Separated from the rest of the world by approximately one million square miles of water, the island nations of the Caribbean have developed unique cultures. The Florida Atlantic University Caribbean Festival, which kicked off March 26 and wraps up Saturday, has done a nice job of representing this diversity. And don't worry if you haven't been there yet. All the good stuff is still to come.
Derek Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in literature, gives a reading Friday at 8 p.m. Walcott, who has homes in Saint Lucia and New York, is the author of several books and plays, including the Obie Award-winning Dream on Monkey Mountain. He is also a poet, and his poetry has likewise garnered numerous awards. Friday night's reading is from his new novel, Tiepolo's Hound.
But Walcott is not the only draw for festivalgoers. Bruce Paddington, the event's artistic director, has attracted several of the region's noted filmmakers. Along with some other documentarians, Puerto Rican filmmaker, writer, journalist, and critic Frances Negrón-Muntaner showcases Brincando el Charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican; her film addresses issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation in relation to cultural identity in the United States. Documentaries, though, are only the tip of the cinematic iceberg. Two feature films -- Felix de Rooy's Ava and Gabriel and Don Letts and Rick Elgood's Dancehall Queen -- will be shown as well. De Rooy's piece is set in Curaçao in 1948 and focuses on the trouble that ensues when an artist wants to paint a black Madonna in a church. Letts and Elgood's film offers a look at the nightlife of Jamaica, as well as the story of a mother and daughter trying to claim their rights in a society dominated by men.
Couple all of this with the community celebration Saturday, which lasts from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and features performing artists from around the Caribbean, and you have a festival that offers a look at a good portion of the vast and varied culture that makes up all things caribe.