It is absolutely paramount that we begin to show content focusing on and produced by the people of Trinidad and Tobago through our local television stations as well as other media accessible to the public.
This was the key message that recipients of the bpTT-ttff Pioneers in Film 2013 awards expressed at their celebratory luncheon on Friday 13th September at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, the official hotel of the ttff/13.
In her opening remarks, bpTT Corporate Communications Manager Ms. Danielle Jones-Hunt expressed how proud bpTT is to be a sponsor of the ttff and posed questions that seemed to echo what was in each of the filmmakers’ hearts.
“I wanted to ask the room, what is the first movie that stirred your soul?” Ms. Jones-Hunt began. “What is the first television programme you would end up begging your parents to look at every week? What I want to know is, when will the current generation be able to say that a local film or programme was that film that stirred their soul or was that programme that they had to watch every week.”
She went on to exhort that we all have a duty to shape the cultural landscape of tomorrow and that “film must dominate that landscape.”
For the past three years the ttff has partnered with bpTT for the Pioneers in Film initiative, seeking to honour pioneers who have blazed trails in cinema exhibition and film and television production in Trinidad and Tobago since the start of the 20th century. Over the past two years, 30 pioneers have been honoured for their work. This year 14 individuals and organisations were honoured.
Advance Dynamics – Barry McComie & Fred Thornhill
Banyan Ltd – Tony Hall, Christopher Laird, Bruce Paddington
G Anthony Joseph
Robert Yao Ramesar
Camille Selvon Abrahams
As the event’s hostess, an emotional Annabelle Alcazar, ttff Programme Director, said, “These pioneers have all had their influences. Some were inspired by the images they saw on screen, and others were spurred on by the images they didn’t see.”
This point of what is not being seen on local television and in local cinemas—namely our Trinidadian and Tobagonian faces and stories—became a full-blown dialogue amongst the awardees and while they were pleased to receive their recognition, they joined bpTT and the ttff in recommitting themselves to achieve that goal.
Writer, producer and director Danielle Dieffenthaller said, “I’m hoping to continue to pioneer future productions because right now it feels as if we are at a standstill in television. Right now it seems to be at a crossroads. I’m hoping that this is going to propel us further so that we can see images of ourselves. The one thing that grabbed me as a teenager was an after-school special that Horace James had produced, and I saw people looking like me on TV, and I said “Oh my God, I want to do that. I want to put us there.” That started at age 15 and it propelled me further. The secondary schools’ film festival is happening now and I hear other young people saying the same thing so I would like to not let them down. I’d like to be able to continue producing more work.”
Her message was echoed in the acceptance speech of Trinidad and Tobago Film Company CEO Carla Foderingham, another awardee. “I want to say thank you to the filmmakers and the industry, and I say to the film industry, it’s your industry, man, claim it. And to Danielle’s [Jones-Hunt] point that if we don’t stand up and demand that those we have placed into the positions of authority the responsibility for giving us images of ourselves that are relevant, that are timely, that look like us that help to build our country, then really and truly this is just a sham. So we have to stand up and build a Trinidad and Tobago we want. When I look around this room I see the multiplicity, the diversity and the beauty. Why is that not on my TV in the evening? I don’t know. The television stations [need] to get up and get with the programme. It’s timely.”
Speaking to the need for local content, Alcazar praised production houses like Advance Dynamics for their continued support of filmmakers and Banyan for its formidable video archive, said to be the most comprehensive in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Indeed our local industry would not be possible without any of these pioneers and Trinidad and Tobago owes them continued support as they work to hold up the mirror to our society and let us see ourselves as we honestly and truly are.
About the awardees
Advance Dynamics – Barry McComie & Fred Thornhill
Barry McComie and Fred Thornhill decided to merge the strength of a television engineering company with the creativeness of a television production company to launch Advance Dynamics in 1986. With perseverance the team at Advance Dynamics survived long after other production companies departed the scene, supported many others in their visionary dreams, and continued to make a mark of their own.
Banyan – Tony Hall, Christopher Laird, Bruce Paddington
Television and Video Producers
It all started in a classroom at Tranquility Government Secondary School in Port of Spain in 1974. Today, Banyan continues to take us to class, with class. Exploring many formats—documentary, drama, public information video, music and dance—along the way, Banyan has amassed the most comprehensive video archive in the English-speaking Caribbean. Creating as a team and as individuals, Banyan continues to distinguish itself as a producer of innovative and entertaining programmes that influence generations.
In 1985, a young Michael Cherrie was mesmerised by the work of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II. “I knew I wanted to do work that powerful,” the actor remembers. In 1996, he was referred to as “a bit of a genius” by legendary British director Peter Hall, in an interview in the London Times. The British press dubbed him “the black Brando”. His films include The Final Passage (1996), Limbo (2010) and Home Again (2011). He continues to inhabit powerful characters on stage and on film and is making an invaluable contribution—as a teacher—to the next generation of actors.
Television Writer, Producer and Director
Danielle Dieffenthaller has worn many different hats in over 20 years in the television and film industry. She is committed to telling the Caribbean story through quality dramatic and documentary film and television productions. She is the owner of Diefferent Style Flims Ltd, and produced and directed the company’s popular programmes Iere Vibe (2007) and The Reef (2007–2008). Dieffenthaller was also the main force behind the television production company Earth TV Ltd, producer of the critically acclaimed series Ecowatch (1991) and the groundbreaking Westwood Park (1997–2004).
CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company
In 2006 Carla Foderingham was asked by the Trinidad and Tobago Tourism and Industrial Development Company (TIDCO) to start up a film desk in their offices. With the closure of TIDCO, the film desk became the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company, created with a mandate to develop the film and television industry of Trinidad and Tobago. The Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company from then to now, Foderingham has used her position to develop the work of hundreds of individuals in film, instituting a number of programmes and initiatives, and putting the building blocks in place for a local film industry.
A music producer with one of the most impressive Caribbean music catalogues in the region, Jean Michel Gibert has been the producer of several music-themed documentaries and docudramas. Executive producer of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Calypso at Dirty Jim’s (2006), he went on to work his magic formula for music and film on other projects. His multiple-platform marketing and distribution savvy saw his film Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle (2011) presented at the Cannes Festival and released on PBS to 150 million viewers in 50 countries.
G Anthony Joseph
Film Producer and Actor
One day while he sat with his wife watching a Chuck Norris film on television, G Anthony Joseph said to her, “I can do better than that.” And one of Joseph’s first film roles was as an extra in a Chuck Norris production, Hero and Terror. He told all his family and friends to go see it, only to discover that his small part didn’t make the final cut. Now based in Hollywood, Joseph has made appearances in several television and film productions and produced and starred in his own films, including Men of Grey (1990), Men of Grey II: Flight of the Ibis (1996) and Contract Killers (2007).
Film and Video Producer
Soon after leaving Fatima College in 1975, Thomas Mora started working at Trinidad and Tobago Television. He learned how to “make it work” as he went along, learning from those who came before him. “Timmy”—as he is fondly known—is now one of the most respected individuals in the video production industry, with over 33 years of experience in the television and film production industry as a technical operator, director, producer, executive producer and editor.
Robert Yao Ramesar
One of the Caribbean’s most prolific filmmakers, Robert Yao Ramesar has made over 120 films on the people, history and culture of Trinidad and Tobago, which have screened countries throughout Africa, Asia, North, South and Central America, Eastern and Western Europe and throughout the Caribbean, including multi-channel cable simulcasts. His first feature film, SistaGod (2006), premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. Ramesar has been credited for the creation of an original filmmaking aesthetic deemed “Caribbeing”, notable for its almost exclusive reliance on sunlight to illuminate the people and landscapes of his films.
Camille Selvon Abrahams
Founder of Anime Caribe
Camille Selvon Abrahams has invested substantial creative ingenuity into the development of the animation industry in Trinidad and Tobago. She is the Founder and Creative Director of Animae Caribe Animation and New Media Festival, the Caribbean’s first animation and new media festival. Last year she was selected by the Caribbean Examination Council to co-create a brand new syllabus for the Caribbean region in Digital Media Studies.
Writer, Director, Producer and Distributor
An award-winning filmmaker, writer, producer, distributor, and entrepreneur in film, TV, radio, theatre and new media, Frances-Anne Solomon is the founder and CEO of the CaribbeanTales Group of Companies, including CaribbeanTales.ca, an educational, not-for-profit company based in Canada; the CaribbeanTales Film Festival Group, producing marketing events and festivals in Toronto, Barbados and New York; and CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution, the region’s first full-service film sales and distribution company for Caribbean-themed content. Since 2010 she has lived between the Caribbean and Canada, and is committed to helping to develop an infrastructure and international profile for Caribbean films, both in the region and the diaspora.
You may have seen Lorraine Toussaint on TV. She had a regular role on the soap opera One Life to Live (ABC, 1968-2012), worked for four seasons on the critically acclaimed cable drama Any Day Now for the Lifetime network (1998 – 2002), played a police captain on the dramatic series Saving Grace (TNT, 2007-2010) starring Holly Hunter, and continues to line up guest spots on everything from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal. She played Jamie Foxx’s mother in the film The Soloist (2009), and starred in the award-winning Middle of Nowhere (2012), a selection of this year’s ttff. Toussaint has earned five Outstanding Lead Actress Image Award nominations, a TV Guide Award nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series and received the Wiley A Branton Award from the National Bar Association in the United States.
The late Sullivan Walker started his acting career as a member of the San Fernando Drama Guild, under the direction of James Lee Wah. During the day, he shaped young minds as a teacher at St Paul’s Anglican School. After the last bell the young actor worked hard at his craft with the theatre company. In the US, Walker had a memorable recurring role on the Cosby Show. He also had roles in films such as The Exterminator (1980) and Crocodile Dundee (1986). In his final role for a major film he performed alongside Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, playing the grandfather of the rap superstar in Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Writer, Director and Producer for Television and Film
Born in Tobago, Horace Wilson captivated local television audiences with the 13-episode series Turn of the Tide, which was developed for Video Associates and aired on Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT), and led to a feature film of the same name. The series featured a mainly Tobagonian cast. He scores another hit with No Boundaries (1985–1987). The series spanned 39 episodes, unprecedented in the English-speaking Caribbean at the time. No Boundaries grew beyond the boundaries of T&T, airing throughout the Caribbean. Wilson was awarded the Humming Bird Silver medal in 1987 and continues to write in Los Angeles.