With over ten years of experience in both the communications and production industry in Jamaica, Sasha Gay Lewis set out to pursue documentary filmmaking by enrolling in the MFA Documentary program at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles. Lewis has directed, produced, filmed, edited and written a number of documentaries and commercials in Jamaica, Belize, and California.
Her most recent documentary, which was highlighted on KTLA TV in Los Angeles, is called “The Incursion.” The documentary is an immersive experience that chronicles the events of that deadly day, the emotional drama and personal trauma the residents’ endured and its lingering effects on their lives today.
On May 24, 2010, a joint police/military operation called “Operation Garden Parish” and famously known as “The Incursion” was launched in Tivoli Gardens — a Jamaican inner-city community described as the ‘mother’ of all ghettoes — to capture the notorious and untouchable drug lord, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. This search climaxed in a deadly clash between the security forces, residents and supporters of Coke, resulting in over 150 civilian deaths. For many of these residents, Coke was a protector and provider. He gave them jobs, created social programs for the children, and took care of the elderly.
In 2016, an inquest into the operations of the security forces revealed that the events of May 2010 left enduring physical, psychological and emotional scars on the residents of Tivoli Gardens and that although the operation of the security forces was justified, the manner of its execution by the security forces was “disproportionate, unjustified and unjustifiable.”
“I would not have been able to create this documentary without coming to NYFA,” said Lewis. “I was always a storyteller, but through courses such as directing and writing the documentary, I was able to strengthen my storytelling, directing, and producing skills. This was a documentary seven years in the making and being able to workshop it for an entire year made all the difference.”
“We are living in a story driven world where stories connect and in many cases provide release and healing,” she added. “I am happy that through all the support afforded to me by the Documentary Department of NYFA, I am able to make my contribution even as I pursue my passion and what I believe to be my purpose. I could spend the rest of my life doing this.”
“The Incursion” is in the final stages of post and will be complete by the end of March 2017. The trailer will be out the first week in April 2017, and it will start its festival run shortly after.
UPDATE: “The Incursion” won Best Documentary Short at the Los Angeles Film and Script Festival.