Inside the judging room where the 09 festival jury decides which films will take home cash prizes. Clockwise from left: Tanja Meding, Carla Foderingham, BC Pires, Christine Punnett, and Bruce Paddington
At around noon today, I obnoxiously inserted myself into a room at the TTFC where a jury of five had been sitting for three hours (and would sit for two more) making weighty decisions as to which of this year’s films will take home awards. 2009 marks the first year of the festival’s two juried prizes (Best Film and Best Locally Made Film)—in past years, we have given out People’s Choice Awards but, this year, sponsors have generously stepped up to provide cash prizes to those films and filmmakers of worth. Winners will be announced on Tuesday 29 September (scroll down for the list of prizes).
The 2009 jury is as follows: Bruce Paddington (trinidad+tobago film festival founding director), Hilton Als (who weighed in in absentia via written notes as he had to leave T&T; unexpectedly this morning), Carla Foderingham (CEO of the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company), Tanja Meding (US-based independent documentary filmmaker), BC Pires (film critic and judge of the Caribbean Media Awards) and Christine Punnett (of the National Gas Company).
When I walked in, the jury was busy discussing a film that shall remain nameless as, according to Tanja, I was under embargo. I sat listening for a while, enjoying the debate and getting a little lost in the conversation until a break occurred and I got to ask a question or two.
My first was on the criteria for judging a film and how the jury decides which films are of merit. The answer didn’t surprise: in general, they were looking for critical work that also shows a high level of technical skill. Speaking of the best local film, Carla said that they are “looking for something that resonates with a local audience but isn’t so parochial that it can’t be appreciated by all audiences.”
I then asked how the experience has been and everyone chimed in saying that they enjoyed watching all the films. Carla spoke about the diverse pool of directors, from emerging to experienced. Bruce said that there had been “some close calls” in terms of the eventual winners chosen and that there were “special mentions and very special mentions.” “The crop of films is very strong this year,” he added. “It gives us hope for the future of the industry.”
Carla then spoke of the important role that the trinidad+tobago film festival plays: “If we don’t attend the festival, there’s little chance of seeing these films as it’s a struggle to show local films. There’s a tremendous body of work in the Caribbean. If we don’t get to see these films, we are poorer as a people.” She then spoke about the fact that when filmmakers approach the majority of our local stations in an attempt to show their films, they are often told that they would have to pay for airtime, and cited the case of one director was told he could show his film for TT $32,000/hour.
Setting aside the negative, Carla ended on a high note: “Film is one of the ways to bring us together,” she said. “We get to see ourselves in different ways and, through films, we break stereotypes. The thematic representations [in films] are critical for all of us to confront our realities. We’re more alike than we know.”
The trinidad+tobago film festival/09 is grateful for the generous sponsors of this year’s prizes, which are as follows:
This award recognises outstanding achievement in creating a feature film that reflects the Caribbean spirit. The winner will receive a prize of US $10,000. Sponsored by The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited.
Best Locally Made Film
This award recognises outstanding achievement by a filmmaker resident and working in T&T; and carries a cash prize of TT $30,000. Sponsored by the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company
People’s Choice Award: Best Dramatic Feature
Sponsored by Intercommercial Bank Limited and carries a cash prize of TT $5,000
People’s Choice Award: Best Documentary
Sponsored by Trinidad Systems Limited and carries a cash prize of TT $5,000
People’s Choice Award: Best Short Film
Sponsored by Agostini Insurance Brokers Limited and carries a cash prize of TT $5,000