The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) kicked off its eighth edition with a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port-of-Spain yesterday morning.
Members of the head table included Emilie Upczak and Jonathan Ali, the Creative and Editorial Directors of the ttff respectively; Danielle Jones-Hunt, Manager of Corporate Communications for bpTT; Cindy-Ann Gatt, Vice–President of Sales and Marketing for Flow; Darryl White, Regional Vice-President of Corporate Banking, RBC Royal Bank; and Carla Foderingham, CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (TTFC).
Magella Moreau, director of public relations for the ttff, functioned as the master of ceremonies. Bruce Paddington, founder and director of the ttff was also in attendance, along with other members of the Festival team.
“Most things here don’t last that long.”
Speaking briefly with Jonathan Ali before the beginning of the press conference, he made this statement when I asked if he was proud of the length of time the ttff has existed. Lasting for eight years is one thing, but lasting eight years and being able to mark definitive progression is another thing entirely.
As Ms. Cindy-Ann Gatt pointed out, the ttff started in 2006 with 35 films on its programme, three international guests and approximately 1500 attendees. This year, there are 142 films screening with over 100 international guests and approximately 17,000 patrons expected to attend. I think that this growth is tremendous and definitely something that our entire film industry can be proud of.
Moreover, while an increase in numbers is important and an objective within itself, the Festival has given the people of Trinidad and Tobago something intangible and even more precious: the ability to see our own stories told on film, to hear our own accents, to see our own faces and encounter our very unique Caribbean circumstances in a place where they can be critiqued, glorified, stripped down, built up and—most of all—shared with a multitude of people who will now if not engage, at least be aware of our dialogues.
As those at the head table spoke, it became more and more obvious that the ttff is indeed something special. It is rare to have the ongoing loyalty of so many prominent companies who show up to press conferences not only to “show face and shake hands”, but to express their actual personal connection to films and how the ttff has impacted that connection. For example, Ms. Gatt related that Flow has been very proud to be a part of the growth of the ttff and has extended its partnership as leading sponsor for three more years.
This key message of film as a pillar of nation-building was echoed in Mr. Darryl White’s comments as he stood at the podium and asked, “Where would we be without creativity and expression?” A leading sponsor of the film festival, this is RBC’s third year supporting the ttff’s emerging artists programme, the Focus: Filmmakers’ Immersion.
Ms. Danielle Jones-Hunt of leading sponsor bpTT—who sponsor the Local Film in Development award and the Pioneers initiative—spoke passionately about having Trinidad and Tobago respond to the call of developing the next generation that will ensure the longevity of our film industry.
“In Trinidad and Tobago we cannot wait too long to develop the next generation of excellence,” she said. “I can see 150 plus movies this year. That is 150-plus opportunities for positive, creative outlets for youth and families to enjoy.”
Ms. Carla Foderingham of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company, one of the founding sponsors and now a leading sponsor of the ttff, also made the connection between having locally produced content and being proud of ourselves as a country.
“I dream of seeing local films 24/7,” she said. “I want to see my films when I’m coming down from Toronto for Carnival, I want to see films on the ferry and on the PTSC buses. We have got to dream big. You have to go out and support the film festival. Yes we celebrate in September when the Festival is on but is not enough to have it once a year. We need to have it all year round.”
Of the 142 films screening in the Festival this year, there will be 50 feature-length films. Half of those will be Caribbean films, and half will screen in the Panorama section, which contains films from Latin America, North America and especially from what the ttff calls its “heritage” countries: countries in Africa, India, and for the first time, China.
There will also be 56 shorts, all of which are from the Caribbean and the diaspora; half of these are from Trinidad and Tobago. Rounding out programme will be 36 films in the New Media programme, which was introduced two years ago and which focuses on experimental work and avant-garde films.
In terms of films to look out for, Mr. Ali related that we have a few world premieres happening at this year’s film festival. God Loves the Fighter, a film by Damian Marcano which “speaks directly to what is happening on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago today,” as well as Poetry is an Island, a film by Ida Does “focusing on the Caribbean’s greatest literary son, Derek Walcott,” will have their world debuts.
Mr Ali also mentioned NO, a Chilean film focusing on events surrounding the ousting of the dictator Augusto Pinochet; Born to Hate…Destined to Love, an Indian film reminiscent of a Romeo-and-Juliet romance; and Zarafa, a French children’s film about the first giraffe taken from Africa to Europe.
As for opening night, it takes place on September 17th at Queen’s Hall from 6:00 p.m. The night’s featured film is Half of a Yellow Sun, directed by Nigerian-born Biyi Bandele. The film’s producer Andrea Calderwood will be on hand to introduce the film. This will be the second showing of this film worldwide.
Image: The speakers at yesterday’s press conference, from left: Darryl White, Regional Vice-President of Corporate Banking, RBC Royal Bank; Emilie Upczak, Creative Director, ttff; Bruce Paddington, Festival Founder and Director, ttff; Carla Foderignham, CEO, Trinidad and Tobago Film Company; Jonathan Ali, Editorial Director, ttff; Cindy-Ann Gatt, Vice–President of Sales and Marketing, Flow; and Danielle Jones-Hunt, Manager of Corporate Communications, bpTT