Akley Olton, a filmmaker from St Vincent and the Grenadines has emerged as one of the winners in the recently concluded PlayGo Emerge film competition.
The competition was held under the theme “Celebrate the National Pride of Your Country” with creators encouraged to celebrate their unique cultures using short original videos no longer than 15 minutes which they were required to submit via the PlayGo app.
Olton captured a prize with his documentary “Hairouna, Land of the Blessed” in the Professional category.
Olton is a visual artist and filmmaker with over 10 years of experience. He makes his living as a cinematographer and recently started to develop a small audiovisual and multimedia production business in St Vincent and the Grenadines called Island Rebel Media.
Speaking with Loop News, Olton says “Hairouna, Land of the Blessed” is a feature-length documentary project about a young guy from the Caribbean nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines who goes on a journey into his ancestry.
Olton says the submission made to the competition was the beginning of the film, like a prequel. Now they intend to take the resources from this competition and invest it into developing the next stage of the project.
“Ultimately, we want to film in Central America because that is where the surviving descendants of the indigenous Garifuna people that were exiled from St Vincent to create St Vincent… their descendants live in Central America so we want to continue that journey and bring some of that culture back home to St Vincent as a bigger celebration of our true identity, not just the colonial one.”
Olton decided to enter the PlayGo Emerge film competition after someone sent an invitation for him to apply. He says because in St Vincent and the Grenadines there is not much of a film community, he had to look outside and connect with other filmmakers in T&T, Barbados and Jamaica.
He says the competition is a big deal for him within the Caribbean and St Vincent and the Grenadines and thanked Digicel for the opportunity and giving filmmakers across the region a beacon.
So how did his filmmaking journey begin? Olton says he started initially as a camera operator but before that was a camera enthusiast.
“Really after I went to some of my studies I figured out how powerful this medium is not to just showcase if something looks beautiful but to go beyond that and include a meaning and a message.
I developed a sense of why it is important to preserve some of these things that we call authentically Caribbean. I discovered that was important and I figured with film I could do that.”
Now he wants to be a part of it at the highest level possible and figure out the global industry.
Olton tells Loop News that he saw there was an increase in content from around the world and saw there wasn’t much coming from the Caribbean.
“I too was tired of looking on Netflix and not seeing stories like ours. I felt like there were interesting things in our reality that deserved this attention and I wanted to do it at the highest level possible to figure out how to be a part of this global film industry and how to bring it to the Caribbean or interact with it.
I mean St Vincent and the Grenadines is where they filmed one of the first Pirates of the Caribbean so it’s not as far-fetched.”
In terms of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ film sector, Olton says it is in a space that is emerging but he believes the island itself lacks the legislative infrastructure to facilitate a film sector. He notes people are trying and in SVG there is the Hairouna Film Festival.
Olton’s advice to other aspiring filmmakers in St Vincent and the Grenadines is to remember it’s not going to be an overnight success, it takes perseverance.
Olton just returned to St Vincent and the Grenadines from the Camden International Film Festival as an IF/Then x Hulu fellow where he presented a work in progress screen of my next short film Mabulu.