ANDREA E.. LELAND is an artist, film and video maker involved in the creative process while exploring, celebrating and documenting distinct cultures. The goal of the film and video work is to enrich, enlighten, increase tolerance and decrease fear and tension between cultures. She works collaboratively with members of these individual communities providing a forum to voice their untold stories, personal challenges and compelling triumphs. Social, artistic or political actions are placed within the context of their culture, imploring the viewer to confront old myths and discover a new perspective.
She has taken on the role of producer, director, writer, researcher and camera operator. With a masters degree from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, she began her artistic career by painting and traveling throughout the Caribbean seeking cultural expressions and exploring layers of influence derived from African, Amerindian and European sources. Following a trip to Haiti in 1986, Leland found filmmaking to be a more effective way to both celebrate a community visually and address the issues of culture in the social and political context. In addition, though the collaboration process, the groups being documented could be given a forum to voice their untold stories, personal challenges and compelling triumphs.
Her first documentary, VOODOO AND THE CHURCH IN HAITI, celebrates Voodoo as a traditional form of African spirituality and places it within the context of everyday life in Haiti.
Working collaboratively with Maya refugees living in Chicago and Chiapas, she completed THE LONG ROAD HOME currently in the New Day collection. This documentary tells the story of the atrocities committed against the Mayan's in the Guatemalan government's "Scorch and Burn" policy of the early 1980's, resulting in mass exodus of Mayans to refugee camps in Chiapas, Mexico. This documentary has been updated in 2001.
In 1995, Leland partnered with Kathy Berger and began a collaboration with the Garifuna people of Belize and the United States in producing the documentary THE GARIFUNA JOURNEY , also in the New Day collection. Descendants of African and Amerindian ancestors who successfully resisted slavery, the Garifuna emerged with a separate and distinct culture still in existence today. As a first voice project,The Garifuna Journey has been awarded "special project" status from Cultural Survival and was instrumental in UNESCO awarding the Garifuna: Masterpieces of Intangible Heritage .
In 2006, she completed a feature length documentary about Scratch Band (Quelbe)music in the Virgin Islands entitled JAMESIE, KING OF SCRATCH.
Working again collaboratively with the Caribs / Garifuna of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, Leland recently completed YURUMEIN (Homeland). This documentary explores the resistance, rupture and attempts to repair the Carib culture on St. Vincent. This is a culture almost lost after years of colonial repression. It is a story of hope, a people re-identifying themselves in a post colonial world.
Leland lives in both the US Virgin Islands and California where she continues to document Caribbean culture and paints in her spare time.
Films by Andrea E. Leland
An untold history of the indigenous Caribs on St. Vincent: their near extermination and exile by the British 200 years ago; and return of some in the Diaspora to reconnect with those left behind. A postcolonial story of re-identification.
The Long Road Home is a record of historical events around the war in Guatemala and puts a human face on the term "refugee".
Scratch band music, or Quelbe, is the grass-roots folk music from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The lyrics are a form of oral history relaying the day-to-day trials and tribulations of living on a small Caribbean island. Playing with some homemade instruments made from tin cans and gourds, the music has a crudeness to it that is intoxicating and rhythmic speaking to both the beauty and the hardship of the Crucian (of St. Croix) lifestyle. 79-year old James Brewster has performed and recorded throughout the Caribbean, Europe and the United States and is the legendary King of Scratch.
Working closely with Garifuna tradition bearers, this "outsider and insider" collaboration is the first of its kind, one that captures the triumph of spirit of the Garifuna people. With vivid and engaging footage shot entirely in Belize, the documentary celebrates the continuity of Garifuna culture in the face of overwhelming odds.