As a Caribbean screenwriter (I got an M.F.A. from Northwestern, y’all), I’m always looking for more films by Caribbean and African filmmakers. Sure, Netflix offers a handful of gems within their ‘international’ catalog, but landing a Netflix deal isn’t accessible for the vast majority of Afro-Caribbean filmmakers. Honestly, mainstream distribution is not possible for most films.
Anyways, I finally dropped some coin to see what some of these Caribbean-focused streaming platforms have to offer.
Caribbeantales TV is a streaming service for films by filmmakers who come from the Caribbean diaspora. Its catalog includes movies, series, and short films. Their streaming service also offers live streaming of Caribbean-focused events.
First Impressions of Caribbeantales
Caribbeantales has a decent mix of content. The platform offers a 7-day free trial and the ability to review their entire catalog before registering. You can plan what to watch during the trial. While the video categories are clear, Caribbeantales lacks legible and captivating thumbnail designs, which may influence whether you scroll past a new title or choose to save to your list and watch later.
The Caribbeantales streaming platform is powered by Uscreen. This technology offers a fast player and an easy-to-navigate cataloging system for video content. The Uscreen player has a more detailed search function than Netflix. You can filter by category, author, country, and genre. Unlike Netflix, when you search for a film that’s not in their catalog, the platform doesn’t suggest alternatives.
kweliTV’s mission is to celebrate Black stories from around the world. Their catalog includes films, documentaries, web series, kids programming, news, and events/live experiences. kweliLive is a free, ad-supported channel that you can watch using kweliTV’s apps, tv devices, and mobile devices. It’s not available on the desktop. Ninety-eight percent of its films have been official selections at film festivals. Sixty percent of its revenue is paid to content creators every quarter. kweliTV was named in the top 16 best streaming services of 2020.
First Impressions of kweliTV’s
Like Caribbeantales, kweliTV is powered by Uscreen. The platform offers many of the same features. As viewing goes, for an undisturbed experience, you have to go full screen. An alternative is picture-in-picture mode. When picture-in-picture is activated, the player opens in a resizable window to the screen’s bottom right corner. This allows users to use other programs while watching shows.
While the Uscreen player allows you to create lists/add to favorites, the biggest drawback is the inability to remember where you stopped watching. The player also doesn’t offer closed captions. Those who are hard of hearing or unfamiliar with Caribbean accents and dialects might have trouble. Viewers can leave comments on the films.
Different from Caribbeantales, kweliTV offers a French translation and a customer support chat. In kweli’s catalog overview, you can easily see the video’s title, length, and country.
CaribFlixTV is a Jamaica-based streaming service offering Caribbean and Afro-Latino movies. Users can watch CaribFlixTV on their computers and smartphones. The mobile app is available on Google Play and Amazon Market.
First Impressions of CaribFlixTV
CaribFlixTV has a catalog of about 100 Caribbean films and TV shows. However, it does not offer a free trial or the ability to review its catalog beforehand. While the CaribFlixTV platform allows users to rate content and translate the page into 58 languages, the player does not retain your last viewed position. CaribFlixTV hosts a mix of Vimeo and YouTube videos. The videos hosted on Vimeo offer picture-in-picture. The others hosted on YouTube use the regular YouTube player. The monthly subscription fee is more of a curation fee since much of the catalog—especially those hosted on YouTube—are available for free on the internet.
Demand Africa offers 24-7 access to a large collection of Pan-African TV shows, series, soaps, movies, and lifestyle entertainment. Demand Africa’s catalog covers Nollywood and the diaspora. Demand Africa is available on the web, smartphones, tablets, and smart TV’s. The mobile app is downloadable via the Apple store, Google Play, Amazon Market, and Roku.
First Impressions of Demand Africa
Without registering, Demand Africa allows prospective subscribers to review its entire catalog. The interface is very appealing; the thumbnails and titles are uniformed. They offer on-demand and live streaming. The player allows adding videos to lists and picture-in-picture mode. If a searched title is not available, the platform recommends alternatives. It also offers recommendations when you select a show if you want to watch more of a certain type of content. Unfortunately, this player also does not retain your last viewed position. While the kids’ section only included six titles, the general movie tab had 159 titles. This platform does not offer closed captions, but some of the films featured English subtitles.
Studio Anansi is a video-on-demand platform supported by the Caribbean Film Academy (CAFA). Studio Anansi’s catalog includes films from the Caribbean and its diaspora. The platform promises new releases every other Tuesday. Studio Anansi’s mission is to celebrate the work of emerging Caribbean filmmakers.
First Impressions of Studio Anansi
Unlike the other streaming platforms, Studio Anansi is not a monthly subscription service. Instead, the videos hosted on Studio Anansi are available for 3-day rental or purchase. Some of the films are free. Without creating a profile, prospective users can review the entire catalog. Studio Anansi’s collection is easy to search and navigate. While not uniform, the platform does have appealing thumbnails, and the catalog overview includes a short description. Powered by Vimeo OTT, the player allows picture-in-picture and high-quality playback.
Remember, these platforms aren’t competing with Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or Netflix. These streaming services are dedicated to African and Caribbean content creators. If we want to see them expand their catalog and upgrade their players, we need to invest by getting a subscription or two.