And the ttff/18 Winners are…
The thirteenth edition of the trinidad+tobago film festival culminated in a love-fest of awards and accolades for local filmmakers at the ttff/18 Awards Ceremony at Central Bank on Tuesday 25 September.
THE BEST FILM AS DECIDED BY A YOUTH JURY sponsored by BP Trinidad and Tobago.
Buscando al Zorro (Looking for Zorro) – Wigner Duarte
El Chata (The Sparring Partner) – Gustavo Ramos Perales
Las Hijas De Abril – Michel Franco
Brown Girl Begins – Sharon Lewis
Le Rêve Français: Part 1 – Christian Faure WINNER
Sprinter – Storm Saulter
ttff/18 FUTURE CRITICS PRIZE
For the third year, this initiative sought to prepare students of the Ken Gordon School of Journalism at the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad + Tobago (COSTAATT) for the rigour, best practices and industry standards of critical film analysis and festival reporting.
Ten students from the programme were selected to write critical reviews of films under the mentorship of film critic and journalist, BC Pires, for posting on the ttff website and social media platforms during the Festival. Now, at the conclusion of the Festival, the best Future Critic has been selected on the basis of the quality of their writing and analysis, their ability to meet tight deadlines, and the number of reviews published.
Celine Dimsoy WINNER
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD FOR A SHORT FILM Sponsored by FILMTT
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD FOR A DOCUMENTARY FILM Sponsored by FILMTT
Carnival Messiah WINNER
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD FOR A NARRATIVE FEATURE FILM Sponsored by FILMTT
Hero: Based on The Life and Times of Mr. Ulric Cross WINNER
CARIBBEAN FILM MART BEST PITCH PITCH Sponsored by BP Trinidad + Tobago
The 15 participants in the Caribbean Film Mart were invited to pitch their project at the end of the 2 day mart workshop. 3 international film professionals adjudicated this process.
The participants and their projects are:
Dance the Cocoa – Juliette McCawley
Mas Slaughter – Christopher Din Chong
The Jaguar – Ryan Khan
Virus – Michael Rochford
Steel – Glenford Adams
Paul Pryce – The Deliverer
Jamil Agard –
Igual Paraise – Shea Best
Wishing for Wings – Kim Johnson
Silk Road – Janine Mendes-Franco
Trinidad’s Missing – Reynald Seydass
Hey Handsome – Roderick Weever
Fairway – Kafi Kareem Farrell WINNER
Intersection – Khrystian Ramlogan
Right and Left – Sonja Dumas
Every year the ttff invites regional and international filmmakers and film professionals to adjudicate a selection of films
The ttff/18 jury are:
Ida Does, Filmmaker from Suriname
Renee Robinson, Film Commissioner for Jamaica
Gustavo Graef Morino, filmmaker from Chile
THE JURY PRIZE FOR THE BEST TRINIDAD+TOBAGO SHORT FILM Sponsored by BP Trinidad + Tobago
The Deliverer – Paul Pryce
Mangroves – Teneille Newallo
Venus and Magnet – Elspeth Duncan WINNER
Black Hair – Miquel Galofre
Live Bait – Dominic Boos
THE JURY PRIZE FOR THE BEST TRINIDAD+TOBAGO FEATURE FILM Sponsored by BP Trinidad + Tobago
Unfinished Sentences – Mariel Brown WINNER
Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life and Times of Mr. Ulric Cross – Frances-Anne Solomon
The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) celebrates films from and about the Caribbean and its diaspora, as well as from world cinema, through an annual festival and year-round screenings. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of Caribbean cinema by offering a wide-ranging industry programme and networking opportunities. The ttff is given leading sponsorship by BP Trinidad and Tobago, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts; supporting sponsorship by The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago and Republic Bank Limited; and contributing sponsorship byFilmTT and The National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB).
Hush-A-Bye Review by Sharla Kistow
Postpartum Depression better known as ‘Baby Blues’ is a complex mix of emotional and behavior patterns that takes place in women after giving birth. Hush-A-Bye directed, written and produced by Taromi Lourdes Joseph is one of the best, most informative thirty minute short films you may ever see in your life and enjoy thoroughly. The director said her reason for creating a film of this serious nature is because of an incident that took place in 2016 where a mother jumped through a window and all the signs lead back to postpartum depression.
From beginning to end the director was able to highlight very important issues, or I should say, feelings women go through after giving birth. Let me start by saying postpartum is a SERIOUS illness that many take for granted. It doesn’t just affect women alone but the entire household, husbands, mothers-in-law, cousins, friends, anyone that is close to a person that’s about to give birth. You as a friend should take the initiative to make sure that person is a 100 percent okay. But the funny thing about this illness is not many people may know someone is going through PPD unless they speak out.
The film began with a surprise baby shower for Rose by her closest friends, she’s seen mingling and laughing, telling a few jokes and everyone is in good spirits… or so it seems. While Rose’s friends were enjoying themselves at the shower you began to see a change in her attitude. She starts to distance herself from everyone. Eventually, she excuses herself from the group and goes to the bathroom just to gather her thoughts but something was still extremely off about her.
Things got worse after she give birth to Millie, her husband went on tour so she was basically left alone to take care of a newborn. Although she had help from her mother to take care of Millie, it just wasn’t enough in Rose’s eyes and no one seems to understand what she is going through. She began feeling depressed and her anxiety gets the best of her. I believe after giving birth every single emotion a person can feel, Rose went through, which includes feeling fat, not feeling beautiful anymore, not feeling like socialising, basically feeling like everything they do is NOT good enough etc. One thing that stood out to me in this film is that Rose’s illness is more of an emotional postpartum depression than it is physical.
Another scene from the film that stood out to me was when Rose had a break down in the middle of the street near a park. She ran out her vehicles because as she was hearing voices in her head and no one took it upon themselves to find out if she was okay instead people take out their phones to capture the moment of her break down to post on social media.
I can only begin to imagine how hard it is for any woman who may suffer from postpartum depression. Just the thought of having to juggle work, school, a business and trying to maintain a household by cleaning and cooking… that alone is somewhat of a horror movie by itself… but adding a new born child into the mix can shift things into overdrive for anyone. It’s a lot and for that I applaud you women. This film is a true success, in just 30 minutes the director was able to take the audience on an eye opening journey, highlighting something that is important, something that people would normally leave on the back burner. Imagine what the director could have done if she had more than just thirty minutes. I will recommend anyone to watch this film. As I said earlier, this will be the best thirty minutes short film you’ll ever watch.
Mas Review by Stephanie Isidore
Brought to the Caribbean by the French settlers, Carnival uniquely forms part of our identity. Carnival, an annual event in Trinidad and Tobago versus Carnival held in Guadeloupe that is how I would sum up the documentary titled Mas.
The adage states that, ‘you cannot play mas and fraid powder!’ Director Jessy Schuster confidently brought to life this idea of being a participant of Caribbean Carnival celebrations. The documentary Mas expressed much of what I have been previously exposed to since a young child playing in sailor costumes back in primary school. The expression of a rainbow of colours, music, dance, happiness and laughter symbolises the feelings of masquerades on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. In Trinidad and Tobago Carnival commences soon after Christmas with fetes or Soca parties every weekend till Fantastic Friday, this is where people are permitted five days to parade through the streets of Port of Spain. However, once the clock strikes 12 midnight on Tuesday it signals the beginning of lent therefore all celebrations must end and a length of 40 days reflection begins. During this observation by the Roman Catholic society, time is allocated towards prays and fasting till Easter.
Guadeloupe’s Carnival celebrations did not appear to be an immense difference according to spokeswoman Nottingham in Mas, whom visited the country to experience this festival of colour. In the film she mentioned a lot of details which depicted the meaning behind Carnival and why it has evolved from a privately secluded French party to crowds of people in costumes parading the local streets. Pre-Emancipation period did not allow the African slaves to participate in any type of celebrations because their slave masters were afraid that they would become rebellious and destroy the plantations along with their owners. As such, the Africans were helplessly forced to stare in awe through the delicately designed windows of their slave owners for a peek of the elite French Carnival. This picture brought about a massive change and on August 1st 1834 when all slaves were freed and slavery was abolished, Carnival was transformed with the help of Calypso, Soca, Rapso and reggae music. The Africans incorporated their instruments such as drums, sticks and bamboos into their music and dance.
Today, Carnival is portrayed as the biggest show on earth with an influx of foreigners who visit these two Caribbean islands each year and help generate revenue to the local entrepreneurs. If you have a desire to play mas, but anxious of being in an open space with strange people adorned in beautiful creative artistic designs, then the documentary Mas is for you. We may not have been considered equal although everyone was free after slavery, but Carnival has the ability to display equality, fun and enjoyment.
Una Noche de Calypso ( A night of Calypso) Review by Jewel Thorpe
Una Noche De Calypso is a festive, musical documentary that gives an analysis of the Panamanian calypso group, Amistad. It brings into perspective cultural, religious, political, and historical views surrounding calypso in Panama, from its origin to its present. The journey and history of the group is intricately highlighted, with themes of friendship, discrimination and Imperialism being explored.
As the group puts on an exhilarating performance at their concert, Director Fernando Munoz aims to raise awareness and showcase the art form with a host of interviews, rehearsals and enlightening words from band members, artistes and scholars alike.
The 83 minute documentary shows group members Leslie George, Monchi, Ringing Bell, Palmer, Victor and Edward as they relive youthful moments of when they became involved in the craft. They show off their unique skills of writing, singing and playing instruments whilst comically teasing about rehearsals. They also discuss the ups and downs of being a part of the group for decades as well as being able to work with idols who paved the way for them. Calypso as a genre of music has changed dramatically over the last few decades. At its best, calypso is deeply poetic and is punctuated with witty lyrics and an upbeat tempo; however, in the last two decades or so it has often been seen as a dying art form with mainly traditionalists fighting hard to keep it alive. This is true of these passionate artistic men.
Scenic visuals are momentarily displayed to give a clear picture of what it was like living in the age that brought about the birth of Calypso music. From the building of the Panama Canal to the migration of West Indians to the country, it is thoughtfully and sensitively portrayed. The dynamic genre of music is explained in such a way that even non-calypso lovers would be intrigued. The West Indian influence serves as a great combination that one could only describe as a melting pot. To top it off the energy and joy coming from the audience at the concert, in the film, was just heart-warming. It is quite difficult to not feel a sense of pride as a Caribbean audience.
The aroma of rhythmic, exciting and informative language engulfed with singing and dancing leaves you mesmerised and excited to learn more about calypso. It is definitely an eye opener as well as hip jerker and if you’re interested in music or anything remotely cultural it’s a must see.
Sun, Sea and Science Review by Celine Dimsoy
The documentary Sun, Sea and Science: Trinidad after Oil is arguably the most important film being shown at the ttff this year. Although quite technical in parts, director Raymond Ramcharitar has done an admirable job making a clear, easily accessible film. Running at 40 mins Sun, Sea and Science: Trinidad after Oil is an incredibly well researched documentary that would make compelling viewing for anyone involved in Trinidad’s energy sector and necessary viewing for everyone from our Twin island Republic.
Ramcharitar provides a fascinating insight into Trinidad’s dependency on petroleum and natural gas with possible solutions to this issue. With the spectre of Petrotrin’s recent closure looming the showing was packed to near capacity. Given the stressful circumstances of the energy sector in the last few years, this film was even more relevant to the current national zeitgeist of Trinidad’s relationship with oil.
Diversification is brought up many times throughout the film. How does Trinidad “diversify” its economy? Can we? According to Ramcharitar the two stumbling blocks to diversification lie in the form of money and our own culture. To combat the “money” problem Sun, Sea and Science proposes that the answer lies in entrepreneur Anthony Sabga. Through the Sabga funded Caribbean Awards for Excellence, the businessman could almost be likened to (as strange as it would sound) a Bruce Wayne type figure from Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Bruce Wayne invests in Gotham. Sabga allocates some of his resources into Trinidad’s private sector. As the saying goes- not all heroes wear capes.
We are introduced to three scientists and past winners of the Caribbean Awards for Excellence; microbiologist Dr Adesh Ramsubhag, computer scientist Prof Patrick Hosein, and medical researcher Prof Paul Teelucksingh. All of them are Trinidadians. And all of them lament the lack of financial resources devoted by the Government into their respective scientific fields. One thing is made quite clear in the film though – each of their respective disciplines are clear options the Government can invest in if it wants to break the shackles of oil dependency.
Ramcharitar then tackles the issue of culture. The film argues that Carnival takes precedence over other potentially profitable sectors of the economy. By highlighting academic research conducted into the yearly losses generated from the Government’s investment into Carnival over the past decades, Ramcharitar has a point. Why not invest a fraction of the allocation that goes into Carnival in local scientific endeavours instead? This, argues Ramcharitar, would be money better spent compared to a Carnival industry that is losing money and asking for more?
“Diversification is such an annoying word! How do you diversify? Where do you diversify?” Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley says in a stock clip in the film. At the Q&A session following the screening Ramcharitar stated members of the Government were given copies of the film. It would be interesting to hear Dr. Rowley’s take on it.
Go see Sun, Sea and Science: Trinidad after Oil and decide for yourself if the solution it presents makes sense or not.
Cocote Review by Chevon Mahabir
Cocote is not a movie to be watched but experienced. The director Nelson Carlo De Santos Arias is bold, and uses powerful sounds to add drama to seemingly uninteresting moments. He uses the stunning, natural scenery of the Dominican Republic as a backdrop for his film. At times he switches from excessively bright lighting to black and white almost seamlessly creating artistically intriguing scenes; the sliding of colour and lighting also makes the film a bit hard to follow, becoming more of a distraction the further into the film we get.
Alberto (Vicente Santos) is literally a bible toting, Evangelical Christian gardener working for a wealthy family in the county’s capital of Santa Domingo when he receives news of his father’s death. He must now journey to his childhood home in rural Pueblo. There he discovers the gruesome facts of his father’s death. He learns his father was murdered by a self proclaimed “community leader” and lieutenant, Martinez (Ricardo Ariel Toribio). There he further learns that his family expects him to avenge his father’s honour by seeking revenge for his death because only then will the soul of his father rest in peace. This goes against his own religious and personal beliefs. Alberto must now force himself to partake in the morning rites of his village the Rezos; a heavily catholic ritual with pagan and voodoo influences.
The director truly captures the raw grief and frustration that happens when a loved one is taken violently. The scenes of the Rezos itself are striking and uncomfortable. The roaring, rhythmic beating of the drums and openly uncontrolled morning and praying will either captivate you or alienate you.
Alberto himself seems uneasy with the rituals and vengeance. Instead, he attempts to get justice through the law; only to be stopped on learning that Martinez is a police officer and no charges will be brought against him. In the mean time his sisters Patricia (Yuberbi de la Rosa) and Karina (Judith Rodriguez Perez) go looking for trouble which leads to not only his life being threatened, but also the lives of his family. You see him throughout the film trying to stay true to himself and his faith, but finding a middle ground is hard when the growing frustration of his family causes them to pressure him to seek revenge. The scenes where he and his sister argue are intense and saturated with profanity which is a stark contrast to the natural settings they are shot in which are beautiful and calm.
Essentially, this film is so much more than a drama; it is a documentary highlighting the different religious beliefs that exist in the Dominican Republic. It is a film about class and corruption and at times these themes dominate the movie, leaving little room for growth, development and elucidating the back stories of the supporting characters. As spectators, we cannot help but crave more from this film. We see the potential, the superb acting of its cast, leaves us wanting more complexity from its two dimensional characters. We want to be told the story of Alberto, but his story falls short if we do not include the stories of Patricia, Karina or even Martinez.
Despite its flaws Cocote is a remarkable achievement for the first time Director Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Aria. He pushes the envelope unapologetically. He has taken a film and elevated it to a work of art. It is only fitting therefore that this movie should not be consumed like any other film. Be open-minded, and allow yourself to experience it.
Lalo’s House Review by Leon A. Joseph
Directed by Kelley “Kali” Chatman Lalo’s House is a masterfully created short film. However before continuing I must say the film is in French, so if subtitles are not your cup of tea and you don’t speak French, this may be a bit difficult for you- but there is still much value in giving the film a chance. Also, the subtitles were spot on, and easy to read.
The film begins up with preteen sisters Manouchka and Pharra listening to folk tales instead of heading directly home after school. The film initially appears to be a coming of age story chronicling the sisterhood of two Haitian girls. But by the end of the first act the film takes an unexpectedly dark turn. Given that I headed into this film having read no reviews or synopses of the film this turn of events caught me totally off guard. In retrospect though I realise there were clever and subtle metaphors and hints blatantly littered throughout the first act foreshadowing the real direction and end of the film.
From the opening scene you immediately begin to be drawn in and invested in the characters through the use of an enthralling score coupled with fantastic visual story telling elements. Elements which lend to the ultimate gut punch that is the twist of the film. The film is made even more gripping by the director’s apt use of appealing and appropriate colour schemes and cinematography to heighten emotional moments throughout the film.
You are then further absorbed into the world of these two sisters by phenomenal acting especially by its two young protagonists and vicious antagonist. It’s a great achievement in my opinion when a director can present you with an antagonist, a character to dislike, a clearly detestable human being but yet still show you a different side to that character; some sliver of humanity about them that will make you empathetic to their situation.
As difficult to digest and as dark as the second and third acts of this film were it did hammer home an issue which needs to be addressed. A worldwide peril we as a society and human beings need to face and find a resolution for. This film is a true success as sad as that may be. I applaud the director for bringing exposure to this and I recommend spending the 26 minutes to view it and even a further 26 minutes to view it a second time, because it is that good.
Nang by Nang Review by Celine Dimsoy
Nang by Nang is a touching account of the life story of a woman by the name of Nang, born 93 years ago, who overcame numerous struggles throughout her life to eventually serve as a wonderful source of inspiration.
Nang was born in the humble village of Basse Terre and raised by her grandparents in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The film follows Nang as she relates her story of the many different places she lived in during her life. From Venezuela, to New York, to New Mexico, director Richard Fung (a first cousin to Nang) attempted throughout the film to take her to different locations she recalled from her childhood. Although some locations she visited seemed a blur to her, Nang was still capable of pin pointing several landmarks. What is amazing is that despite her own fading memory younger residents who grew up alongside her recalled Nang with fondness and admiration demonstrating the impact she had on others around her.
A highlight of the film was witnessing Nang’s dogged resilience in overcoming the many burdens she bore throughout her life. This is seen in her multiple marriages, family issues and her determination to continue as an independent individual. Nang describes her past husbands as ‘liars’ and ‘womanizers’. It was especially impactful that Nang lamented that in her experience with men, a woman’s role was limited to that of a homemaker. But Nang made it clear that she would not live by such archaic tenets. In a sense, she was a feminist long before it was mainstream or vogue to be one.
Her life embodies the theme of feminism and its evolution. Nang continued striving to make herself a better, more productive person by furthering her education and being employed at many jobs to make ends meet. We learn that she was even the first photo model for renowned local artist, Geffory Holder. Quite the accomplishment given her circumstances.
By the end of the film, I found myself thinking about how lucky I was (as a young woman myself) to see with intimate detail the struggle this woman faced and how she overcame them. Nang’s story was able to be told but how many other women have struggled and suffered nameless and unappreciated? To me, Nang is the embodiment of an unsung feminist icon – and she becomes a powerful symbol in the film, representing the voices of so many unknown women in the long march toward progress. Nang: a human life, an emerging icon, a defiant spirit whose story is now immortalized on film. A film that all persons, especially women, should see.
Arts Activism at ttff/18
Director Rhonda Chan Soo on film as social intervention.
The documentary films, Staging the Revolution and Safe Spaces, explore the impact of two arts intervention projects in Trinidad and Tobago. Both films were produced by Impact Media, a production company that amplifies and advances social change. The Girl Be Heard Program, with origins in New York, was adapted to a local context – combining theatre education, performance and activism to empower the lives of young women and inspire them to bring their stories to the stage.
Staging the Revolution follows the journeys of 15 teenaged girls, participants in the pilot program of Girl Be Heard Trinidad and Tobago in 2017. The film utilises observational footage, performance footage and interviews to explore the transformation of the girls, as well as the experiences of teaching artists with facilitating the program. With its origins as a university debating club, youth of The 2 Cents Movement adopted spoken word poetry as a tool, inspired by the appeal of spoken word artists like Muhammad Muwakil and Ivory Hayes.
The rise of social media propelled the movement’s first spoken word poetry videos into the national sphere with an increased viral attention. Young poets were speaking out on issues that affected their generation, from harassment of school girls by maxi men [“Maxi Man tracking School Gyal” by Crystal Skeete], to “a direct statement to Afro Trinbagonians to consciously decide to overcome an unfair history and navigate successfully through the modern era” (Derron Sandy on his piece “Bare Back Blacks). The day to day work of the organisation has grown since its formalisation in 2012 to include a national Secondary School Tour.
The documentary Safe Spaces gives a look inside the movement’s 2017 school tour, where poets facilitated discussions around gender based violence, using a unique spoken word and theatrical hybrid performance as a catalyst. Both films are intended for a general audience, but may be of particular interest to young persons and educators, as they give insight to arts-based youth intervention and empowerment.
Black Hair Review by Garvin Mortley
We are in the year 2018 and the world has evolved tremendously. Nevertheless, discrimination of the most basic nature still exists.
The 20 minute documentary, Black Hair, puts reality in our face as Gabriella Bernard, an upcoming international model based in Trinidad, shares her battle with having natural hair. “I live in a world where I am told my black beauty isn’t enough,” Gabriella expressed. She is a young, hardworking model who is willing to do anything to make it in the modelling industry. But she did not expect the industry to want her to tame her identity and to denature her beauty.
Gabriella was a contestant on ‘Caribbean’s Next Top Model’. At this competition she was asked to relax her hair or be eliminated. Gabriella was heart-broken to choose between her hair and her career. At the end, her natural Black Hair was no more. Self-hate overpowered her, she felt ugly and uncomfortable with her relaxed hair.
Thankfully, she went back on the path of re-growing natural black Hair. She placed third in the competition but bigger and better opportunities came her way because of her black hair. She advocated in the film that we live in a world where black beauty traits are “trending on everyone except black people”, but she is proving them wrong as her career is taking off.
This film takes us on an interesting journey where hate becomes love and love becomes hate with an overarching message of eventually finding yourself. As a child Gabriella had thick natural hair that had to be combed daily for school. She hated her hair because it brought her a great deal of pain while combing it. This led to her relaxing her hair which made her felt like a ‘Barbie Doll’. Later on she realizes that relaxed hair was a greater struggle. Gabriella liked her relaxed hair and was complimented by others, but it took a lot of maintenance, chemicals, and artificiality to make her hair relaxed. In her adolescence her curls would grow back prodigiously but she was still displeased by it, as she was trying to embrace the relaxed look.
Later on she began to question herself about the constant cycles and need to relax her hair. These thoughts and questions stuck with her through university as she felt lost and didn’t have a personal brand as a model.
In a bold and possibly risky move, Gabriella cut her relaxed hair and embraced her natural Black Hair. The natural hair that once brought her pain now brought Gabriella something truly amazing; self-discovery, self-love, and self-empowerment. Gabriella was piecing together her self-identity and created her personal brand based on her beautiful Black Hair. But was she willing to risk her Black hair for her modeling career?
This film is a brave effort that adds its voice to a contentious debate taking place all over the world. It’s a cultural, ethnic, aesthetic and workplace debate, taking place in small and large ways in small and large spaces. This film certainly enters boldly into the national conversation on these matters, and gives many people without support a champion to rally around when they decide to wear their hair natural or wear it ‘Black’.