Putting the TT in TTFF09

Don’t go chasing waterfalls: a shot from Sistagod II: Her Second Coming, directed by Robert Yao Ramesar of Trinidad and Tobago

“Trinidadian films? Such things exist?” If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that (or something like that), I’d be–well not rich exactly, but I’d have some good change. Yes, Virginia, Trinidadian films do exist. To explain why you probably haven’t heard about (far less seen) most of them, however, would involve getting into issues that neither time nor space allow.

Rather, let’s consider that Trinidad and Tobago does have a nascent film industry, and a crop of talented filmmakers eager to make films and access a forum where they can be seen. Which is just what the trinidad+tobago film festival provides: a place for local directors to show their films, whatever style or genre they might be. This year more than half of the 70-plus films being screened at the Festival are local. Most of these are short films–many of them coming out of the Film Programme at UWI–though there are a few of feature-length. What is wonderful about these features is that they reflect a refreshing diversity. There are films by established filmmakers, as well as up-and-coming directors; narrative films, documentaries and experimental films; and films by both women and men.

One of the more anticipated local films of the Festival is The Ghost of Hing King Estate, directed by veteran filmmaker Horace Ové. Based on true events, Hing King is a supernatural thriller about mysterious deaths on an agricultural estate. It’s perhaps the most conventional of the local features, and has an ensemble cast of who’s who in acting in Trinidad and Tobago.

Another highly anticipated film is Mariel Brown‘s documentary The Solitary Alchemist. Back in 2007, Brown’s first documentary, The Insatiable Season, took home the people’s choice award at the TTFF. That film followed mas man Brian MacFarlane during the production of his Carnival presentation for the previous year. The Solitary Alchemist is, similarly, a portrait of an artist; this time, jeweller Barbara Jardine is the subject of the gaze of Brown’s camera.

Following up the screening of his film Sistagod at the TTFF in 2006, Robert Yao Ramesar returns with that film’s sequel, Sistagod II: Her Second Coming, the second film in a post-apocalyptic trilogy about the coming of a black female messiah. An established filmmaker–some of his short films were screened at the Kairi Festival back in 2002–Ramesar has always worked in the experimental mode, and the supernatural features heavily in his symbol-laden work.

Filmmaker, artist and writer Jaime Lee Loy‘s Festival offering, Bury Your Mother, is also an experimental film. Lee Loy’s most ambitious film to date, it follows up a number of short videos, and a documentary on young, unwed mothers (motherhood is a recurring theme in her work). Of the local films being screened at the Festival that I’ve seen so far, Bury Your Mother is particularly noteworthy. It is, admittedly, a demanding, unsettling, at times even upsetting film. It is also a visually powerful, haunting, accomplished work by a talented and serious young filmmaker. That’s just my opinion, of course. See it for yourself at the TTFF and make up your own mind. In fact, see all the local films, and then if anyone ever asks you if there’s filmmaking in T&T;, you’ll be able to give them an answer.

Date: Mon 24 Aug, 2009
Category: ttff news and features

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