Headline — 16 November 2016 — by Rowland A. Parks
Manna: A Hyde film showcased at BIFF

BELIZE CITY, Sat. Nov. 12, 1016–Today, the 11th annual Belize International Film Festival premiered a number of films in its Short Narratives category, and among the many films created by filmmakers from many countries was Manna, a film produced by some members of the Hyde family.

The executive producer of Manna is Ronald Hyde and the film producers are Blackhorse Lowe, Colin Hyde, Daniel Edward Hyde and Jonathan Vellos (Manifest Multimedia).

Manna is based on an original script written and produced by Daniel Hyde, who teamed up with Blackhorse Lowe and Jonathan Vellos as directors of photography.

It is of note that Manna received Special Mention (Short Film Category) and won Most Notable Belizean Film.

The theme of Manna is perennial: man and nature, and is told in 12 minutes via camera shots of every movement of its principal actor, Michael “Sleepy” Meighan, a fisherman, who plays the role of a watchman on a deserted island.

Meighan’s existence is solitary. He must live in conformity with nature. So he fishes for his meals, against the backdrop of the otherness of the world he lives in. The otherness of that world is conveyed through the menacing presence of cruise ships on the harbor – an image that contrasts with the presence of Meighan, who is in a small boat on the sea.

The otherness of that world is also brought home through the sound of the KREM Radio news tune, as Meighan goes about his daily business of surviving in the midst of the elements.

If a viewer has a love of the outdoors and the manifestations of the sea and nature, Manna will be a thrilling cinematic experience, full of exquisite depictions of the coexistence of man and nature.

Then the story takes an unpredictable twist, as the day ends when Meighan stumbles upon two iceboxes latched against the swampy roots of the mangrove. He wades in and in a short while he retrieves the contents of the iceboxes.

He takes out one packet of cocaine that is wrapped in tape and examines it in the light. His facial expressions contort to ambivalence, as the short narrative comes to its powerful conclusion at a point of great momentum and uncertainty about where things could lead next, as the sounds of Nadia Cattouse music and the lyrics, “This long time, boy, I never see you, come let me hold your hand, boy” fill the air.

Any lover of nature will be riveted by Manna’s stripped-down intensity and its compelling images of nature, which loom large as Meighan moves effortlessly against its backdrop.
Amandala asked producer Daniel Hyde what exactly he was trying to convey in Manna.

Hyde explains, “For the film, I just wanted to capture the life of a seaman for one day, the sounds of nature and what is paradise, as you watch the cruise ships go by. With the right actor, it was ‘hit the cord and go.’”

Hyde went on to explain that the thrilling portion of the film was the point at which Meighan found the two ice coolers with the cocaine. At that point, said Hyde, “it happens.” It constitutes a major crossroads, and the potential entry of another world – one very different from the pure, primal one in which Meighan was hitherto living in.

Hyde said he wanted to leave that open, because for some people, they would be afraid, and for some others it would be like a major find.

“It’s a great breeding ground for major stories,” said Hyde.

Hyde disclosed, “We are working on a feature now that is a part of it. I’m trying to get my country to help me. I know that Belizeans are incredibly talented, so I am trying to get the cast together right now.”

Asked how long the movie took to make, Hyde explained that the film was shot in October 2015, and it took about a day and a half to film it.

He explained that he made two trips out to the area, because on the first occasion, “we never had a good sunrise, but the last time it was perfect. I refined it over a period of months and it was premiered at the Chicago Film Festival. It’s been well received all around the world.”

We asked Hyde what made him get into films. “I think I’ve always been an artist. I used to do poetry, but that was too subjective; a great film is undeniable. I feel it’s kind of the new novel,” he said.

Jonathan Vellos said that although he’s had many years of television production, this was his first stint at a movie.

“After 15 years of doing commercials and documentaries, when my cousin called me and told me about the concept, it was a ‘go’ immediately,” explained Vellos.

Vellos said, “It was a great experience.”

“I am definitely going to collaborate in the future with my cousin on more films. And this is my first time being a part of the film festival and submitting my own project, a music video for Ferron Hartshorn, ‘See the light.’ With it being an official selection, it makes me want to produce more music videos and even features,” Vellos explained.

“What the film festival is doing here is not just to get exposure for artists, directors and producers here, but to give them exposure internationally. And that’s where we want to go, internationally,” Vellos explained.

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