The last quarter of the year is important on the international film festival calendar, particularly where Caribbean film fests are concerned. The ttff, of course, takes place at the end of September. The Dominican Republic Global Film Festival happens in the middle of November. And the Bahamas International Film Festival (Biff) and International Festival of New Latin American Cinema (or Havana Film Festival as it’s popularly known) both occur at the beginning of December.
As I noted in this post, attending other film festivals is an important way for the ttff to be able to grow and remain a vibrant, cutting-edge entity. It’s a key way for us to make connections with film industry professionals who can facilitate workshops, speak on panels and serve on our jury, as well as a way to discover great films that we can show at the ttff. (And, ultimately, it’s all about the films.)
With these things in mind, the ttff’s Creative Director, Emilie Upczak, and our Art Director, Melanie Archer, jetted off to Biff, followed by the Havana festival. (Emilie also attended Biff as a filmmaker; her short documentary Y-ning? was in official competition.)
According to its mission statement, Biff, which celebrated its ninth anniversary this year, is “dedicated to providing the local Bahamian community and international visitors with a diverse presentation of films from around the world”; it is also intent on “offering films that might not otherwise be released theatrically in the Bahamas”, which also happens to be one of the missions of the ttff with regards to Trinidad and Tobago. According to Emilie and Melanie the lineup at Biff was quite strong, with a few films looking like possible ttff/12 selections. Two Biff selections were actually prize-winning ttff/11 films: Storm Saulter’s Better Mus’ Come, which picked up the audience award at Biff for best feature (as it did at ttff/11), and Francisco Pardo’s short 10 Ave Maria.
After the Bahamas it was off to Cuba, and the oldest, most prestigious film festival in the Caribbean. Cuban cinema has a storied history, and the 33rd annual Havana film fest showed the best new Cuban cinema, as well as the best new and recent films from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Latin America, and certain other countries around the world. (There was also a smattering of films from the non-Spanish speaking Caribbean.)
The Cuban people love cinema, and the Havana festival takes place at 19 theatres across the city. Despite the long lines, Emilie and Melanie were able to see a number of films, including the new film starring Miriel Cejas, lead actress in the ttff/11 selection Boleto al Paraíso and a guest of this year’s Festival. As with Biff, Emilie and Melanie made connections with the directors of a number of strong films, films that could end up being ttff/12 selections. They also met up with the Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra, whose beautiful film The Wind Journeys was a ttff/10 selection and who was a guest of the Festival last year; he was in Havana serving on one of the festival’s several awards juries.
Melanie and Emilie also had the pleasure of visiting with Cuban designers, and met with a number of people from ICAIC, Cuba’s national cinema institute. All in all they report their stays in the Bahamas and Cuba were highly successful; the fruits of their travels will be seen at the ttff/12. We hope you’ll be there!