Feature films, documentaries, new media productions and informative workshops all begin today with the start of the seventh annual Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival. The festival opens tonight with a gala and the screening of the highly-acclaimed documentary Marley, about reggae superstar Bob Marley, at Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain. The festival celebrates Caribbean film, but includes international contributions and has been growing steadily in popularity over the years of its existence. In just two short weeks, ending on October 2, a total of 175 films, including new media and experimental shorts will be screened. Of these, 38 will be world premieres. The films shown throughout the festival originate from countries in the Caribbean as well as Canada, Africa and Latin America. Topics to be covered will range from the black power movement to zombies, former prime ministers, soca and chocolate.
Moviegoers can look forward to the Cuban feature Juan of the Dead, a film about zombies in Havanna, Call Me Kuchu, which deals with the persecution of the gay community in Uganda and The Iran job, a film about a young man from the US Virgin Islands who finds himself in Iran amid tensions between both countries. The film Shame promises to be an eye-opening look at sex addiction and, while short films such as Shaun Escayg’s Fish and Roger Alexis’ Douen explore both local culture and folklore. Another highlight of the festival is the contribution by members of the YMCA Men Touring Programme, a short film called Shoot to Live, made by young men from the Beetham area. Films will be shown at MovieTowne, Port-of-Spain and Tobago for the cost of $25 and members of the public will also be able to take advantage of free screenings at the University of the West Indies, Little Carib Theatre and several other locations listed on the film festivals Web site. “Last year we had a wonderful festival and I believe that has set a standard for people to expect a lot from us,” said festival director Bruce Paddington. “We are seeing the interest and people seem to be looking forward to the festival more than previous years.”
Paddington added that submissions of films had also increased. “We have a great programme this year, which includes films, training workshops, acting workshops and film review.” Paddington said the next two weeks will give the public the chance to see films they would not normally be exposed to. “There is a growing market in T&T for films that are not just about superheroes and car chases.” He said the film festival also had the additional value of informing and educating viewers about the films they watched. “Having directors present to interact and answer questions allows for a more informed and educated audience,” Paddington said. Though the festival provides an opportunity for film lovers to gather and appreciate a number of films, it also has the added benefit of providing exposure to many upcoming filmmakers. It provides a platform for them to show their work among peers.
Filmmakers will also benefit from more than $170,000 in cash and prizes, including trips to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and SilverDocs film festival in Maryland. Aside from financial benefits, filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers are also allowed to take advantage of several partnerships between the film festival and private organisations such as RBC, bpTT and Flow. These partnerships provide exposure, as Flow will make films available with its On Demand service immediately after the festival and bpTT provides community screenings. The partnership with RBC’s Immersion initiative provides development programmes and exposure leading to a grant for filmmakers. The film festival, founded in 2006, is an annual celebration of Caribbean films and seeks to facilitate the growth of the Caribbean film industry by hosting workshops, panel discussions, seminars, conferences and networking opportunities with international film professionals.