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‘Ghetta’ guy snags prize

Browne wins Hartley-Merrill Intl. Screenwriting award

CANNES — Jamaican filmmaker Christopher Browne won the Hartley-Merrill Intl. Screenwriting Prize Thursday for his script “Ghetta Life.”

Producer Rupert Harvey accepted the award on Browne’s behalf at a champagne reception at The Century Club in Cannes.

“You’re looking at the most masochistic producer in the room,” Harvey said. “This is not the easiest of pictures to put together. It’s a small, local film with an all-black cast and heavy dialects.”

Browne, whose “Ghetta Life” centers on a 16-year-old boy’s struggle against poverty and political instability in the Jamaican slums, couldn’t get a visa to come to Cannes.

Harvey is doing pre-production in Jamaica, trying to secure financing on the pic and find a young actor to tackle the lead role.

Second place went to the U.K.’s Peter Straughton and Bridget O’Connor for “Mrs. Ratcliffe’s Revolution,” with third place lauds going to Poland’s Maciej Adamek for “The Photograph.”

Started by RKO Pictures prexy Ted Hartley and VP Dina Merrill in 1989 as an incentive to Soviet filmmakers, The Hartley-Merrill Prize has since branched out to include 23 countries, including the U.K., India, Poland, Romania, Russia, Mexico, Serbia, South Africa, Bosnia and Peru.

The program’s goal, according to Hartley, “isn’t to make commercial movies, but to encourage screenwriters to tell stories that reflect their countries’ culture.”

Twenty-seven of the 36 Hartley-Merrill prize winners have been made into films in their home countries.

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