The Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latino Americano—or, as it’s better known, the Havana Film Festival (HFF)—took place earlier this month, from the 4th to the 14th of December. The festival, which celebrated its 34th anniversary this year, is the largest and longest-running film festival in the region. The ttff had the privilege of being invited to present a programme of films at this year’s HFF, entitled Caribbean Calling. Creative Director of the ttff, Emilie Upczak, attended the HFF along with Bruce Paddngton, the Founder and Festival Director of the ttff. Here Emilie briefly answers some questions about Caribbean Calling, the ttff’s relationship with Havana, and having the official ttff/12 poster selected to compete for a film poster design competition at the HFF.
Say a little bit about the Havana Film Festival (HFF). How did the ttff come to present a showcase of films there?
The HFF, which is in its 35th year, is the largest festival in the Caribbean. Originally, it showcased films from Latin America and the Caribbean, but has of late highlighted films from predominantly the Hispanophone Caribbean. Myself and [ttff Art Director] Melanie Archer attended the festival last year and in early 2012 [ttff Founder and Festival Director] Bruce Paddington, during the launch of his new book on Caribbean cinema at the Havana Book Fair, met with the festival’s organisers. Out of these visits and meetings an invitation was extended to the ttff to programme five feature films and five shorts from the French-, Dutch- and English-speaking Caribbean at this year’s festival.
We were excited about this opportunity, as the HFF is a very dynamic environment that could become a more significant space of interchange for Caribbean filmmakers. The HFF and the Cuban film industry are interested in exploring their Caribbeanness, as well as leveraging their Latin American and international contacts to assist in developing Caribbean film.
What films were in the showcase? How were they selected?
The features chosen were: Better Mus’ Come (Jamaica), Hit Me with Music (Jamaica), Inward Hunger (T&T), Moloch Tropical (Haiti) and SistaGod (T&T). The shorts were 10 Ave Maria (Curaçao), Doubles with Slight Pepper (T&T), Fish (T&T), Gravedigger (Jamaica) and The Legend of Buchi Fil (Aruba).
The programming committee of the ttff selected the films based on their having been in competition at the ttff over the past two years. As well, two older films were chosen [SistaGod and Moloch Tropical] because we felt they were important works to show in Cuba.
How were the films received?
Audiences really liked the selections and numbers grew at the screenings as the days went on. There was a buzz about the visiting filmmakers and the discussion around Caribbean filmmakers outside of Latin America was an exciting one. I surmise the attendance figures for the showcase will grow in future years, as the showcase will continue.
Apart from the screenings, what other activities were there in the ttff showcase?
There was another launch of Bruce Paddington’s book on Caribbean cinema. There was a panel discussion on Caribbean cinema, and we also had a press conference. Independently, the ttff met with UNESCO about a project that we’re developing for Caribbean cinema. We also met with a Cuban documentary filmmaker about a project concerning Caribbean women filmmakers.
The official ttff/12 poster was selected to compete in Havana’s poster competition. Could you say a little bit about that?
Every year the HFF programming committee selects the best posters from the region from films and film festivals and ours was selected to participate in this competition. It was a great honour to be selected, as the calibre of entries was high.
What does the future hold for the relationship between the ttff and Havana?
The ttff intends to present a number of selections from this year’s HFF at ttff/13. Additionally, we intend to continue our collaboration of information sharing and working together to develop a stronger Caribbean film industry. And, of course, the ttff hopes to again programme a showcase in 2013 at the HFF.