Jamaican filmmaker JP Williams of The Studio Eight has signaled that he is a force to be reckoned with in the local and international film industry with the release of his second film, Uhuru-A Christmas Story, shot on location in the East African country of Tanzania.
He is now planning his third film to be released later this year – the travelogue Jamaica Nice, man! The project is already underway, with all filming processes completed. Williams spent two weeks filming across the island and is thrilled to complete his third project. He is looking for investment for this project – to develop animations that will intertwine with the script.
The skilled, self-taught content creator recently spoke to the gleaner on Uhuru-A Christmas Story, which saw him and his team, producer Simier Lanscend, travel to Tanzania, where they assembled a cast and shot the film. According to Williams, the country is full of creatives and many professionals have helped him bring the project to fruition.
“I always wanted to shoot in Africa, and after doing some research on Tanzania, I found it very interesting. It was like Jamaica in many ways, but on a much larger scale, with over 60 million people. I saw it as a challenge for myself to create a story in a foreign country. I wanted to capture an authentic story, similar to what I would capture in Jamaica,” Williams said.
Williams began filming in a community called Morangu, near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, located in Moski, home to the Chaga tribe who celebrate Christmas.
“When I got there, I still felt like I was in Jamaica. When I started touring, it was a great experience. I felt very accepted; the people there wanted me to be there, to tell their story. Not many people tell stories about the Chaga tribe, so they were excited to be part of the project,” he said.
Before making the trip to Tanzania, Williams made contact with a local producer, who helped him enormously in establishing on-the-ground contacts in the country. When he got there, he also met with the Tanzanian Film Board, and they helped him make the production possible.
“I also made contact with the Jamaican consulate in Tanzania, Betty Belfast-Ingleton, and she welcomed us into her home. She provided transportation, which was a big plus, and it got us around and to our meetings,” Williams said.
The story idea for the project was conceptualized in 2020 after Williams filmed and directed Naomi Cowan’s Christmas song, titled I miss you the most (at Christmas). According to Williams, the song did very well and the idea came to him to produce a Christmas-themed film. “Christmas seems to have a good pull on people, and I thought that would be a good theme for the project,” Williams said.
The story follows a Tanzanian man suffering from depression after the death of his wife in the United States Embassy bombing in 1998. The story is set in 2008 and features three main actors. Tanzanian singer Carola Daniel Kinasha played the role of Bibi, Yona was played by MacDonald Martin Haule, and Laura Sheilla Inangoma was Nuru.
Williams and Lanscend spent five weeks in Tanzania. After eight days of intense filming, the additional days were taken up with meetings and the recording of the 28-minute film soundtrack. Post-production for the film was completed in Jamaica over a period of six days.
Williams said he would submit Uhuru-A Christmas Story at parties. In the meantime, it is available in its entirety on YouTube.