This year’s Festival showed off a buzz of cultural, intellectual, artistry – the creative industry at its best at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival (TTFF). In my own estimation, I had not experienced this level of creative intermingling, support and exchanges since the early seventies. In the early 70’s, there was a heightened local and regional artistic awareness streaming from the first decade of Independence. That was a time of where the arts from the theater, the music ( the calypso-jazz, soca), the dance all collaborated.
Just to chip down memory lane for a minute – there was “Dem Two”, T&T Theater Workshop, Astor Johnson, Noble Douglas, the calypso poets (Black Stallin and Valentino), Molly Ahye, the ending combo era, Andre Tanker, Family Tree, Zanda, Phase 2, Fitzroy Coleman, Boscoe Holder, John Henderson, Syl Dopson and the list can go on with regional inclusion of our Caribbean neighbours. Most importantly, that period celebrated all that was before. There were no reality TV really that would compromise aesthetics. The journalism/broadcasting then – the Dave Elcock, Sam Ghany, Bob Gittens, Raffi Knowles to Billy Reece and Ian “The Goose” Elligon were all intrinsic parts of a professionally scripted, well researched and supportive media. There were visiting collaborations with Caribbean cultural icon/ choreographer Rex Nettleford, playwright Trevor Rhone and dance repertory exchanges. There were also returning musicians from their international sojourn: Raf Robertson, Richard and Robert Bailey, singer/songwriter Tony Wilson of Hot Chocolate fame, Joe Brown, Stanley Chaman & David Beresford of Semp Studios, sound engineers Frank Aggarat and Susan and Hugh Robinson of Sharc Studios.
This period in T&T was intellectually charged and had all indicators for a Caribbean Renaissance. T&T represented a cosmopolitan Caribbean. What TTFF captured was the same intellectual synergy, enthusiasm, information and sharing within its organized events, movies and its curating staff, interns and volunteers. The cross cultural, the cross discipline and the cross generational, created the right synergy and balance of the arts and the creative industry where business and art meet. There was for me a window of possibility and hope for revisitation of a Caribbean renaissance idea.
In the thick of the business of film, TTFF’s entree 2015 offered the inaugural Film Mart enabling 30 film industry professionals from around the world to engage in one-on-one meetings with representatives from 15 Caribbean projects in development. Also offered was a program of complimentary group events and activities designed to provide additional support in finding means to get films financed, made and distributed. The Mart is co-funded by the ACP Cultures Program and the European Union’s European Development Fund and implemented by the ACP Group of states. It was established to address a lack of distribution and sales options for Caribbean filmmakers and information about the regional film industry.
The Caribbean Film Mart and Caribbean Film Database are being implemented in association with the Fundación Global Democracia y Dessarollo from the Dominican Republic, the Association for the Development Of Art Cinema And Practice in Guadeloupe, the Foundation of New Latin American Cinema from Cuba, and the Festival Régional et International du Cinéma de Guadeloupe.
TTFF provided a template for the promotion of the creative industries by its informative curatorial and organized all-inclusive production. They celebrated films from and about the Caribbean and its diaspora, as well as from world cinema through it’s annual festival and year-round screenings. In addition, the Festival has facilitated the growth of Caribbean cinema by offering a wide-ranging industry program and networking opportunities. The TTFF was presented by Flow and given leading sponsorship by bpTT, with supporting sponsorship by the Embassy of the United States of America and CreativeTT.
The Festival opened with the premier of “Sweet Micky for President”. Director(s) Ben Patterson, Producer(s) Pras Michel, Karyn Rachtman, Ben Patterson Music and politics collide when international music star, Pras Michel of the Fugees, returns to his homeland of Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010, to find a country paralyzed by a corrupt government. This movie set the tone for the festival with its story, filming and editing.
I saw BIM. BIM one of the featured films in the festival, was released by SHARC Productions in Trinidad and Tobago in 1974. It is set in the 1950s and 60s in Trinidad. Also featured from that period was “The Harder They Come”. The film is a 1972 Jamaican crime film directed by Perry Henzell and co-written by Trevor D. Rhone, and starring Jimmy Cliff.
The power and vitality of film – the storytelling, the reconnecting and bridging the past to the present invigorates the mind’s experience by way of ideas, quality content and consciousness. Through the process of film are the use of music composition, word, photography, graphics, design and fashion in motion.
Best Documentary Feature went to Aleksandra Maciuszek’s Casa Blanca, which also earned a special mention for artistic merit from the Amnesty International Human Rights Prize jury.
In the Trinidad and Tobago film categories, Sean Hodgkinson’s Trafficked took Best Fiction Feature, while Kim Johnson’s Re-percussions: An African Odyssey won Best Documentary Feature.
The People’s Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature went to Joanne Johnson’s local title Sally’s Way as Antigua’s Vanishing Sail by Alexis Andrews took corresponding documentary honours.
The prize for best project at the first ever Caribbean Film Mart went to Kidnapping Inc from Haiti by Gaethan Chancy, Bruno Mourral and Raoul Peck. The festival ran from September 15-29.
Full list of award winners:
Best Fiction Feature: Sand Dollars, (Dominican Republic-Mexico-Argentina), Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán
Best Documentary Feature: Casa Blanca (Cuba-Mexico-Poland), Aleksandra Maciuszek
Best Short Film, Narrative: Mommy Water (Guadeloupe), Julien Silloray
Best Short Film, Documentary: Papa Machete (Haiti-USA-Barbados), Jonathan David Kane
Best Trinidad and Tobago Fiction Feature: Trafficked (Trinidad & Tobago), Sean Hodgkinson
Best Trinidad and Tobago Documentary Feature: Re-percussions: An African Odyssey, Kim Johnson
Best Trinidad and Tobago Short Film, Fiction: Fade To Black, Christopher Guinness
Best Trinidad and Tobago Short Film, Documentary: Riding Bull Cart, Rhonda Chan Soo
People’s Choice Award, Best Narrative Feature: Sally’s Way (Trinidad & Tobago), Joanne Johnson
People’s Choice Award, Best Documentary Feature: Vanishing Sail (Antigua), Alexis Andrews
People’s Choice Award, Best Short Film: City On The Hill, (Trinidad & Tobago), Patricia Mohammed and Michael Mooleedhar
Amnesty International Human Rights Prize: My Father’s Land (Bahamas-Haiti-Trinidad & Tobago), Miquel Galofré and Tyler Johnston
Amnesty International Human Rights Prize, Special Mention for Artistic Merit: Casa Blanca (Cuba-Mexico-Poland), Aleksandra Maciuszek
RBC: Focus Filmmakers’ Immersion Pitch Prize: Kojo McPherson, Guyana
Caribbean Film Mart Best Project Award: Kidnapping Inc (Haiti), Gaethan Chancy, Bruno Mourral, Raoul Peck
Best Emerging Trinidad and Tobago Filmmaker: Michael Rochford
BPTT Youth Jury Prize for Best Film: Girlhood (France), Céline Sciamma
BPTT Youth Jury Prize Honourable Mention: Güeros, (Mexico), Alonzo Ruizpalacios
BPTT Youth Jury Prize, Special Mention for Cinematography: The Greatest House In The World, (Guatemala-Mexico), Ana V Bojórquez and Lucía Carreras
In closing, the festival had movies for all – the serious artistic; the social activist; the commentary docudramas; the romantic; to Bollywood/Hollywood stylized. I gravitated more to the Caribbean stories and literature I craved and could not get enough. I only was able to see just about five movies as time allowed. I so wanted to see all which raises the question- why not, how, when, if. The proposition here leans toward a permanent headquarters for TTFF with designed screening spaces that the public can go learn, be inspired, be entertained as they experience their own Caribbean stories. It is already a Buz-Hub. Maybe one of the Magnificent 7 buildings that needs to be relived…just imagine.
What a culturally stimulating two weeks of “TTFF Buzz”. Now that it is all over…at least for the time being. Talking with good friend Marie Abdullah who captured the sentiments of thousands of the festival’s patrons expressed “I am now suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms”. Festival done.
Thanks to TTFF magnificent machine who brought all together, the brilliant young professionals of staff, interns and volunteers for making this year’s festival the best ever. Thanx for the buzz.
Contributed by: David Boothman
Artist/ Musician/ Composer/Curator
Boothman has curated exhibitions “ Giving Shape to the Sacred” Washington DC, arts performance exhibition “Inside of Sound the Spirit Sings” and has performed with his band CAJE Caribbean Art Jazz Ensemble pioneering Caribbean Jazz in the Mid-Atlantic ares in the US. He is now spearheading the Caribbean Renaissance mission.