Caribbean filmmakers and films shine at Rotterdam film festival

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In another sign that Trinidad and Tobago’s film industry is beginning to take off, a number of local filmmakers and films made their mark at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in the Netherlands, which ran from January 21 to February 1.

These filmmakers were Damian Marcano, Vashti Harrison, Christian James and Christopher Din Chong. Also attending IFFR was Annabelle Alcazar, Programme Director, trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff).

IFFR, which celebrated its 44th anniversary this year, is one of the older film festivals, and one of the most prestigious, frequently appearing on top-ten lists of festivals. Its focus is on screening films by emerging independent filmmakers from around the world, particularly those with an interest in telling daring stories that embody authentic representations of the cultures from which they come.

One such film was writer and director Damian Marcano’s debut feature, the urban drama God Loves the Fighter. A world premiere at the ttff/13, where it won two awards, God Loves the Fighter—which also was released in local cinemas—proved a hit with Rotterdam’s audiences, ranking 42nd out of the 160 feature films up for the festival’s audience award.

Marcano also premiered a short documentary, Giants, at IFFR, which he made in Rotterdam as part of a residency there.

Also screening at IFFR was Field Notes, Vashti Harrison’s short, black-and-white experimental documentary about supernatural folklore characters of T&T. Field Notes was previously a selection of the ttff/14, where it won the jury prize for best local short documentary.

Local filmmaker Christian James was also at IFFR, where he participated in the Rotterdam Lab for film producers, of which the ttff is an official partner. The lab is an opportunity for filmmakers from around the world to meet with producers with a view to forming co-productions in order to get their films made and seen.

James attended the lab after winning the bpTT-sponsored Best Film in Development award at the ttff/14, for a drama about the notorious mass murderer Boysie Singh.

“My experience at the IFFR 2015 was nothing short of incredible,” said James. “I participated in intensive workshops, panel discussions and roundtables on topics such as co-production, development and film financing. There were 58 producers and I made it my duty to meet every one at least once. However, there were a few producers I personally connected with, and now have four potential collaborators/co-producers.”

He continued, “Coming from Trinidad and Tobago gives our filmmakers an advantage, as our region is viewed as an undiscovered territory. I believe foreign producers want to co-produce with us here in the Caribbean as they recognise the fresh voice that we can bring to the world cinema table.”

The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) celebrates films from and about the Caribbean and its diaspora, as well as from world cinema, through an annual festival and year-round screenings. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of Caribbean cinema by offering a wide-ranging industry programme and networking opportunities. The ttff is presented by Flow and given leading sponsorship by bpTT, and supporting sponsorship by the Embassy of the United States of America. For further information visit www.ttfilmfestival.com.

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