What’s new, pussycat?

Cry me a river: a shot from Sita Sings the Blues, directed by Nina Paley of the USA, which screens at the TTFF09 as part of the festival’s new heritage element

The trinidad+tobago film festival is four years old this year. That’s pretty young, especially if you consider that the world’s longest-running film festival, the Venice Film Festival, got its start in 1932.

Because the TTFF is so new, we’re still very much finding our feet. We keep trying new things, tinkering with the formula for producing a great film festival, one that is up to standard with other film festivals around the globe and is also a reflection of our unique identity.

When the Festival began, it was virtually all film screenings, at one venue, with sometimes a director present. Then we added outreach screenings, taking the Festival to other parts of the country and thereby making it more geographically inclusive. Then, because the TTFF is as much about fostering local filmmaking as it is about film viewing, technical workshops and discussion panels were included. We also added people’s choice awards, to make the Festival more interactive and give filmmakers a further incentive for screening their films. And we included social events–alright, parties–which as any Trini knows need no justification.

So what’s new this year? There are two major changes. First, the awards element of the Festival has been expanded. There are still three people’s choice awards for best feature-length dramatic narrative, feature-length documentary, and short film, but these now come with cash prizes of TT$5,000 each. More significantly, there are now two jury prizes. The first, for “outstanding achievement in creating a feature film that reflects the Caribbean spirit”, is worth US$10,000. (That’s right, US.) The second, for the best locally-made film (that is, by a filmmaker resident and working in Trinidad and Tobago) is worth TT$30,000.

Also new to the Festival is the heritage element. This acknowledges and celebrates the various national cultures that have influenced the Caribbean, and Trinidad and Tobago in particular. This inaugural year the heritage element focuses on India, which not only has the world’s largest film industry but has produced some of the world’s best filmmakers and films. While most of the attention in Indian cinema usually goes to Hindi-language films–the films of Bollywood–the TTFF09 will showcase other aspects of Indian film. Pather Panchali, the majestic first film by India’s greatest ever filmmaker, the Bengali director Satyajit Ray, will be screened, along with a documentary about Ray by British filmmaker Adam Low (whose documentary on VS Naipaul was screened the Festival in 2008, and who will again be in attendance this year). A recent film by India’s current leading arthouse film director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan of Kerala, will also be screened, as well Sita Sings the Blues, an amazing animated musical version of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, by American filmmaker Nina Paley.

Other changes to the TTFF this year include the expansion of the screenings at StudioFilmClub from from two to four nights, and at the University of the West Indies to two full days and evenings. A few other smaller changes have also been made here and there, which, if you’ve been a regular at the Festival over the past few years we hope you’ll notice and enjoy. We greatly desire your input as to how the TTFF could improved in years to come, so look out for the feedback boxes at the various venues once the Festival begins. We may not have the stature of a Venice or a Cannes Film Festival just yet, but with your help we’re working on it.

Date: Mon 17 Aug, 2009
Category: ttff news and features

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