THIS year the TT Film Festival (TTFF) is celebrating 13 years and its community development programme is celebrating nine. The programme uses film to bring about social change and transformation. “It’s not just about going out to communities and showing films to foster appreciation, it is about being agents of social change and transformation,” director of TTFF Community Development Melvina Hazard told Newsday. She said it was originally called community outreach.
In the past, film screenings have addressed topics such as human rights, LGBT issues, domestic violence and bullying, and the community development programme has done work with community groups and arranged town hall meetings to discuss issues presented in the films.
“We do things designed to inspire and educate.” Hazard said there are several objectives for the programme, including education; social engagement; to use film as agents for social and perception change and to stimulate discussion about issues; expose people to different types of film and non-Hollywood blockbusters; and to show them people from places who look like Trinidadians, such as from Africa. “Engagement into different worlds that they have not imagined,” she said.
Hazard recalled when TTFF first started the screenings of local and Caribbean films, it was a lot of hard work getting people to come out, especially in remote areas. She said the local audiences did not believe in watching non-Hollywood films.
“They asked why not (show) Enemy of The State of Independence Day? They couldn’t imagine a film from Trinidad or the Caribbean worth anything.”
She said since that time the film industry has progressed and local films have been engaging audiences to the point where, for the festival there is a greater turn out for local films over curated films. She said there has also been an increase in the numbers of people attending the festival over the years and more people being aware of it.
The community development programme has also done social interventions with the Youth Training Centre and has visited with local filmmakers. These visits have inspired some of the young men to develop their own audio visual department. “We saw a measurable and tangible impact.”
She said the TTFF community development programme has also done a lot of work with anti-bullying associations, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, LGBT advocacy group Caiso and environmental groups. The organisation also held a screening of a domestic violence film at the Laventille Community Centre and brought the people together with the police, social and community workers and the Inter Agency Task Force to have a conversation.
“It is not just about coming and watching a film and being entertained. We want to bring communities closer or have the film as a conversation piece.”
This year’s inaugural family matinee, an extension of TTFF’s community cinema, is being held weekends from August 12 to 26 and admission is free. Hazard said in the past there have been a number of night screenings because it is conducive to outdoor cinema it also at a time when the entire family can attend. “For the August vacation we wanted to provide families and people with children to have another alternative for entertainment.” She said the films being shown were more family-oriented and child-friendly.
“Each deals with young people dealing with a challenge and overcoming it. It is very inspirational.”
Hazard said the hope was also to encourage people to become filmmakers by showing films from places like Cuba, South Africa and Panama.
“You don’t have to be Spike Lee to be a filmmaker.” She said the team is very excited about the celebration of the TTFF’s 13th birthday in September.
“We have some nice new surprises which people can look forward to being announced soon.”