his inspiration in the region, and his collaborations with other musicians and singers such as João Gilberto, Carmen Miranda and Chico Buarque. Caymmi also co-wrote songs with Brazilian author Jorge Amado, with whom he maintained a long friendship.

Other festival offerings on music include the gripping biopic Meu nome é Gal (My Name is Gal Costa) in which actress Sophie Charlotte plays the role of the “Tropicália singer, who died in 2022. Known for the hits "Coração Vagabundo”, “Festa Do Interior”, “Desafinado”, “Baby” and others, Costa's career was forged in turbulent times, and she's still recognized as one of the most influential voices in Brazilian music to this day, says Adler.

A filmmaker herself, Adler began distributing Brazilian films in 1998 “as a way to show a different picture and to help filmmakers at a time when culture was being pushed to the side-lines,” she has told SWAN. She launched the festival that same year, and films about music have been a mainstay since, with the spotlight in 2022 focused on pioneering musicians, for instance. (This came after difficulties in mounting the festival during the Covid-19 pandemic. See:

Along with the melodies, the wide-ranging programme has always included thought-provoking features and documentaries. This year, another standout in the lineup is Crowrã (The Buriti Flower), by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, a film that follows the indigenous Krahô people in the Brazilian forest during different time periods of their history.

Previously screened at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in the “Un Certain Regard” category, the documentary is told from the perspective of its subjects, including Ilda Patpro Krahô, one of the screenwriters and an activist for her community. Reviewers have given the documentary high marks, with British film magazine Screen International writing that it “immerses us in the lives of a people constantly facing threats to their existence”.

For Cannes, reviewer Charlotte Pavard similarly wrote: “The Buriti Flower offers a reflection on resistance, the relationship between the Krahô and the earth, and the violence suffered over recent centuries to the detriment of their ancestral rites and practices.”

In addition to the issues faced by indigenous peoples, the festival is screening films that address gender topics and a range of other subjects, including democracy. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the 1964 Brazilian coup d'état which launched a two-decades-long military dictatorship, and several films focus on this period and its legacy.  

Spectators will get to discuss some of these themes with the filmmakers present (Pitanga and others) and will equally have the chance to attend concerts by Brazilian artists – an integral component of the festival over the years.

Being emotionally moved is “guaranteed”, Adler promises.

Photos / posters of the films provided courtesy of the Brazilian Film Festival of Paris.

More info: Festival du cinéma brésilien de Paris 26 - Festival - Jangada

Thursday 15 February 2024


Judging from the audience reactions at a screening of Bob Marley: One Love in Brussels, the music may touch international viewers, but the memories and some of the “insider” comments belong to Jamaicans and those closely connected with the country.

It was clear from discussions after the premiere that attendees who had lived in Jamaica understood the context of the songs, and got certain jokes, while others felt adrift, even as they appreciated the world-famous tracks such as No Woman, No Cry and, yes, One Love. This may account for some of the less-than-positive reviews that have started to emerge.

“The film was surprisingly authentic,” said Stefanie Gilbert-Roberts, a Jamaican communications and culture professional who resides in Belgium. “But perhaps so authentic that it might seem out of this world for those not connected to the culture.”

Bob Marley: One Love, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and coming nearly 43 years after the iconic singer’s death, focuses on the Seventies and on two concerts that Marley and his band performed in Kingston, the Jamaican capital. Both events took place amid surging political violence on the island and were aimed at unifying the population. But before the first concert, gunmen stormed Marley’s home and shot him, his wife Rita, and his manager Don Taylor – an assault that shocked Jamaicans and international fans.

The film depicts the attack quickly, without dwelling on what must have been deep trauma for Marley’s family. Watching it, one can’t help but wonder at the effects on those who have now gone on to co-produce this movie: his widow Rita, their children Ziggy and Cedella, and the other family members involved such as Stephen (music supervisor).

Bob and Rita performed with their wounds at the Smile Jamaica concert in December 1976, and then left the island: he eventually for London, and she with the children to the United States. The film shows Marley’s time in England, which is perhaps the least interesting part of the story – as viewers don’t really get an idea of how he dealt again with life away from “home” (he had lived in London before, in the early Seventies, signing to Chris Blackwell's Island label). Instead, we’re given scenes of him jogging, playing football with his bandmates, joking with record executives, and getting inspiration for the title of the album Exodus, a global hit after its release in 1977.

Marley’s “relationships” are also not dwelt upon, as a viewer remarked after the screening. The most well-known of these, with Cindy Breakspeare (Miss World 1976 and mother of Damian Marley), is shown fleetingly in a scene where she watches him perform in a studio. Breakspeare is named in the credits as a consultant to the film.

Following his self-imposed exile in England, Marley would return triumphantly to Kingston to play the One Love Peace Concert in 1978, when he brought Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, leaders of the opposing political parties, together on stage to clasp hands. It was a message again to Jamaicans to unite. By the time of the next general election in the country, in 1980, more than 800 people had been killed, and citizens were leaving the island in droves, taking with them their grief, and the music of their youth.

In the film, Rita (played by British actress Lashana Lynch) refers to one of the most shocking incidents during this period, when attackers set fire to a charitable institution, with residents inside burned alive. For those who experienced these turbulent years, the film brings the memories crashing back, of both the horrific incidents and the music. Marley recorded his island’s troubles in song after song: Johnny Was, Concrete Jungle, Rat Race, Ambush in the Night, Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) and others.

In addition, there were the more playful tunes such as Roots, Rock, Reggae (with the opening lyrics “Play I some music”), and then the love songs, which the film highlights as well: Turn Your Lights Down Low being among them.

In the movie, Marley is seen playing this on the guitar to Rita, and it is then that one realizes that the whole biopic might actually be a love song to her, formulated by her children.

As portrayed by Lynch, Rita is a force, an artist in her own right, who needs to be both a backing singer for Bob and a parent to their children (as well as to his “outside” ones) – a situation she angrily describes in one argument scene. Lynch’s performance is perhaps the most memorable, and the writers could have given her greater scope by including more of Rita’s story.

Playing Marley, British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir works hard to capture the intensity and charisma of the singer, and he gives a credible performance. But the script needed more substance for a complete portrayal. Not shown, for instance, is Marley’s stance on personal relationships. 

At an early interview in Kingston, he was once asked about these views, and his response was: if a woman loved him, she would love his other women. When questioned whether this might be acceptable were the situation reversed, he replied: She don’t do that. Still, he adopted the two children Rita had with other partners. One love, one heart? Fi dem business?

So, yes, artists are complex people, and certain aspects of his life might have been depicted, alongside the far-reaching and undeniable impact in addressing injustice, inequality, and marginalisation. This is a minor criticism, however. The film is absolutely worth watching - for the man, the music, the memories... and the question of how far the world still has to go in solving major ills.

At the screening in Belgium, co-organized by Paramount Pictures, Sony Brussels and the Jamaican Embassy, Marley’s importance was summed up by Ambassador Symone Betton Nayo, who gave a short speech before the film began.

“His ability to connect with people through his music, transcending cultural and geographical boundaries, has made him a symbol of unity, strength and hope,” Betton Nayo said. “He was not only a prolific writer of music, and a talented performer, but an inspiring messenger. Many of his anthemic compositions such as One Love, Get Up, Stand Up, Redemption Song remain relevant as we reflect on current global realities.”

With “Reggae Month” being celebrated in February, the film’s release is timely, paying tribute to an iconic Jamaican artist whose music lives on, with the call for peace, love, hope, and justice, Betton Nayo added. – AM/SWAN

Photos (top to bottom): A poster for the film; the Bob Marley album Songs of Freedom; Lashana Lynch and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Rita and Bob, courtesy of Sony Pictures Belgium; Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley, courtesy of Paramount; Ambassador Symone Betton Nayo at the premiere, photo by A.M./SWAN.

Bob Marley: One Love (Paramount Pictures) is currently in cinemas.

Monday 25 September 2023


Forty-two new sites, including memorials of the Rwandan genocide, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) announced at the end of a two-week meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The organization said its World Heritage Committee – which met from Sept. 10 to 25 – approved 33 cultural and nine natural sites, bringing the total on the List to 1,199 across 168 countries.

Rwanda had its first two inscriptions:  Nyungwe National Park, and the genocide memorial sites at Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisesero, which include the locations of massacres in 1994.

Between April and July of that year, an estimated one million people were killed across the country by armed militias that targeted Tutsi but also murdered moderate Hutu and Twa people.

The Gisozi site in the capital city Kigali houses the 1999-built Kigali Genocide Memorial, where more than 250,000 victims have been buried, while the hill of Bisesero (western Rwanda) hosts a memorial constructed in 1998 to honour the fight of those who resisted for more than two months before being killed by the genocide perpetrators.

Rwandan officials welcomed the inclusion on the World Heritage List, stating that the “historic” inscription… “increases international visibility, and also honours the memory of the victims they represent throughout the world.”

UNESCO said that with the 2023 listings for Africa - five in all - the continent has “reached the symbolic milestone of 100 sites” on the List (which has a preponderance of properties in Italy, China, Germany, Spain and France). 

Over the past decade, the UN agency says it has been working to remedy under-representation on the List, urging member states to put forward sites for inscription.

This year, the organization emphasized new recognition for “Sites of Memory” - places in which an event occurred “that a nation and its people, or certain communities wish to memorialize”. It said the inclusion of such places on the List “makes them part of our shared global heritage, and recognizes the part they play in the peace process.”

The World Heritage Committee, for instance, also inscribed Argentina’s torture memorial (the ESMA Museum and Place of Memory - Former Clandestine Detention, Torture and Extermination Centre), and Belgium and France’s “Funeral and Memorial Sites of the Western Front in the First World War”.

Photo: Flame of Hope at the Gisozi memorial site.

For more information on the UNESCO World Heritage List, see: UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Wednesday 17 May 2023


Some movie scenes keep replaying in one’s mind long after one has left the cinema, and this is certainly true of Moon Over Aburi, a short film shot in Ghana that has been gaining accolades since its release earlier this year.

Based on a story (and script) by the prize-winning Ghanaian-Jamaican writer and poet Kwame Dawes, the film addresses subjects such as sexual abuse, society’s view of women’s roles, and the gender-based perspectives from which experiences are recalled and retold. It will have a special screening this month at the prestigious Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica (May 26-28), and while viewers can expect to be moved by the whole story, they will be haunted by one stunning, unexpected scene.

In its minimalist mise-en-scène, Moon Over Aburi is reminiscent of a play, with two main actors in the spotlight, or rather the moonlight, playing off each other: Ghanaian-British actress Anniwaa Buachie and her Ghanaian compatriot Brian Angels (whose credits include the 2015 feature Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba).

Buachie plays a mysterious woman, the owner of a small food kiosk who seems tied to something in her past. Angels plays the man who visits the kiosk on a moonlit night and asks for a meal. As the two exchange cryptic words and stories, it becomes clear that the man knows more about her than he lets on, and the colossal secret she carries is gradually revealed, as enigmatic shots of the full moon emphasise the mystique.

Buachie, who produced the film and co-directed (with Sheila Nortley), has a background in both cinema and theatre, having performed at London’s Old Vic and other venues. She has also appeared in guest roles in popular television series such as Eastenders. But making Moon Over Aburi was not a shoo-in for her, she says. She and her team had to overcome certain obstacles for the work to see the light of day - because in a world where the number of films seems to be ever growing, only a selected few filmmakers acquire the resources to pursue their art.

In the following, edited, interview, Buachie speaks with SWAN about the film’s journey to the screen.

SWAN: Moon Over Aburi is a shocking, thought-provoking film that is beautifully made. How did it come about?

Anniwaa Buachie: As an actor, I provided the voice of the audiobook in the anthology Accra Noir, edited by Nana Ama Danquah [and published by New York-based publisher Akashic Books]. I fell in love with the story Moon Over Aburi by Kwame Dawes.

I remember when I started reading this story, I immediately had goose bumps. The story was honest, visceral, poetic, chilling... a dance of cat and mouse between two people, a man and woman, secret and lies, making one question whether two wrongs can make a right.

It sat with me, it was in my heart, my mind, my body. I had never read a story that highlighted the vicious cycle of domestic violence, but also explored how a woman ruthlessly and unapologetically takes back her power.

Society tends to excuse the faults of a man and blame the women in that man’s life. The woman who raised him, the woman who married him, the woman who rejected him. Power is given to a woman to birth and nurture a child, yet it is taken from her as soon as she seeks equality, acknowledgement, and respect. It is a story that pushes the brutal subject matter of domestic violence into the light, a much-needed conversation that often lies in the shadow, swept under the carpet. I had to bring this story to light.

SWAN: What were some of the challenges in adapting the short story to suit the demands of a different medium, film?

A.B.: Kwame Dawes’ writing is beautiful, lyrical and poetic, and it was important to me to ensure that the film produced stayed true to the mystical element of the original.

Many stories are written in the first person, and the reader already is biased as they often attach themselves to the main narrator / protagonist. However, with Moon Over Aburi, Kwame had already written it in a dialogue format. The story was a script in the first instance, so adapting it to film was a joy, to be honest.

What was tricky was deciding how much detail to pack from a 20-page short story into a 10-page script. The world that Kwame had created was so intricate, intimate through words, and heavily reliant on the reader’s interpretation. However, with a screenplay, you have to make definitive decisions and find ways to utilise camera shots, sounds, and the colour palette to influence the viewer’s perspective.

Film also demands a particular structure that a short story can forego. Screenplays require scenes that establish each character and a clear breaking point in the middle of the script that take characters to the emotional extreme - into fight or flight mode. The audience needs to be taken on an emotional ride, and this is influenced by the whole creative team: producer, director, cinematographer, etc.

Personally, it was a challenge for me to maintain a balance between being an actor and being the producer, and co-directing.

The actor inside me wanted to play forever and fully immerse myself in the character. However, there was a part of my brain that, as the producer, always had to be focused on the practicalities, thinking about if the budget is being used effectively, if everyone is happy on set, if cast and crew have been fed and have what they need to maintain a high quality! 

Also, once a film project is done, an actor can switch off and think about their next project, whereas the role of the filmmaker doesn’t stop there - now it’s about implementing, marketing, sourcing additional finance, distribution. Good thing I am a great multi-tasker!

SWAN: The shots of the landscape, the moon, and the setting overall, are artistic and evocative. Can you tell us more about the photography and where it took place?

A.B.: The story takes place in the Aburi, the eastern region of Ghana, and in Accra, the main city. Whilst the story leaves room for the imagination, I am so thankful to Ghanaian-based cinematographer extraordinaire Apag Annankra of Apag Studios and art director Godwin Sunday Ashong. Their knowledge of the neighbourhood and the scenery enabled us to find places within Aburi and Accra that provide a magical realism.

We used drone shots to capture the vastness of Aburi and correlated this with the earthy green and blue colours and rural setting in the country scenes, and juxtaposed this with our city location - with intimate shots, highly saturated neon colours, and an abstract setting. The city locations were based in Jamestown, the vibrant heart of Accra, and Cantonments.

SWAN: The films you’ve produced carry a social message - about the treatment of girls and women - but it is left up to viewers to draw their own conclusions, or to see the light, so to speak. How do you balance artistic subtlety and activism?

A.B.: It is important to me, as an artist, to present situations that encourage conversations, a reflection of self and to identify how one contributes or blocks the development of girls and women. The best teaching is when the viewer has space for analysis themselves, as opposed to being force fed an opinion.

I simply ensure that the films I produce have in-depth perspectives, of extreme impactful situations, drawing the viewer in on an emotional, human level. 

SWAN: What are some of the difficulties in making a film without major studio backing, and are things changing?

A.B.: Budget. A studio-backed film would have a large budget and with that the creative team has space to make mistakes, to experiment, to spend hours on a scene taking multiple shots. With a big budget you can secure your ideal location, block off streets and build a set if needs be, to get the right look for the film.

Whereas when you are working on an independent or a low budget, everything you do has to be specific, and with the right intention, because the repercussions are greater. Planning is key, and ensuring everyone in the crew and cast understands the overall vision of the film is important. There cannot be a weak link, everyone needs to work together to bring their A-game. You cannot go back and re-shoot, money is tight, which also means time is limited. You just have one chance to make sure you get the right shots, the right lighting, etc.

I do think things are changing but not quickly enough. Independent filmmaking is an art that is not given the same respect as the big studio movies and TV. Which is a shame, because independents are a great way to platform new and upcoming talent and inject society with stories that are often forgotten, hidden, or discarded. But nowadays the art of filmmaking is more about the return on investment, and for that reason independent filmmaking is always a risk, but that is what makes it exhilarating and rewarding… if you make people's heads turn in an age where attention is so competitive, you know you have something really special.

SWAN: What do you hope viewers will take away from Moon?

A.B.: This film focuses on giving attention to overlooked narratives, concerning social issues such as: gender-based violence, misogyny and gender inequality, which shroud many cultures. It will open doors to a diverse audience offering intelligent insight into the social and political consciousness of the invisible and the marginalised. While this story is in a fiction anthology, it is a reality that most women face. Through the screenings, I am hoping viewers can identify how cultural constructs contribute to the way in which women are viewed, and how this can change, how this MUST change and, ultimately, that it’s down to us, the new generation to take control and rewrite the social narrative. A narrative that allows us, me, as a woman, to learn from the present, and construct a future that uplifts gender equality, suppresses elitism, and eradicates poverty. This is the foundation of social cohesion and the start of a new African legacy.

SWAN: What’s next for you?

A.B.: Kwame and I are touring with this short in many film festivals in the UK, Ghana, and the States as well, developing Moon Over Aburi into a full feature and exploring production companies and talent. Personally, I have my show coming out on the BBC (teen drama Phoenix Rise), and I have a couple other things in the works that I can’t announce yet, but it’s an exciting time! – SWAN

Photos: top to bottom: Anniwaa Buachie; scenes from Moon Over Aburi.

See too: Interview with Anniwaa Buachie - The Making of a Ghanaian Short Film | Inter Press Service ( 

Follow SWAN on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale