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New York Film Festival seeks Caribbean talent

Published: 
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Director of CaribBeing, Shelley Worrell.

The accomplishments of the region’s top notch artists and designers are unmistakable, unique. Yet, there is a feeling that its reservoir of talents is yet to be fully tapped. And rightly so. With creative writers, sculptors, painters and film directors, the question, “Why hasn’t the region’s talents gone global?” screams for a response. Director of CaribBeing, Shelley Worrell, attributes this to the lack of cohesiveness in the industry. “It’s so fragmented,” she said, referring in particular to the film industry in the Caribbean. “So many people are doing different things, and are so self absorbed. That’s why partnerships are so important, where key people can be brought to the table to formulate a strategy to internationalise the industry, from a business and artistic perspective.”

Shelley understands the importance of “internationalisation,” and with strong Trinbagonian roots has already enjoyed a successful run as organiser of the first Caribbean film festival in New York in 2010.
“Last year’s event was particularly instructive and at the same time emotional. We featured the works of Haitian artists who really benefited from the platform that CaribBeing offered.” Indeed, the film On Lanmen Ka Lave Lot (United We Stand) by JanLuk Stanislas has gone on to win international recognition. It was later featured at St Bart’s Film festival and was aired on television in North America. This year’s film festival, scheduled from October 28 to November 18, raises the bar, exploring the contemporary films of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, the French West Indies and the Eastern Caribbean bloc. Concomitantly, it will feature the region’s classic films. “It’s a homage and appreciation for our elders who opened the door,” Shelley remarked.

Vintage movies such as Harder They Come and its modern sequel Better Must Come, the suspense thriller 3 Line by Trini-born Christopher Anthony, and the innovative work of Caribbean Graffiti writers, and Animae Caribe (of Trinidad) will be screened. But Shelley and CaribBeing are still welcoming submissions, “building content,” she said. The savvy and insightful director is also seeking partnerships and sponsors, and anticipates some kind of collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company.
“You have strength in numbers and in a common goal,” she stated, determined not to become a victim of the “fragmentation and individualism that has plagued the industry.” The four-week festival at the Mocada (Museum) and Maysles (Theatre), in Brooklyn and legendary Harlem, respectively, is expected to attract Caribbean talents in film, dance, music and art. It will also include panel discussions geared toward artists and community based events. “Last year we did so much on Haiti, as the wounds of the earthquake were still fresh and very open. The interaction we had at the festival also helped so many to better channel their assistance,” Shelly commented.

This year, perennial issues such as gender, race and class are expected to part of the thematic format.
“These are areas that continue to impact our communities and we would be remiss if they are just ignored,” Shelly added. Shelley’s vision is a bold one with vast fiscal, cultural, social, and even political implications. She has ingeniously developed a platform that connects, develops and promotes the artistry of the Caribbean and the Diaspora. “There is a need for people to see themselves reflected and an opportunity here to introduce our culture to new audiences,” she articulated. But she is aware that the fruition of Caribbean talent worldwide is dependent on a well-heeled and managed organisation. This, the epitome of her artistic accomplishment must remain proactive. She understands what’s at stake in this highly competitive business. She fashions CaribBeing along the lines of the renowned Tribeca Film Festival, which annually generates an international buzz, translating into huge profits. “The Tribeca Festival has not lost its soul,” Shelley argued. “It has remained community based while monetising and leveraging its collective resources,” she ended.