Trinidad & Tobago, a small island nation is filled with every race. As if a microcosm of the world today at its best, as if without the daily problems
of life, violence or the political problems the people must cope with in their lives, the privileged participants in trinidad + tobago film festival, now
approaching its 10th year, spent a glorious week together sharing cinema, one of the seven new industries this oil rich republic has designated
This country is one of 28 Caribbean islands which share a tropical paradise of beaches and forests, and yet each is unique with its own mix of music and
people living on islands surrounded by the warm waters of the Caribbean. The collective intelligence of indigenous, African, Indian, Chinese, Syrian,
Spanish, French and British traditions is being redefined by a new generation, developing its métier of cinema, new and social media here.
The Caribbean multiplicity of island cultures, T&T’s proximity to Latin America along the western Caribbean coastline and how the film festival’s
founder and director Bruce Paddington sees the film industry developing from this pivotal point inspires everyone who attends this festival. The staff,
including creative director Emilie Upczak, and the entire staff and the volunteers have improved the festival programming and the business activities of
“When you talk about Caribbean films, you have to be aware of the history of its diversity,” said festival founder Bruce Paddington. “When people ask me
about the Caribbean aesthetic, I have to, in many ways start talking about history and colonialism, and neo-colonialism and issues of slavery and pirates
and languages. You have the French, Spanish, English and the Dutch. The Caribbean still is not completely independent place. So a lot of the films reflect
issues of race and ethnicity.”
Diaspora is the new synthesis of the world today. Relabel the “immigration problem” and call it “diaspora”. Numerous diasporas have allowed the people of
the Caribbean to settle in and to send out new waves of diaspora which can, in the guise of art, unite the world. T + T is the micro model of this vision
which is taking tangible shape throughout the world today. Looking at The Caribbean, immediately apparent and a topic of discussion in the society itself,
in the music, art and in the film languages, is Diaspora. The entire human race is represented here as a product of Diaspora, not immigrants, but citizens
of a society of people in Diaspora.
Even the country’s genius- created instrument, PAN, or the steel drum, the only new musical instrument created in the 20th century, is a subject of study
in most university music schools and has more adherents and orchestras abroad than in the country itself. During Carnival, 1,000 steel drum musicians
converge here from all over the world where a giant parade and competition called Panorama transform T&T into a musical paradise. You cannot imagine
the transformative power of a steel band orchestra unless you experience it first hand. Even listening to Cuban salsa, one can frequently hear the sound of
Attempting to explain this phenom, opening night of the festival screened “Pan! Our Music Odyssey” exec produced by French
transplant, Jean Michel Gibert, this multi-tiered film, music, live entertainment event is another exportable product of the region, one to be shared
The film world here is developing on four levels simultaneously and by design. Inclusive of British, French, Dutch and Spanish colonial and slave-trading
traditions, indigenous American, African, Indian, Arab and Asian diaspora communities here are working to unite film education, festival, production and
distribution not only at home but throughout the region of the Caribbean nations, already represented in The United Nations in a 15 member Caribbean
Community political consortium called Caricom.
T+TFF has formed alliances with TribeCa Film Institute, EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs), ACP (EU’s African Caribbean Pacific Fund for Arts and Culture), the European Union’s cultural subsidy arm
(separate from Eurimages), World Cinema Fund, Curacao Film Festival which is itself an extension of the Rotterdam Film Festival. The industry has come to
t+tff to tell of subsidies and coproduction opportunities, possibilities for marketing and distribution in the global marketplace, and to give immersion
workshops on filmmaking and film criticism.
ACP has a fund of €13 million to grant in all areas of culture to reinforce and support access to markets, improve the regulatory environment and reduce
unemployment, and it grants €10 million of this to cinema and the audiovisual sector. ACP’s Director, Mohamed Ben Shabbaz gave an award to the feature
which best epitomizes cultural diversity. On presenting the prize, he reiterated their motto, “no future without culture” and on behalf of its membership
of 79 countries and their 800 million people, he gave the prize to the feature Stone Street, and encouraged filmmakers to submit projects which are
eligible if produced by any member of the Caribbean, African and Latin American nations included in the ACP for grants.
Another incentive to make movies in this untapped and untrammeled region of the world is the 36% return on monies spent on production in Trinidad.
Because Martinique and Guadaloupe are French, they can access the French CNC production subsidies and coproductions with them can share this.
All this bounty would stir me as a filmmaker anywhere in the world to hasten to find coproducers in these countries to make a movie out of the myriad of
stories that exist here. Guadaloupe novelist Simone Schwartz-Bart’s great novel written in collaboration with her husband, Andre Schwartz-Bart ( Last of the Just), A Woman Called Solitude, one of the most emotionally moving novels I ‘ve ever read, has yet to be made into a movie.
Dominican writer Jean Rhys ‘Wide Saragossa Sea, the prequel to Bronte’s Jane Eyre, has been made twice since 1993 but still has not had enough impact.
Perhaps it’s time for a remake. Or how about the novels of Jamaica Kincaid or Alejo Carpentier?
In addition to the productive work at T+TFF, sharing business ideas and sharing the visions of over 120 feature-length and short films, there is the added
bonus of being in one of the most amazing spots on earth. Island people, isolated from mainland civilizations and united among themselves by the water
which also separates them, opened their arms and invited the international film world to join them for a few days celebrating life. They have shared the
natural beauty and the music and other arts of their island paradise.
And imagine the food– a mix, (like the people themselves) of Caribbean, Indian, Asian, Arabian and African cuisine, all so fresh and with a homemade touch
which rivals your own home cooking. Bake and Shark, a deep fried pita stuffed with delicious fresh and tender shark, or Roti, a variation of a curry dish
found in India, Doubles, another street food well loved by the people.
The economy, supported by its oil industry which contributes 60% to the GNP, (though 40% is BP), a cause for some political dissension, does not need to
rely on tourism for its sustenance. And though this is the wealthiest of all the Caricom countries because of its oil and natural gas, it still has the
ubiquitous poverty seen worldwide including in our own United States of America. It is by no means perfect, but…
The awards themselves reflect the complexity of a
society which, when its own special voice is raised in unison by its citizens, has the grandly unique and harmonic sound of the music of its own steel
“Behavior,” (ISA: Latido) an incisive portrait of the life of an at-risk boy in Havana, claimed the top prize at the trinidad+tobago film festival. Directed by
Cuba’s Ernesto Daranas Serrano, Behavior beat out four other films competing for the Best Narrative Feature prize at the Festival. Behavior was also a
favorite with the Festival’s youth jury, who awarded the film a special mention.
The youth jury gave its top prize to a Brazilian film, the charming LGBT-themed coming-of-age drama “The Way He Looks,” directed by Daniel Ribeiro. Its
ISA, Films Boutique has, since its debut in Berlin 2014, licensed it to U.S. –Strand Releasing, France –Pyramide Distribution, Germany –Salzgeber & Co. Medien Gmbh, Hong Kong (China) –Cinehub, Benelux –ABC – Cinemien,Norway –Filmhuset Gruppen As & Europafilm As, Poland –Tongariro Releasing, Spain –Surtsey Films, Switzerland –Agora Films, Taiwan –Maison Motion, Inc., U.K. – Peccadillo Pictures
Best Documentary Feature was awarded to a film from the Dominican Republic, Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada’s “You and Me (Tu y yo),” an intimate look at the complex relationship between an elderly woman and
her domestic servant.
A documentary was also the winner of the Best Trinidad and Tobago Feature Film—Miquel Galofré’s “Art Connect,”an uplifting crowd-pleaser featuring young people from the urban
community of Laventille in east Port of Spain, whose lives are transformed when they undertake an art project.
The inaugural Amnesty International Human Rights Prize went to “The Abominable Crime,”
Micah Fink’s touching, troubling reflection of the struggle gays and lesbians in Jamaica face to achieve their rights.
*Note: “Behavior” is Cuba’s Official Submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award and “The Way He Looks” is Brazil’s Official Submission in the same category.
Here is a full list of the awards:
- Best Narrative Feature: Behavior, Ernesto Daranas Serrano, Cuba
Best Narrative Feature, Special Mention: Sensei Redemption, German Gruber, Curaçao
Best Documentary Feature: You and Me, Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada, Dominican Republic
Best Documentary Feature, Special Mention: Hotel Nueva Isla, Irene Gutiérrez and Javier Labrador, Cuba
- Best Short Film, Narrative: Bullock, Carlos Machado Quintela, Cuba
- Best Short Film, Documentary: ABCs, Diana Montero, Cuba
- Best Trinidad and Tobago Feature: Art Connect, Miquel Galofré
- Best Trinidad and Tobago Short Film, Narrative: Dubois, Kaz Ové
Best Trinidad and Tobago Short Film, Narrative, Special Mention: Noka: Keeper of Worlds, Shaun Escayg
Best Trinidad and Tobago Short Film, Documentary: Field Notes, Vashti Harrison
Best New Media Film: They Say You Can Dream a Thing More Than Once: Versia Harris, Barbados
Amnesty International Human Rights Prize: The Abominable Crime, Micah Fink, Jamaica/USA
BPTT Youth Jury Prize for Best Film: The Way He Looks, Daniel Ribeiro, Brazil
BPTT Youth Jury Prize for Best Film, Special Mention: Behaviour, Ernesto Daranas Serrano, Cuba
People’s Choice Award, Best Narrative Feature: A Story About Wendy 2, Sean Hodgkinson, T&T
People’s Choice Award, Best Documentary Feature: Art Connect, Miquel Galofré, T&T
People’s Choice Award, Best Short Film: Flying the Coup, Ryan Lee, T&T
- RBC: Focus Filmmakers’ Immersion Pitch Prize: Raisa Bonnet, Puerto Rico
RBC: Focus Filmmakers’ Immersion Pitch Prize, Special Mention: Davina Lee, St Lucia
Best Student at the Film Programme of the University of the West Indies: Romarlo Anderson Edghill
Best Trinidad and Tobago Film in Development: Rajah: The Story of Boysie Singh, Christian James