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T&T films burst onto NY scene

Published: 
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
“The Diaspora offers infinite possibilities. It is so critical that we connect to this incredible resource in a meaningful way. This means that we in the Caribbean have to re-make ourselves and revisit our distribution model.” —festival director Camille Selvon-Abrahams Photos courtesy T&T Film Festival Animae Caribe and Shelley Worrell

It is said that every storied story has its ebb and flow—the good times and the bad. To every story there is a beginning—the storied beginning—“Once upon a time.” The tale of T&T film industry is no exception. According to Jonathan Ali of the T&T Film Festival, lack of financing, marketing, and distribution had stymied the creative output of local talent. “Over the years,” he said, “there had been little assistance from  a private and governmental level.” Understanding the matrix of variables involved in the making of a robust and profitable industry, he called for the region to attract more international film makers and for local cinemas to do their part in screening local efforts. “This will ensure that local film makers can get more experience in a professional environment.”

Somewhat handicapped on many fronts, the T&T Film festival has still endured, enjoying a phoenix-like revival—at home and in the Caribbean Diaspora. Alas, the vistas for monetising and internationalising local talent have never been more available. Today, opportunities are plentiful, a boon to a once moribund field. Ali’s anticipatory tone was palatable. He made mention of the Jamaican urban dramas—Ghett’a Life and Better Mus’ Come, and the Antiguan made, Skin. An output from Barbados—Hush, and a Trini feature, Little Boy Blue, was also noted. This marked resuscitation, he attributed to the digital revolution. “More then ever cameras are in everybody’s hands.” He spoke about UWI’s film programme and grants offered by the T&T Film company. “Of course, the festival is the ideal platform for work to be featured. There is a long way to go but the foundation has been laid and films are being made.” With this newfound profligacy in the film industry, New York has been eyed, for it has proven to be the unfailing gateway to global recognition. Think Tribeca Film Festival and its humble beginnings.

Further, New York is the home of a robust Caribbean Diaspora that has flown the regional flags in every artistic endeavour. Now, an indissoluble bridge has been built between the two communities. “Every year we show films from Diaspora filmmakers and we are keen to nurture institutional relationships, Ali stated, as he cited partnerships with FEMI—a festival in Guadeloupe, and the Zanzibar Film Festival in East Africa. “That’s why our collaboration with CaribBeing is so crucial and a natural part of our growth,” he added. CaribBeing, the brain child of Shelley Worrel, has held two highly successful film festivals in New York since its founding in 2009. During this year’s eclectic festival scheduled at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (Mocada) in Brooklyn, animated films will be front and centre.
And as the region produces more animated films, Animae Caribe has emerged as the engineer of innovation in what has become a competitive field. It has recognised the industry’s billion dollar potential. 

Animae’s festival director, Camille Selvon Abrahams indicated that much. “The Diaspora offers infinite possibilities. It is so critical that we connect to this incredible resource in a meaningful way. This means that we in the Caribbean have to re-make ourselves and revisit our distribution model.” The Brooklyn KIDflix film festival running August 12 through the 26, will unveil the children focussed, Night of Animated Shorts, featuring Prosper, by Wendell McShine which explores the wounds of T&T’s post colonial nationalism. High expectations also await Project Ninja Slippers, from another Trinidad artist, Makesi Aquan. Screening of adult-oriented traditional movies, including Soul Boy, a Kenyan drama, the Trinidadian horror flick, 3 Line, and Pan Man, is also anticipated. Mocada touted the uniqueness of this year’s event, as it premiers MoCADA TV. “It is an exciting new revolution that takes the African Diaspora outside the museum walls into the world of television.”

Dr Glenville Ashby
New York correspondent
Guardian Media Limited