“I like to tell untold stories. These are the stories of my ancestors, their resistance and heroism that are not getting to the big screen.” So declares Caribbean filmmaker Roy T. Anderson, the director of “African Redemption: The Life and Legacy of Marcus Garvey,” a rich and absorbing documentary which has received several accolades including two Africa Movie Academy award nominations.
The feature-length film, assembled from interviews with contemporary artists, curators, and scholars, shines a spotlight on Jamaica’s first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the world-renowned political activist who dedicated his life to the mission of redeeming Africa. Narrated by Emmy-award winning actor Keith David, the film is Anderson’s attempt at humanizing an iconic world figure and bringing the controversial leader’s story to the screen.
“Here is a guy who has been marginalized by history for so long. Not that what I am presenting is the gospel, but I wanted to try and change the narrative a bit and just re-introduce people to Marcus Garvey. This film was my attempt at humanizing a world figure.”
Filmed in Kingston, Jamaica, Ghana, Canada, USA, United Kingdom and Central America, this worthwhile docu-drama brilliantly blends live-action sequences, striking still photographs and engaging interviews with world-renowned leaders and scholars.
“We started filming in August 2016 and started with our major interview in December 2016,” shares Anderson, who was approached by Dr. Julius Garvey to do a film about his father. Several aspects of Garvey’s life are shared in this insightful project. From his secret meeting with Edward Young Clarke, the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, in 1922, his conviction in New York City of mail fraud in 1923, his imprisonment in 1925 to his deportation to Jamaica in 1927, Anderson’s film is detailed and succinct.
“Initially, I was going to look at the film through the lens of Dr. Julius Garvey being the young son and had tentatively titled it ‘Marcus Garvey – A Son’s Story,’ but the focus was switched up and I wanted to just look at everything about his life. Pleasant and unpleasant,” continues Anderson, a Jamaican-born filmmaker, and producer of two award-winning documentaries: “Akwantu: The Journey” (2012), and “Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess” (2015).
Garvey was a catalyst for succeeding generations of African leaders including Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah as well as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko. With over 100 interviews, others featured in the 85-minute feature-length film include reggae artists Sean Paul and David Hinds, lead singer for Steel Pulse; award-winning American actors Louis Gossett, Jr. and Danny Glover, retired United States Congressman Charles Rangel and Ms. Samia Nkrumah, daughter of Kwame Nkrumah.
The film had its world premiere at the Trinidad and Tobago Festival on September 23, 2021 and was broadcast on television in Jamaica during National Heritage Week. “It is such an important story and I wanted it widely disseminated to people and that is why I took my time. He gave folks hope to feel proud of who they were and there is a sense of pride and empowerment that comes from watching it. He was able to reach a multitude of people around the world, and this is before there was social media,” adds Anderson.
His hopes are also that the film will reignite the effort to get a posthumous presidential pardon for Garvey, whose message of self-reliance and economic independence appealed to many fed up with the racism and discrimination. Garvey urged African Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa, their ancestral homeland, a message which attracted thousands of supporters. “Folks are just beaming with pride when they watch this and they are saying this is a necessary ingredient for us now and we need that more than ever,” he continues. “If I can be a vehicle for some of those ancestral stories once I have left this planet, then in my small way I have done a job.”
The UK premiere of “African Redemption: The Life and Legacy of Marcus Garvey” will take place Feb 5th at the BFI Southbank
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Pictured – Roy T. Anderson (courtesy of Anderson), Marcus Garvey (George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images).