T&T’s love affair with the silver screen

September’s film festival marks a century of cinema in Port of Spain

A still from the animated feature Chico & Rita, the story of the love affair between two Cuban musicians. Photograph courtesy T&T Film Festival

When the first cinema in Trinidad & Tobago, Port of Spain’s London Theatre, opened its doors in 1911, a local love affair with the silver screen was born. One hundred years later, that affair continues, as the sixth edition of the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) gets under way.

Founded in 2006 and presented by Flow, the TTFF is an annual celebration of the best new and recent films from and about the Caribbean, its diaspora, and Latin American countries in the Caribbean basin. A number of the films at this year’s festival will be making their world premiere, and many of the directors whose films are screened will be in attendance, taking part in Q&A sessions with audiences.

The lineup for the TTFF is as exciting as it is diverse, and with at least two dozen features programmed, there will be something to please every filmgoer. One of the selections sure to be a hit is the Jamaican urban drama Ghett’a Life, written and directed by Chris Browne, who made the popular Third World Cop and Dancehall Queen (see p39). Another film expected to get audiences talking is the critically lauded Jean Gentil, out of the Dominican Republic, the poetic tale of a Haitian immigrant’s search for home.

Engaging documentaries also form part of the festival’s lineup. Leading the way is the hugely anticipated Fire in Babylon, which tells the story of the world-dominating West Indies cricket team of the 1980s (see p66). W.A.R. Stories, an incisive biographical portrait of the late Guyanese author and activist Walter Rodney, will also be screened.

Films for children are in the offing, too. One is Windjammers, about a black American girl, Justice, who moves to the Bahamas and challenges the status quo at the local yacht club by entering the junior sailing regatta. The film is co-directed by Kareem Mortimer, who copped the jury and audience awards for best film at the TTFF in 2010 for his touching drama Children of God.

Speaking of awards, there will be quite a few up for grabs at this year’s festival, to be handed out at a gala awards ceremony. They include the festival’s top honours, the US$4,000 jury prizes for best narrative and documentary features, a TT$20,000 jury prize for best local feature, and a TT$10,000 jury prize for best local short.

In addition to its film screenings, the festival will once again be hosting its always-popular events aimed at developing the Caribbean film industry. These include discussion panels with invited filmmakers, seminars, and workshops facilitated by recognised film professionals. And for the first time there will be an intensive three-day retreat for ten select Caribbean filmmakers, one of whom will walk away with a TT$20,000 prize.

The TTFF takes place from September 21 – October 4, at venues throughout both islands. Events at most venues are free of charge.

The festival is given leading sponsorship by RBC Royal Bank, and is supported by the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company, the National Gas Company, the Tourism Development Corporation, and the Tobago House of Assembly.

For more information, including the full schedule of film screenings and other events: www.ttfilmfestival.com.