U.S. Ambassador to Barbados Linda Taglialatela kicked off Women’s History Month with a reception and screening of the film Qualified on Thursday, March 3. As part of the Barbados Independent Film Festival (BIFF), guests were treated to the documentary that tells the story of Janet Guthrie, the first woman driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500. The director of the film, Jenna Ricker, joined the Honorable Dame Sandra Mason, President of Barbados, members of the diplomatic corps, filmmakers, and other special guests for an evening focused on the festival’s theme “Rediscovering History.”
In her opening remarks, Ambassador Taglialatela highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the film industry and commended the community’s resilience. “One of the festival’s founding themes is overcoming adversity. And whether that’s fighting a global pandemic or breaking into a sport dominated by men, overcoming adversity is on full display tonight,” the Ambassador explained. “I hope that tonight, the festival, and all our Embassy does through the American Film Showcase continue to inspire the deeply creative minds of the Caribbean to share their remarkable stories. That’s what this festival is about, and why my Embassy supports it year after year.”
In his remarks, BIFF co-founder and co-director Sir Trevor Carmichael acknowledged the unwavering support from the U.S. Embassy in making BIFF an annual success. He lauded the Ambassador’s vision for supporting BIFF from its inception and thanked the U.S. Embassy for hosting the reception and film screening. Bushy Park Barbados and driver Natya Soodeen joined BIFF to celebrate the evening as well.
The film’s director and American Film Showcase envoy Jenna Ricker explained, “I was instantly inspired by Janet Guthrie’s tenacity and intrigued by her story. Car racing is one of the only sports where men and women compete with each other on the same field at the same time.” She continued, “I wanted to know more about this athlete that loved racing so much she gave up a career in aeronautical engineering, went broke, ceded her anonymity, and fought against impossible odds just to have a shot at driving 200mph. And I couldn’t shake that more than being the ‘first’, Guthrie’s obstacles and personal sacrifice still resonate forty years later, and well off the track.”
The U.S. Embassy has supported BIFF since its start in 2017 and was recognized as the BIFF 2022 Marquee Sponsor for its support of filmmaker participation, creative workshops, and film screenings.