Since debuting on St. Thomas, “Paradise Discovered: The Unbreakable Virgin Islanders,” has been garnering critical-acclaim nationwide. The film, directed by Peter Bailey, Virgin Islands author and journalist, captures him and a cross-section of Virgin Islanders retelling harrowing tales of surviving hurricanes Irma and Maria. Bailey will return to St. Thomas on Dec. 7 for a second showing of the film at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.
The St. Thomas stop is part of a nationwide screening tour Bailey, who is a former staff writer at Time and Newsweek and is well-known for his “NiteCap” talk show, has embarked upon to share what he calls “one of the most inspiring stories in American history that mainstream media missed.” The film is based on Bailey’s New York Times Op Ed which he wrote while building a make-shift roof after hurricane Irma destroyed his family’s home.
“‘Unbreakable’ is the story of how we as a community gave each other light when nature and the rest of the world left us darkness,” said. Bailey. He has dedicated this most recent film to his late father, Joseph Bailey, who passed away on Sept. 3.
The film made its U.S. mainland debut in October at the University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles as part of the university’s “Our Voices” program, which invites the brightest minds in filmmaking to discuss their work. Past speakers include legendary director John Singleton and John Chu. The event marked the first time a chapter of Virgin Islands history was showcased at the nation’s most prestigious film school.
“Peter’s work is so important to the national discourse today,” said Desa Philadelphia, a journalist who heads USC’s Voices Program. “There should be many rich discussions centered around the themes he explores in his work.”
“Unbreakable” most recently made its East Coast debut at the University of Delaware, Bailey’s alma mater, to a packed crowd of students, professors and civic leaders.
“I laughed. I cried and identified. Someone is finally telling our story,” said an emphatic Sharifa Paul, a high school classmate of Bailey’s who drove down from Philadelphia for the event.
Others are calling the film a much-needed education.
“The film taught me a lot about US citizens that I knew nothing about,” says Katherine Nails a graduating senior who serves as managing editor of the University of Delaware’s student run newspaper. “You learn that the Virgin Islanders tragedy brought out the best in their community.”
Other upcoming stops on the tour include Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami, Providence, R.I. and Charleston, S.C.
Bailey’s goal for the Paradise Discovered series is to advocate for residents of the Virgin Islands and rest of the Caribbean to be included into the nation’s cultural and political discourse. The first film from the series, “The Anguilla Connection,” debuted in Anguilla — his mother’s homeland.
“If you close your eyes and think of the Virgin Islands you picture a beach,” said Bailey. “There are people on these islands. People with hopes and dreams beyond serving rum punch.”
For more information on the tour or to get tickets, visit www.nitecapmedia.com.