Free Cuban film screenings this Saturday at the ttff
DOC T and T is pleased to invite you to a programme of short and feature-length documentary and fiction films by the renowned Cuban filmmaker Enrique Colina, this Saturday, 03 November, at the offices of the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff), 199 Belmont Circular Road, at 5.00pm and 8.00pm. Mr Colina will be in attendance to introduce his films and engage in Q&A sessions with audiences.
Both screenings are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be available.
Sloppyworks, 10 mins
Each of us has a sloppy Mr Hyde in our personality. This film explores the social and economic disease that is sloppy work.
Jau, 12 mins
This is the story of a rebel dog that prefers a life of hunger in the streets rather than a life of domesticity.
The King of the Jungle, 15 mins
For 60 years the sculpture of a lion has been observing life on the streets of the jungle that is Havana. In this film he decides to speak to his aspirations of becoming a real lion.
The Russians in Cuba, 62mins
This documentary delves into the relations between Cubans and Russians after more than 30 years of Soviet presence on the island, through the testimony and memories of various individuals.
Neighbours, 12 mins
A humorous look at relationships among neighbours in daily Havana life.
It’s Better Late than Never, 10 mins
Puncutality is not a popular Cuban trait. This film explores the consequences of being late for work.
Between Hurricanes, 120 mins
After a hurricane, hunky Tomas becomes a telephone technician to a disgruntled count while juggling the attentions of several women, including a possessive hairdresser, a wealthy photographer and the count’s goth-rock daughter. Further complicating things is Tomas’s criminal brother, whose attempts to involve him in his schemes force Tomas to weigh the merits of straight or underworld careers.
Mr Colina’s visit has been made possible by the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company. The screenings are being facilitated by the ttff.
Image: Enrique Colina
Filmmakers’ resources page launched
In an effort to help local and regional filmmakers navigate the ins and outs of the global film industry, the ttff has launched a filmmakers’ resources page on its website. This page will act as a database, and will contain presentations made by film industry experts at the ttff, as well as any other resources—articles, interviews, opportunities—that might be of use.
Go to the filmmakers’ resources page here; the first two presentations—by the Tribeca Film Institute/World View and Indiewire’s Sydney Levine—are already up.
The art of the film review: competition winner
During the recently concluded ttff/12, a workshop was held on the art of film criticism. The workshop, which took place at the University of the West Indies, was facilitated by noted Indian film critic Manoj Barpujari.
At the end of the workshop, participants were invited to write a review of a film playing in the Festival, for a chance to win a $5,000 cash prize courtesy the Caribbean Communications Network (CCN), and the right to have their review published in the Express newspaper. The winner of the competition, as adjudged by Mr Barpujari, is Barbara Jenkins, for “Three’s a crowd”, her review of the film Una Noche, written and directed by Lucy Mulloy.
About Barbara Jenkins
Barbara Jenkins has spent a lifetime teaching, raising children and reading voraciously. Having just completed the MFA programme at UWI, St Augustine, she is now an ardent convert to fiction writing. Some of her stories have been successful in international writing competitions.
As a child her love of stories was not confined to reading. “I was weaned at Olympic Cinema, Belmont. I can still close my eyes and be back there in that hot, airless box, lost in the wonderful transformation of my world that 12.30 pm on Saturday afforded.” She does not watch films except at the cinema. “I need to be in a place where it’s just me and the film. Nothing else to distract from the magic. When the film is over, I need to go away and think about it. I can’t immerse in another film right way. I am quickly saturated.
“The trinidad+tobago film festival is the next best thing to J’Ouvert for me. I love it.”
Three’s a crowd
by Barbara Jenkins
In Una Noche, Lucy Mulloy’s award-winning coming-of-age film, teenage twins, Elio and Lila and Elio’s friend, Raul, set out one fateful moonlit night from Havana on a makeshift raft to reach Miami. One perishes at sea; two survive, rescued off Cuba’s coast.
What has propelled the trio to hastily construct a flotation device from the frame of a packing case, truck tyre inner tubes, styrofoam and rope and aim to cross the “90-mile-wide-river” is narrated in engaging voice-over by Lila (Analin de la Torres). This technique gives the film a documentary feel, as does the setting, filmed on location in Cuba – its streets, buildings, sea and underwater. No big name stars are vehicles for this film; the actors were selected in street casting on location.
Dressed in Cuba’s regulation high school uniform of white blouse and mustard-yellow skirt, Lila is the camera – cycling side-saddle with Elio (Javier Florian), peering through jalousie slats, spying on Raul (Dariel Arrechaga ) and his raft building. That the adults are grappling with the daily deprivations and stresses of living under both an embargo and government control, scarcely impinges on the inseparable twins’ enjoyment of each other and of their youth.
When Raul and Elio become best friends, the bond of that powerful geminal attachment begins to dissolve. Raul’s mother is very ill with AIDS; his nebulous father is in Miami. He drinks heavily, is angry, sexually confused, and relies on Elio’s friendship. After he assaults a tourist and is hunted by police, Raul decides to escape to Miami. Elio, caught stealing from the hotel kitchen, is also on the run. Lila insists on joining them.
“Were you guys trying to get to Miami?” the speedboat-driving, English-speaking tourist asks Lila and Raul after he has towed them and their chunk of styrofoam to land. Uncomprehending, they stumble along the palm-fringed beach after one night at sea as the credits roll.
It would be easy to locate the motivation for their rash adventure in the material deprivations in Castro’s Cuba and the lure of the cornucopia that awaits in America, since this constitutes a familiar real-life trope in the anti-Castro narrative in Cuba and Florida alike. But Mulloy, named by film critic Oliver Lyttleton as one of the “ten bright sparks for the future”, does not move in that groove. “You can get anything you want in Cuba,” says one of the characters. Echoing the cliché man-in-a-raincoat unbuttoning to reveal a stiched-in rack of counterfeit Bulovas, a bed is opened, like a cupboard lying on its back, to display a pharmacy’s worth of drugs from aspirin to anti-retrovirals.
While the tensions among the threesome surface earlier, it is in the confining space of the raft at sea that the real drama of the film is played out. Lila’s antagonism towards Raul as the unwelcome third in her relationship with her brother blows up when she mocks Raul’s fantasy of meeting his father and enjoying the easy life in Miami. But the director invites the audience to view this as an overt expression of the real sexual tension in the love triangle that has them trapped in that space and that enterprise. Lila loves Elio loves Raul loves Lila loves Raul loves Elio loves Lila, too much for that cramped space and, as they’re too inexperienced to have figured it out, the trio express that love with ambivalence.
As well as the yin-yang of sexual love and platonic friendship, the film subtly explores further dualities. The harmonious landscape of sea and sky contrasts with the tension on the raft and when harmony embraces the raft occupants, the sea brings menace. The luxury and privilege enjoyed by tourists is set alongside the deprivations and repression of the locals. Everyone is a police spy yet everyone is engaged in some clandestine illicit activity. Rendered in tones of dun and beige, ochre and pastels, the rundown district of Havana where the protagonists live contrasts with the energy of the people playing in the street, cycling, walking, soliciting for customers, playing music, dancing.
Mulloy collaborated with professional musicians to create from her lyrics and tune snatches a background score, hip-hop street music and a jazzy cabaret ballad. The astute combination of landscape, dialogue, music and acting give this film a joyous energy, a celebration of youthful impetuous passions, whatever the sobering consequences.
In a bizarre twist of life imitating art imitating life, actors Javier Florian and Analin de la Torres, the movie siblings, disappeared after deplaning in Miami en route to the Tribeca Film Festival in April, leaving Dariel Arrechaga to share the limelight with Lucy Mulloy when Una Noche scooped the Best New Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography awards.
Toussaint L’Ouverture wins big as ttff/12 awards announced
Excellence in local and Caribbean filmmaking was recognised on Sunday, September 30, as the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) held its annual gala awards ceremony at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain.
Over TT$170,000 in cash and other prizes were up for grabs as various awards were handed out in jury and people’s choice categories.
Winning big on the night was Toussaint L’Ouverture, a sweeping two-part historical epic about the Haitian Revolution, directed by Philippe Niang.
The film scooped the People’s Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature, as well as the jury prize for Best Actor in a Caribbean Film. That award went to the Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, who played Toussaint in the film and who was on hand to collect his prize.
Best Narrative Feature as decided by the jury was Distance, a touching, understated drama about an elderly farmer searching for his kidnapped daughter in the aftermath of the Guatemalan civil war, written and directed by Sergio Ramírez. The film’s producer, Joaquín Ruano, accepted the award on the director’s behalf.
The prize for Best Documentary Feature went to the The Story of Lover’s Rock, Menelik Shabazz’s, feelgood music film, while Ida Does captured the prize for Best Short for Peace: Memories of Anton de Kom, a moving portrait of the Surinamese writer and anti-colonial activist.
In the T&T films category, Mariel Brown won Best Local Film for her authoritative documentary about Eric Williams, Inward Hunger, while Ryan Latchmansingh’s gritty drama Where the Sun Sets, the story of a fisherman caught up in a life of crime, won Best Local Short.
Janine Fung’s joyful documentary about the Lara Brothers parang group, La Gaita, took away the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary. Buck: The Man Spirit, an entertaining thriller-horror written and directed by Steven Taylor, nabbed the People’s Choice Award for Best Short.
The ttff/12, which ended on October 2, was the largest edition of the Festival to date, with over 120 films being screened. More than half of those films were T&T productions.
Fo a complete list of the awards, go here.
Image: A shot from Toussaint L’Ouverture