Film series highlights Caribbean artists and the theme of challenging colonial ideas of paradise

Photo courtesy of Metrograph

The four-part film series, Unraveling Paradise, centering Caribbean artists and challenging colonial fantasies of paradise, kicks off April 10 at Metrograph In Theater and At Home. 

Curated by Dessane Lopez Cassell, Unraveling Paradise presents a selection of Caribbean films and artists’ moving image works that pry apart illusions of the region as a perfect tropical “paradise.”

“There’s a powerful myth that’s been reinforced in the Caribbean for centuries,” said Cassell. “From early tourism campaigns to contemporary media, visions of the region as a tropical ‘paradise’ abound—each peddling a fantasy carefully crafted for maximum consumption. Framing the notion of paradise as a case study in colonial mythmaking, this film series centers instability, mischief, and the mundane as counter gestures to the fantasies that bind the Caribbean in a predatory economic and cultural relationship with the Global North. Featuring work by Sofía Gallisá Muriente (with the New York premiere of Celaje), Joiri Minaya, Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada, Esther Figueroa, Johanné Gómez Terrero, and Dalissa Montes de Oca (with the US premiere of Pacaman).”

Unraveling Paradise will occur through four programs beginning with Paradise In Ruins premiering on April 10 at 6:30 p.m. The essay film, Celaje (Cloudscape), is an elegy to the death of the Puerto Rican colonial project and the sedimentation of disasters on this Caribbean Island.

The Second program is titled Jamaica For Sale premiering April 17 at 7:15 p.m. Directed by Esther Figueroa, this documentary focuses on the false promise of prosperity through tourism and the environmental and economic impacts of overdevelopment in Jamaica. 

Program three, Beyond The Gates, will premier on April 24 at 6:45 p.m. This program will feature a pairing of films that speak to the experiences of working-class Dominicans. In both films, Pacaman and Caribbean Fantasy, the everyday grind of keeping one’s head above water take precedence. Themes include yielding a more nuanced portrait of life, labor, and class in Santo Domingo that purposely departs from the usual tourist fare of sunny shores and colonial architecture.

The final Program in the series, Maintenance Work, will premiere in early May. A specific date and time are to be announced. This program will also feature a pairing of films: Labadee and Site of Sites. In celebration of International Workers’ Day, these films focus on the labor required to uphold the idyllic settings regarding paradise. Themes comparing colonialism and tourism in Haiti will encourage the audience to understand the artificial fantasy that is “paradise.”

Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with the director to foster discussion surrounding the topics brought up in the films. 

Presented by Metrograph and Abrons Arts Center, Unraveling Paradise allows thought-provoking films to be available for others to understand the hidden issues Caribbean islands face.