Film enthusiasts can look forward to new events as well as a better online experience for the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) this year.
It's run by the non-profit filmmakers organisation Filmmakers Collaborative of TT (Filmco) from September 22-28, and this will be the second year the event will be completely online owing to the pandemic.
Mariel Brown, Filmco/TTFF interim executive director, said last year the organisation was in reaction mode, trying to find solutions that could work to engage audiences and show regional films. She recalled that, up to two weeks before the festival, the organisers were hoping, to no avail, some in-person events could he held.
“Our strategy this year is completely different. We made the decision very early that it would be a completely online film festival, which made the planning a bit more structured.”
And, with TTFF’s new online platform, Eventive, which was designed for film festivals, customers can now easily find, watch and buy the films they want.
“And so what we've done is we've tried to find the platform that creates the best user experience. So again, all our films are online this year, including our new media works, which are the experimental and avant garde film works. Basically, we are focusing on hopefully having a better user experience.
“And we're hoping as well, that audiences will have grown more accustomed to the idea of online events, and more comfortable with attending online events. Because we see it as our present, but we also see it as part of our future.”
In order to help build an appetite for watching Caribbean movies online, TTFF had online film screenings throughout the year. One was #watchamovieonus Carnival edition, where ten TTFF winners and favourites were available to anyone, anywhere in the world from February 7-14. Then there were #curfewcinema screenings every Friday in July and August.
Although she hopes to get back to watching films at cinemas in the future, Brown said Filmco recognised the benefits of some industry events being online.
She said being online as well as the screenings broadened TTFF’s audience so that guests from all over the world would be watching films on opening night and throughout the festival.
The sixteenth annual festival will screen 115 films, of which 46 are feature-length narrative and documentary films, some free and some ticketed.
There will also be 22 separate industry events including talks, panels, presentations, workshops and master classes with facilitators from around the world for those new to the industry to the well-established.
“The thing about a physical festival is that it's a great place for networking and meeting people. We tried to find ways to create online networking and online meeting and so we've kind of expanded our Limin’ Live series, which is an Instagram series, sponsored by Shell. Every day of the film festival, we're doing interviews at five o'clock on our Instagram channel with filmmakers.”
Award-winning facilitators include editors, directors, producers, scriptwriters, location sound recordists, composers, and more.
For example, director, screenwriter and producer José María Cabral from the Dominican Republic will be facilitating the master class Directing the Caribbean Narrative.
“Our English-speaking Caribbean industry has a lot to learn from how the Spanish-speaking Caribbean industry has evolved, so I'm really excited. I'm hoping we will get a good attendance at that master class, because it's about how you look around you and recognise the limitations and resources that you have in your home country, but still finding a compelling story and a compelling way to tell that story. So that's going to be a really great master class.”
Ask the Veteran is a new educational event where people can ask a skilled veteran anything about their work and processes. This year composer Miriam Cutler and producer/ publicist Kathleen McInnis will be available. There will also be TTFF talks with visual artist Zak Ové and Haitian filmmaker Michèle Stephenson.
In addition, TTFF will host a retrospective of films by Trinidadian filmmaker Horace Ové, including the popular Playing Away, and Ové’s love letter to Trinidad Carnival, King Carnival.
“Horace Ové is arguably the most important filmmaker to have emerged from TT. We are honoured to be able to celebrate the work of someone whose work is so important in black cinema, and who is also from TT. Horace Ové is a very, very important filmmaker. He's the first black filmmaker to direct a feature film in the UK. I mean, he is a trailblazer.”
She hopes TTFF will find a way to do more retrospectives and honour the work of the people who laid the groundwork for others.
Because of the sponsorship from Republic Bank Ltd, Shell TT Ltd, National Lotteries Control Board, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts and the Sport and Culture Fund (OPM) as well as programming partners, FilmTT, the US Embassy, FIFAC, CinéMartinique and the Mexican Embassy, many of the presentations and panels will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube free of charge. Workshops and master classes will be closed sessions held on Zoom.