Toronto, Canada - August 31, 2023 “When did paradise become merchandise?” is the question at the heart of HaMafilms’ fifth production Deep Blue, dubbed an environmental love story. Created by Antiguan-Canadian husband and wife team Howard and Mitzi Allen, the film depicts the clash between a marine biologist, helping the residents of a small fishing village preserve their way of life, and a resort developer wanting to build on their land.
The film, which has debuted in Antigua and Barbuda and New York thus far, will have its Canadian premiere at COMMFFEST on September 16th, 7:30 pm at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto.
Canadian actors Peter Williams (who plays David Hamilton) and Kim Huffman (Maya Bazelin) star in the film and are accompanied by a roster of international talent including Canadian-Guyanese actor Ryan Singh, British Actor Tom Durant Pritchard (of Netflix’ The Crown and biopic Judy), Antiguan-British Actress Julie Hewlett (The Sweetest Mango), and Canadian-Trinidadian actress Rhoma Spencer.
The soundtrack features original music by Causion (Antigua and Barbuda’s Reggae Ambassador), Antiguan musician Vincent McCoy, and singer/songwriter Promise No Promises. The movie’s theme song “Beautiful” is written and performed by Grammy winning reggae musician Maurice Gregory, formerly of Third World.
Howard, who serves as the film’s writer and director, says its inspiration came while he and Mitzi were shooting commissioned environmental documentaries and became exposed to the importance of the natural environment and the dangers it faces.
“We learned all this stuff about coral reefs and mangroves, and I am thinking ‘there are lots of people who don’t really understand how these things work,’” Howard said. “When a developer comes and wants to build a hotel, and wants to cut down mangroves, most people would think, ‘Yeah what’s the big deal,’ but if you understand how important mangroves are then you realise that, no, you can’t just remove them. They actually serve a purpose.”
As the film’s writer, Howard noted that he tried to bring nuance to all the interests – both environmental and economic – in these situations.
“I had to try to figure out how to tell this story in a way that it doesn’t feel like a documentary and it doesn’t feel like me preaching to people, but still get some of that information out,” he added.
Mitzi, the film’s executive producer, noted that people from all over the globe are seeing their lives and histories in the film, and that it especially resonates with people from coastal communities and small island developing states. She adds that she wants the film to spur people to think about their consumption patterns and the potential impact they can have on the planet and people in distant places.
“The film is about taking an inward look at how our demands are affecting the environment,” she said. “We hope that when people watch the film it sparks a conversation. A lot of the time, the conversation is not happening with the people it affects the most.”
HaMafilms produced their first independent film, a romantic-comedy called The Sweetest Mango, in 2001. It is loosely based on the story of how Mitzi, a former CFTO broadcast journalist, met her husband-to-be Howard, when she left Canada and moved back to Antigua in 1991. The film, the first feature movie to emerge from the Eastern Caribbean, is archived at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Lightbox reference library along with HaMa’s The Skin (2011).
Those interested in seeing the film can buy tickets online from the COMMFFEST website. After the premiere there will be an opportunity to participate in a Q&A with Howard and Mitzi Allen, and enjoy performances by Causion and Maurice Gregory.