THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY
THE OLDER I get – and the shallower Carnival gets – the more I think the TT Film Festival week is the year’s unequivocal best seven-day period.The festival’s terrific opening film, Damian Marcano’s Cheese, screens for the last time at the NALIS amphitheatre at 7 pm on Friday. Admission is free if you register online.
Here are my recommendations for the rest of the festival, six fleeting days to see films made by and for people just like you.
Friday. From many contenders, I’d pick
Perejil (Parsley, 8 pm, Spanish with English subtitles), a powerful drama about the 1937 massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. It is violent and psychically challenging – but most massacres are – and it is as unforgettable as it is bleak. It’s not a Hollywood blockbuster by any means but fans of Quentin Tarantino ought not to be uncomfortable.
Saturday. My best film is the documentary short Strictly Two Wheel, Ania Freer’s lovingly intimate bio of an older Jamaican man lucky enough to find what young people everywhere now call “their passion” and to work at it – bicycle repair – for all of his long and happy life. How much is caught and revealed in the time it takes to buy and eat a doubles is phenomenal.
The drama about prescription-drug addiction,
Receta No Includia (Receipt Not Included, 8 pm, Spanish with English subtitles), deserves and would get the feature top spot but for One Hand Don’t Clap (8 pm), a 1991 documentary about calypso starring Lord Kitchener and Calypso Rose.
One Hand also has a kind of pre-lagniappe over
Receta by opening with King David, Walt Lovelace’s short, strong doc which features David Rudder chanting well about some of his songs.
By a brilliant stroke of programming which I would admire even if I were not a member of the committee that did it, King David and One Hand are the first films to screen the next day under the stars at the NALIS amphitheatre (6.30 pm, Sunday).
Sunday. Almost everything in every time slot is worth recommending – it’s a very good day to spend entirely at the festival – but two short films stand out even above the several excellent features. and one feature shines brightly enough to put its radiant competition into the shade.
Regrettably, for reasons I can’t explain until next week, I can only recommend one of the two short films,
Egungun (Masquerade), an LGBT film that probably ought not to be labelled that, it’s so very good as what one might in this context properly call straight drama. Every aspiring filmmaker in TT should see this UK-Nigerian film shot in Lagos that proves you don’t need a huge budget to make a towering film.
If I could see only one film in the whole festival, it would be A Son (
Un Fils), the outstanding feature on a masterpiece-filled TTFF Sunday. Director Mehdi Barasoul's Tunisian drama is so good, it deserves to be discovered from first to last frame by the viewer. Other remarkable films on Sunday I can mention are Ludi and A Film about Couples. (I’m here subject to the same mysterious limitation alluded to earlier.)
Monday. For the same mysterious and mysteriously unexplained reason immediately above, I can’t mention the film I actually think is the day’s best so I choose Husek (8 pm), a Spanish-language film about indigenous peoples confronting Argentinian state power structures. Its polemic is so skilfully interwoven in the narrative, it becomes more satisfying than upsetting to the viewer.
Tuesday. Cordially Yours (8 pm) is one of the festival’s best films and a TT film masquerading as a Brazilian film. Every story director Almar Labaki tells in his ten short films, when added together, paints a complete picture of Trinidad. Hilarious, tragicomic and simultaneously magnificent and preposterous, this could be Port of Spain to Palatuvier in Portuguese. This film runs a close second to only A Son.
Wednesday. The award-winning films at 8 pm are likely to be the day’s best pick from a gem-packed programme but two other films demand mention. The first is This is National Wake (produced by my buddy Joshua Shapiro), a documentary about a multi-racial punk rock band in apartheid South Africa that reveals what would now be a bewildering racial hatred, if it were not being trumped today by MAGA Republicans.
Paroles de Nègres (Words of Negroes) puts the words of black sugar workers from an 1842 trial transcript into the mouths of modern workers in an old but functioning sugar factory in Guadeloupe. The effect could genuinely be called jaw-dropping.
BC Pires is a member of the 2022 TTFF programming committee but has been a friend of the festival from its inception. Happy Bir'day Kai.