T&T films end year on a high

Trinidad and Tobago films are ringing out 2011 with style and celebrating breakthrough successes that mark a new threshold for the local film industry. Top of the list is Doubles with Slight Pepper, a film produced by Trini-Canadian film-maker Ian Harnarine with support from the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (TTFC), Trinidad’s Guardian reports.

Having already attained top honours at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2011 with the Best Short Award, Doubles with Slight Pepper, the film has now been named among the Top Ten Films for 2011 in Canada. Harnarine’s film, which received grant funding under the TTFC Production Assistance and Script Development (PASD) Programme, could only have come out of Trinidad and Tobago.

It tells a compelling story about a young man who resolves inner emotional conflicts to help save his estranged father. In thanking the TTFC, Harnarine said the experience with “Doubles” has had a dramatic impact on his career. “The selection of the film for the TIFF has truly been career changing. The festival has given me access to numerous producers, actors, agents and production companies that I would not have access to otherwise. The support from the TTFC has been instrumental in allowing me to finish the film to professional and industry standards,” he said.

Another TTFC-supported film which made a good showing for Trinidad and Tobago in its world premiere at TIFF was 4am, a film directed by T&T-born writer and producer Janine Fung. The dramatic short film features well-known Trinidad poet and artist Muhammad Muwakil, and describes the dangers of urban life in the capital of Port-of-Spain. Fung, too, believes the support from the TTFC was decisive in taking her project from concept to reality and opening new doors of possibility. “Thanks to the TTFC, I was able to participate in the biggest film festival next to Cannes, the TIFF 2011 for my short film 4am.

“It has been a great learning experience for me, 11 days of industry workshops, panel discussions, one-on-one meetings with important producers, distributors and production companies. Each of my screenings were sold out and the Q&A’s were most interesting,” Fung said. Here at home, local productions were the talk of the town at the T&T Film Festival. Among the films attracting major buzz were ’70: Remembering a Revolution, a revealing documentary of the 1970 Black Power uprising. The film was warmly embraced by those who had lived through the event and mourned the country’s failure to document its history, as well as by the younger generation who had known virtually nothing about that critical moment in T&T’s history.

Film directors Alex de Verteuil and Elizabeth Topp received the Best Local Feature Film. Director Renée Pollonais, who is developing quite a reputation for her eye on the unique Trinidadian personality, took the Best Local Short Film award for Sweet Fries, a comedic tale about a customer’s experience at a fast food restaurant. The award-winning docudrama on HIV, Positive & Pregnant, was on a roll throughout the year, earning several international and local awards for director Candice Lela–Rolingson, including the award for Best International Docudrama by the New York International Film Festival (NYIFF) and Best Social Awareness Film by the TTFF. The film also received great reviews at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in Tanzania, Africa.

Other TTFC-supported films to have made a mark on international and local audiences in 2011 included Andre Johnson’s Sweet TnT and Dennis’ Between WorldsSweet TnT was screened at the Portobello Film Festival, London’s biggest independent film festival. It is one of three linked shorts in the feature Dark Tales from Paradise which has received acclaim from audiences across T&T and is available for private screenings bookings. Between Worlds, a documentary about an extremely talented, humble surfer living in rural Balandra, had a sold out, standing room only debut at the in 2011 at MovieTowne Port-of-Spain.

Tracy Assing’s groundbreaking documentary The Amerindians is continuing to streak a path across campuses in Canada including the University of Toronto, Trent University, York University, and OCAD University. The film tells Assing’s personal journey as a modern descendant of Amerindian Carib heritage. Limbo, a drama/love story shot in Trinidad by a Norwegian production team with facilitation by the TTFC, premiered to a sold out audience at the TTFF and drew good attention about the lives of an expatriate family living in T&T during the 1970’s and highly celebrated at the European Film Festival. Limbo one of the first films to access the TTFC’s internationally competitive “cash rebate” incentive offered by T&T which was then 30 per cent of expenses in Trinidad but was increased to 35 per cent in the 2011-12 budget.

It was also a big year for animation with the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Animae Caribe, the Animation and New Media Festival. Animae Caribe featured a number of outstanding animated shorts from Caribbean artists. Claire Hammel-Smith a graduate of University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) digital media studies programme, thrilled audiences with the brilliant Kahanika (The Storyteller) and took the Best Pitch Award at the festival. The festival also included a series of workshops with an all-star cast of animation and film professionals including actor Tim Reid. New successes were also recorded for the Trinidad and Tobago Secondary Schools’ Short Film Festival which received more than 33 entries from 29 schools, a 38 per cent increase in participation from the previous year.

Now in its seventh year, this TTFC programme gives students the opportunity to learn and experience the principles of film production through workshops in script writing, story board drawing, and the fundamentals of camera and editing videos. Holy Name Convent, Port-of-Spain, took top honours for the Best Overall Film Award with Bazodee. In addressing the awardees and participants, TTFC chairman Christopher Laird , himself a film-maker with a reputation for bringing young people into the film industry, urged the aspiring film-makers to stay the course.

“A lot of people are influenced by (North American) films … wipe that away and think of your story, tell your story, tell the stories you see around you… find the stories you are very familiar with and work those stories because film-making is often about good storytelling… Make the film you want to see in the cinema … make your film… make your story,” he said. In reviewing the local film industry’s performance in 2011, TTFC chief executive officer Carla Foderingham said the evidence suggests that the groundwork laid in policy and strategy are having the desired impact of stimulating growth and development and that more can be expected given the TTFC’s improved institutional capacity for supporting film-makers, the recent increase in the cash rebate from 30 to 35 per cent, and the expanding network of international contacts and relationships for T&T’s filmmakers.

For the original report go to http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2011/12/19/tt-films-end-year-high

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