TT Film Fest goes global

A report by Rachael Espinet for T&T’s Newsday.

PEOPLE from around the world can enjoy the 15th TT Film Festival (TTFF) from the comfort of their home as the Caribbean film festival migrates its annual activities to a digital platform to adapt to covid19 restrictions.

This is the first TT Film Festival where people from all over the world can enjoy movies from around the Caribbean and the diaspora.

This was discussed on August 26 at an online press conference by Mariel Brown, interim executive director of Filmmakers Collaborative of TT (Filmco), the organising body of TTFF.

When covid19 struck, TTFF held a free online streaming series of top film festival shows from over 14 years.

That was called Watch a Movie on Us. TTFF screened 22 films to more than 30,000 people around the Caribbean.

Those metrics, she said, showed the festival was capable of streaming films online and with an audience willing to access the platform.

“It showed us if it became necessary to hold a film festival online, we could do it. We could find a way. We could reach our audiences. We could celebrate the best Caribbean films and filmmakers in 2020 and we could connect with our audiences,” Brown said.

Filmco’s interim executive director Mariel Brown.

The festival will run from September 9-15 and will be a combination of digital and in person screenings and workshops.

Out of 350 submissions, 130 films were chosen. People can view full feature and shorts on ttfilmfestival.com.

When the show is scheduled to run, it will be available on the TTFF website for 24 hours. Tickets can be purchased online, at the festival’s office and at MovieTowne.

Majority of the films will be online except for the new media films, which are avant-garde, experimental and interactive.

These films will be the only segment available in person at Medulla Art Gallery. Public health and safety regulations will be implemented with no more than five people allowed at the gallery.

Depending on government’s regulations there may be screenings at MovieTowne.

In previous years, student films were overshadowed by more established filmmakers. To give students a spotlight, the organisers introduced a student film section.

Randall Mitchell, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts said accessibility is going to the success factor for TTFF.

Randall Mitchell, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts said accessibility is going to the success factor for TTFF. –

Describing 2020 as a master class in resilience, Mitchell said, all economic sectors including agriculture, hospitality, commerce and trade adapted to stay competitive because of covid19.

“Tourism, culture and the arts are no different. Many of our stakeholders have transitioned into offering their services in the digital space.”

Virtual concerts, literary sessions, extempo challenges, and an introduction of delivery apps and online ordering services across the food and beverage industry brought and an “explosion of online culinary expeditions.”

The film community made an active digital presence through its social media engagements.

The Film Festival’s website had more than 129,000 website page views and 11,000 mobile users from July to August 31, 2019.

“I am convinced that these statistics will grow exponentially as online entertainment is already the new normal,” Mitchell said.

He is keenly interested in the feedback and user metrics from this year’s festival since it will enable all stakeholders, especially the ministry, to understand the success of digital innovations in the film industry.

A scene from Malpaso, a narrative feature from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. ( Photo courtesy TTFF). –

“This merger of tourism with culture and the arts will only strengthen the resources available to filmmakers, whilst enhancing Trinidad and Tobago’s overall internal and external brand.”

The TTFF’s virtual space, he said, is an “excellent initiative” because it ensures that audiences from anywhere in the world can view stories told about TT.

“It positions Trinidad and Tobago as a key film hub in the Caribbean… Our unique cultural genetics and array of biodiversity rivals any other in the world, thus, presenting valuable investment opportunities for filmmakers to select this country as their film-making destination.”

To help bolster the film industry, The Ministry offers grants through the Culture and Creative Arts Fund (CCAF). These grants aim to promote the creation, development and sustainability of TT’s culture art forms. This includes film.

The fund is accessible to community groups, arts and cultural organisations and non-governmental organisations, community groups, faith-based organisations, artist and individual cultural workers.

For the past four years TTFF was a recipient of the grant. TTFF received an annual investment of approximately $350,000.

A scene from the film But You’re Not Black. Photo courtesy TTFF –

“The TTFF delivered numerous outputs including film festivals, workshops and more recently, the 2019 Film Festival Carifesta.”

During the “mega-cultural festival,” the TTFF hosted two days of industry-specific events focused on improving regional collaboration and co-productions, exploring additional was to finance films and develop marketing strategies.

The Carifesta TTFF hosted workshops in film copyrighting and contracts.

At this festival three recipients of the ministry’s Take One Film Call Grant premiered their films. These recipients were awarded $250,000 each to produce local feature films in the narrative or fiction genres.

The recipients were: Glenford Kevin Adams who made Queen of Soca, Fixerfilm Limited on behalf of Jian Hennings with Grace and Saleem and Maya Cozier’s She Paradise.

Grace and Saleem won last year’s People’s Choice awards. She Paradise was selected for New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.

There’s a film for all interests

The leading film and opening of the festival is 501 Not Out, a documentary about cricketer Brian Lara by Sam Lockyer. Filmmakers from TT, Haiti, Dominican Republic, French Guyana, the Caribbean diaspora from Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands and more will be featured.

Shari Petti’s 2020 film Jump! Was one of the shows highlighted at the conference. From TT, the 67-minute medium documentary follows the three-month journey of the JumpTT, a parkour and physical theatre programme. This is a coming of age story young people in TT transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

TT movie Code REDD by director Joel Moss makes its world premiere. The 90-minute narrative feature is about two private detectives hired to find a briefcase becoming entangled in a dangerous hunt while trying to stop a human trafficking ring.

A scene from the film La Promesa. (Photo courtesy TTFF) –

Malpaso, a narrative feature from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is an 80-miniute, 2019 film by director Héctor M Valdez. Malpaso follows Candido and Braulio, twin brothers growing up near the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. While Candido, an albino, secludes himself at home, Braulio helps his grandfather sell coal in the market. When their grandfather dies, their life takes a turn for the worst.

Akkel Charles’ 2019 37-minute narrative Get Free! follows Idris a 21-year-old who is threatened by her ex-boyfriend. Told through a series of Tweets, the movie discusses violence against women.

Our Dance of Revolution is a 2019 Canadian documentary feature about the history of Toronto’s black queer community spanning four decades of passionate activist rebellion.

Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of the Internet is part of the panorama section which features movies from around the world. The 2020 documentary makes its Caribbean premiere by directors Torsten Hoffmann and Michael Watchulonis. This movie was made in Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, UK and US.

The show explores the crypto currency Bitcoin and the evolution of the blockchain industry. The filmmakers set out to ask if: “This technology, designed to operate independent of trust and within a decentralised network, really provide a robust alternative to the internet as we know it?”

La Vendedora de Liros, translated to The Lilly Sellers, is an 18-minute Argentinian narrative short by director Igor Galuk. This Caribbean premiere follows Bolivian migrants Jacinta and her granddaughter Indira. During the spring, they collect flowers on the riverbank to sell in the Magdalena town cemetery. The cross-generation pair experience racism as the film discusses racial problems that still exist in Argentina in relation to the ancestral cultures of Latin America.

A scene from the film La Vendedora de Liros. (Photo courtesy TTFF) –

La Promesa, The Promise, is a 2018 Mexican narrative film about Leo, a rebellious but intelligent boy how makes his teacher, Professor Cruz’ life quite difficult. Leo is a talented student who sets himself out from his classmates but refuses to listen to Cruz who tries to get him to read classic novels. Cruz believes reading will encourage his students to aspire to a great life. But the tables turn when Cruz’ wife leaves him for another man and now it’s up to the student to get the teacher back into the class.

A Day at the Beach is a sci-fi horror based in south Trinidad. The two-minute narrative short by director Jeremy Ramberran makes its world premiere. The short follows Mercy, who just wants to relax at the beach while there’s a nationwide catastrophe.

Opening the film festival will be 501 Not Out, a documentary about cricketer Brian Lara by Sam Lockyer. –

But You’re Not Black is a 2019 documentary short by Danielle Ayow. The 19-minute film is about a Chinese-Caribbean-Canadian woman, who tries to embrace the Trinidadian identity of her parents while struggling to live in a country where people have difficulty separating her skin colour from her culture. Using humour to anchor herself to her culture Ayow investigates identity both self-identity and how people perceive her.

Festival guides can be found online. Printed versions are available at the festival’s office, Y Art Gallery, Paper Based Bookstore and Medulla Art Gallery.

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