LargeUp Interview: Director Karen Marks Mafundikwa on “The Price of Memory”

December 5, 2014

Words by Michellee Nelson


When Jamaican-born filmmaker Karen Marks Mafundikwa took on the task of filming the documentary, The Price of Memory, she couldnโ€™t have predicted the state of turmoil America would be in concerning race relations and racism at present. Once again, we here in the US are up in arms about yet another string of incidents of brutal use of force against a person of color at the hands of police. The subject of the value of black lives and black bodies is not a new topic in the least and, and with her film, Mafundikwa broaches the discussion in her own way with the controversial matter of reparations in Jamaica.

Told from her point of view, The Price of Memory is a unique look at just how much the slave-owning class of British benefited from slave labor, and at what cost that was to the black and brown population of slaves and former slaves. It delves into Jamaicaโ€™s colonial past and neo-colonial present to tell a well-researched story of the scope of debt owed to modern-day Jamaicans as a result. Despite lacking some in the footage department, the movie manages to make a very compelling and moving case for reparations.

Mafundikwa’s first film as director (she previously produced, and co-wrote the feature documentary, Shungu: The Resilience of a People), The Price of Memory is a bold look at the fight for reparations in Jamaica through the past 50 years. The film centers around Queen Elizabeth IIโ€™s 2002 visit to Jamaica as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations and follows the Rastafari who petition her for reparations. Rastafari continue to be at the helm of the struggle to secure payment for the debt owed to the descendants of slaves in Jamaica, and have pushed other notable academics, and lawmakers to join the cause.

At a time when a country like Brazil has been waging its own war on discrimination in policing practices that makes headlines daily, this film takes the discussion yet another step further. Although it may not have been her intention, with the The Price of Memory, Mafundikwa is adding her own โ€œtwo centsโ€ to the the debate over the value of Black lives and Black bodies following centuries of slavery, oppression, and white privilege.

The Price of Memory premieres in NYC on December 7th 2pm, at Cowin Center, Teachers College at Columbia University, and plays again on December 10th, 7:20pm, at Quad Cinema. Click the link for more information on the screenings.

Read the interview to hear what Mafundikwa had to say about the film, Ferguson, and keeping hope in the struggle for reparations.