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T&T Film Festival revives focus on local films

Saturday, September 22, 2018
Left to right: Frances-Anne Solomon, Lisa Wickham, Nickolai Salcedo

Janine Charles-Farray

"The days of the starving artist must be over,” declared Founder and festival Director Bruce Paddington at last Tuesday’s opening of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival 2018 (ttff/18).

It was a fitting conclusion to a rousing speech on the growth of the Festival since its founding in 2006, the existence of which came from a lack of availability of local films in the local market. Paddington highlighted a few developmental landmarks since those early days of struggle for local films.

He cited the increasing prevalence of T&T films “on our screens and in the sky” - in local cinema chains such as Festival Venue partners Movietowne, and two local films recently included on the Caribbean Airlines in-flight service. These budding avenues for revenue generation for local filmmakers were hailed as positive indicators of change in a local industry, an industry which has arguably been overlooked as a viable avenue for financial feasibility in the wider creative sector.

Other speakers at the opening included recently appointed President of BP Trinidad and Tobago, Claire Fitzpatrick and Minister of Community Development Culture and the Arts, Dr. The Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. Continuing the announcement of good news for filmmakers, Gadsby-Dolly used her moment in the spotlight to announce the winners of the recently concluded grant funding programme, the ‘Take One Feature Film Grant’ for emerging local first time feature filmmakers, spearheaded by the Ministry in association with the New World Film Centre, parent company of the ttff/18.

Winners announced were Kevin Adams for ‘Queen of Soca’, Mya Cozier for ‘She Paradise’ and FixerFilm Productions for ‘Grace and Saleem’ written by Jian Hennings. In an industry starved for funds since the discontinuation of other locally accessible film grants, the ‘Take one Feature Film Grant’ could represent a welcome injection of investment which may see a rejuvenation in the production of feature films.

Celebrating its thirteenth edition, the ttff/18 drew a sizeable crowd at the Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts) Auditorium, National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) Port of Spain and has done its part in increasing the audiences and enhancing the range of distribution opportunities for local films.

Of the 111 films scheduled to be screened this year, the majority were announced to be from Trinidad and Tobago, which, as a part of National Patriotism month, will be featured in an ‘all-local film’ day, at all Festival venues, on Monday 24th September 2018 (Republic Day).

The opening film of the festival was ‘HERO: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life and Times of Mr. Ulric Cross’ by Trinbagonian British-Canadian filmmaker, Frances-Anne Solomon. Cast and crew of ‘HERO’, described as a Documentary Feature/Docudrama, walked the lighted “green carpet” up the front steps of NAPA to greet those who had come to support the movie and was represented by a few of the film’s actors and crew joining the Trinidad and Tobago premiere from over four continents.

The cast includes actors from Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, the UK and Canada including Trinidad’s Nickolai Salcedo in the lead role of Ulric Cross; Canada’s Peter Williams (Stargate-SG1); the UK’s Joseph Marcell, (Fresh Prince of Belair), Jimmy Akingbola (In The Long Run), Pippa Nixon (Panic), Fraser James (Resident Evil) and Eric Kofi Abrefa (Julie); Ghanaian superstars John Dumelo and Adjetey Anang; and featuring cameos by well-known East Enders star Rudolph Walker and Nollywood star O.C. Ukeje.

HERO is set in 1941 featuring Ulric Cross, a young man from Trinidad who leaves his island home to seek his fortune. He emerges from World War II as the RAF’s most decorated West Indian. Cross’ long life spanned key moments of the 20th century including independence in Africa and the Caribbean. Shot in Ghana, UK and T + T, the film is not just about his life but of the extraordinary and transformative times he lived in, and tells the untold story of those Caribbean professionals who helped to liberate Africa from colonialism.

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