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Turks and Caicos Film Festival Hits The Beach

Tuesday, October 17----The Turks and Caicos International Film Festival, a unique mix of films and music events, hit the beach on Tuesday evening in a series of kick off events that lived up to their hype. The event, which runs through this weekend, will feature the international premieres of over 30 films, as well as offer provocative seminars, special events, live music concerts and, of course, glamorous parties all set in the natural beauty of this Caribbean island archipelago.

The Festival is the brainchild of Michael Misick, the impossibly handsome and energetic Premier of the island nation, which is a UK colony with a decidedly independent streak. Looking to stimulate cultural tourism to compliment the beach-and-beer tourist trade, Misick has been instrumental in bringing music, art and cultural events to the island nation.

He had the good fortune to cross paths with actress Jasmine Guy at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles last year. When asked for her opinion of what kind of a cultural event would work to promote the island as a destination spot, Guy came up with the idea of mixing film and music at a film festival event. Misick liked what he heard and used his considerable influence and political finesse to get support for the event from a varied group of local politicians, businesses and resort hotels.

Jasmine Guy

Guy, for her part, assembled a crackerjack team of experts to help with the planning of the ambitious event. She brought on her husband Terrence Duckette to administer the business and marketing end, music and film producer Karolyn Ali to organize the programming offerings, and the well-connected Carol Marshall to coordinate the press and publicity. Using her Hollywood connections, Guy was also able to assemble an impressive list of industry heavyhitters on the Festival Advisory Board and to bring some celebrity clout to attend the first-ever event.

Tuesday evening’s event began with the Opening Cocktail Reception, where visiting filmmakers, music industry professionals and local politicos, business entrepreneurs and representatives of the local music and cultural scene, rubbed shoulders at the beautiful seaside resort of the Alexandra Hotel. After the obligatory air kissing and schmoozing, the audience was treated to an on-the-beach screening of FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT----THE DONNIE McCLURKIN STORY, directed by Stephanie Frederic and produced by Brian Hollingsworth.

The film is an intimate portrait of the music legend, who is the best-selling gospel artist of our times. McClurkin’s tremendous fame obscures a difficult childhood in suburban New York, which culminated with his rape at the hands of his uncle, when the boy was only eight years old. The scars from this incident greatly effected his sense of self-worth during his teenage years into his twenties. At the same time, his undeniable singing talent brought him to the attention of gospel superstars Andre Crouch and the Winans Family, and his career exploded. Soon, he became the front man for a series of now-classic gospel albums, winning every imaginable music award for his unique efforts.

While his career soared, McClurkin has also been the target of controversy for his remarks on the religious “cure” of his homosexuality by his acceptance of Jesus and being saved. Gay rights groups have accused him of homophobic sentiments, while also speculating in the press that his “conversion” was simply a ruse not to offend his core religious audience base. Addressing the controversy in the film, McClurkin is emphatic that religion did allow him to leave behind a lifestyle “that never felt right and in which I felt very depressed”, while acknowledging that “those who are happy in that life are certainly entitled to it”.

Donnie McCurklin

Controversy aside, the film finds inspiration in the story of a man who was able to address his own difficult past and his personal demons through the transformative journey of belief and the power of musical expression.

McClurkin, along with director Stephanie Frederic, were surrounded by well wishers at the Post-Screening Opening Night Gala, held at the magnificent Grace Bay Resort. Also seen in the packed crowd were Premier Michael Misick, former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, actress Vivica A. Fox, filmmakers Raymond Gayle and Sanaa Hamri, music industry pros Robin Kheperah Kearse and David Bowen, film executive Eleonora Granata Jenkinson Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster, as well as representatives from various media outlets in the US and Canada. Partying went on into the wee hours, as a reggae band played musical favorites in the balmy atmosphere of night sky, sea wind and pink sand beach.


Sandy Mandelberger
Festivals Editor

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Online Dailies coverage of the 3rd Turks and Caicos International Film Festival, October 16 to 21, 2007

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