A shot from Lumumba, directed by Raoul Peck of Haiti
The trinidad + tobago film festival officially began in 2006. Technically, however, the festival got its start some years before, in 2002.
That was when the Kairi Film Festival–or the Kairi Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival, to give it its full name–was held. A one-off event, the Kairi Film Festival was held over three days in November 2002 at what was then the Deluxe, one of the country’s grand old cinemas, now the posh nightclub, Zen.
Kairi had a modest but solid lineup of films. The marquee film if you like was Haitian director Raoul Peck’s excellent biopic Lumumba. There was a selection of short films by Trinidad and Tobago directors, including Yao Ramesar (whose Sistagod II is in this year’s Festival). A number of documentaries were also screened, including A Hard Road to Travel, about the making of that seminal Jamaican film, The Harder they Come.
Cut to four years later and the first trinidad + tobago film festival as we know it. Billed as “Our voices, our stories, our films” the TTFF06 was held over a week in late September at MovieTowne. Films screened included the first Sistagod; the popular music documentary Calypso Dreams; and a film about the Mennonite community in Belize, made by TTFF founder Bruce Paddington (and no, Bruce didn’t ask me to put that in).
2007 saw the TTFF grow to take on more of the features it has today. The Festival was now two weeks long, with more films being shown. Outreach screenings in San Fernando and Tobago were added. The Festival’s partnership with StudioFilmClub began, as well as a partnership with the Animae Caraibe animated film festival. One of the highlights of the 2007 Festival was an emotional screening of the too-little-seen 1974 film Bim, still the greatest Trinidad and Tobago film ever made. Another was the screening of the Hollywood thriller Haven, starring Orlando Bloom and Bill Paxton and directed by Frank E. Flowers of the Cayman Islands, where the film was set and shot. The director was present, and it was quite moving to hear him say that while the film was also premiering that weekend in the US, he thought it more important for him to be at the TTFF screening.
The Festival continued to grow in 2008. Again, there were more films than ever before, including films from Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Venezuela, as well as the Caribbean diaspora in the UK and North America. StudioFilmClub hosted the renowned artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien. An outreach element involving the University of the West Indies was added. Most significantly, perhaps, a number of technical workshops hosted by film industry professionals were held for the first time. These workshops–in screenwriting, sound, lighting and so on–were an overwhelming success, as were the discussion panels involving visiting filmmakers. And the Festival itself was more of a success than ever, with the greatest attendance yet recorded.
So what’s new in 2009? In my next post I’ll preview this year’s Festival, with a focus on some of the new features.