Last update: 12-Dec-2013 11:55 pm
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Why film is important
The importance of film in our societies was the focus of a panel of film-makers, producers and programmers at Making Film Count: The Role of Film in Social Development, a panel discussion that was part of Cameras of Diversity For A Culture of Peace, a conference held last week at the Hyatt by the T&T Film Festival (TTFF) and Unesco.
The panel, which included US film-maker of T&T parentage Shola Lynch, US programmer Leslie Fields-Cruz, film-maker and TTFF founder Bruce Paddington and Bahamian film-maker Maria Govan took place on September 26.
Paddington, who was behind the groundbreaking Banyan production company, said the camera is like a weapon in capturing the essence of a good story, especially if the story is based on true events, like those of the revolutionary periods. And a film can help the audience to live or relive those moments.
Paddington, whose film Forward Ever: The Killing of the Grenada Revolution, which tells the story of Grenada Revolution and the 1983 killing of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, said he was happy to see that many films in the festival this year were covering really hard-hitting social issues like gang violence, racism and politics.
“We are following the vision of Unesco which is to promote peace,” he said. He said with the visual arts being added to the school curriculum, this was an engine to get young people involved in film-making and in the practice of seeing themselves.”
Govan also spoke passionately about the stories that must be told about forgotten communities and how important it is for local broadcasting networks to invest in local films.
She said many small film-makers do not make money as oftentimes funds are hard to come by, especially when it’s known the type of film you’re making. Distribution is another problem she says. However, she believes if the story is one that must be told, then the recoup of money is really secondary.
Govan said early in her film-making career, she sought to highlight social issues like poverty, drug abuse and lost communities but it was difficult to get the support from the relevant authorities, even in terms of providing information needed during production of those films.
Lynch, producer of Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, said film-makers have to be scientific and aggressive about seeking funding. She said though many doors may get shut in film-makers’ faces, they must not become discouraged or give up. She spoke about negative experiences she had while making her first documentary, Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, the story of Shirley Chisholm, first African-American woman to be elected to congress and then to run for president in 1972.
“I was very aggressive about it, applying for over 150 grants. More or less anybody who I thought would have been interested in the story of Shirley Chislom.
“For the most part I was rejected, but the thing is if you applied to so many grants and you tailor each one and you really pitch to each one you will get a certain percentage of favourable responses,” she said.
“At the end of that year I had raised the funds to tell that story.
So it is not a matter of just being lucky. It’s about being scientific about it and aggressive about it with complete femininity. Asking is not only for men,” she said.
Lynch’s documentary about Angela Davis, the black political activist who was a leading figure in the US Civil Rights movement was part of this year’s TTFF lineup.
It was the first time one of Lynch’s films was screened at the festival.
A PUBLIC SERVICE VIEW
The panel at Making Film Count spoke about the absence of support for the local film industry from local television networks. It was agreed the time was overdue for local cinemas and television broadcasting networks to develop a culture of supporting their own. In fact, it should be a matter of public service, they said.
The T&T Film Festival ends today. Guardian Media Ltd has been the official media partner of the festival.
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