Words by Tishanna Williams
This year’s edition of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF/16) launches tonight. For the next week, feature films, shorts, new media projects and documentaries from around the world will screen at venues across the twin-island nation. This is one of the biggest film fests in the Caribbean so all eyes will be on Trinidad, and with good reason. This year’s offerings are impressive to say the least and, of course, we’ve got a few Caribbean films that have our attention. Check out our picks and then take a peek at their official program to see what else catches your eye.
The Cutlass (Trinidad & Tobago)
Darisha Beresford’s The Cutlass is based on a true story of a woman robbed and taken into the secluded jungle where she fights to escape her sociopathic abductor. Beresford, whose mother worked as an on-air reporter for Trinidad’s first television station, TTT, and father owned a recording studio, is a director at South Florida’s Zaftik Studios, and won various awards for her film, commercials and TV projects in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The Cutlass, her first feature film, screens Saturday Sept. 24 and Monday Sept. 26.
Play the Devil (Trinidad/Bahamas/US)
We had to give this breakthrough film, set against the backdrop of Trinidad’s Blue Devil Mas, a mention.With themes surrounding masculinity and male sexuality, one can only guess how it will be received by a Caribbean island such as Trinidad, and that definitely makes Play The Devil one to watch. Read an interview with director Maria Govan here.
Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess (Jamaica)
To know Jamaica is to know about the Ashanti-born Maroon warrior woman, Nanny. The spiritual leader, healer and revolutionary is even the face of the country’s $500 bill. Queen Nanny documents the incredible resistance movement of the Jamaican Maroons, led by this legendary and indomitable 18th century chieftainess. This film comes from Roy T. Anderson who is also the writer, director and producer of Akwantu: The Journey (2012), an award-winning film on the history of the Jamaican Maroons, and a veteran movie and television stuntman who has done stunts for Hollywood stars like Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Morgan Freeman.
Heart of a Monster (Trinidad/Curacao)
LargeUp has followed Trinidadian director Damian Marcano‘s work since he burst on the scene with 2013’s God Loves the Fighter. Now with multiple successes under his belt, he gives us another great film. “Heart of A Monster” is based on a story written by Freetown Collective frontman Muhammad Muwakil and done in partnership with the Instituto Buena Bista in Curacao. The 15-minunte film is in Papiamentu, the spoken language of Curacao, and what’s really interesting is that the set and props were all made by the children of the institute using raw materials.
Si Bon Yuli (Haiti/Dominican Republic)
This documentary by Haitian actor and filmmaker Jean Jean chronicles the journey of his own mother Julia Jean as she attempts to regularize her immigrant status in the Dominican Republic, which she has called home for the past 35 years. Covering themes such as home, exile, migration and deportation, hot topics in light of the upcoming U.S. elections, Si Bondye’ Vle (God Willing Yuli) will be one to watch.
Ninth Floor (Canada)
If you, your mom or grandmother grew up in or around the Caribbean in the 1970s, the Black Power Revolution would be familiar to say the least. What many may not know is what triggered it. It began in Montreal, Canada, with the Sir George Williams University riot of February 1969, when six Caribbean students mounted a protest against institutional racism which snowballed into 14 days of chaos and violence, with riot police storming the occupied ninth floor. Mina Shum’s documentary takes a look back at this moment in history.
SPECIAL MENTION RISING STAR: This Connect (Trinidad & Tobago)
Renaldo Frederick, who previously played the lead in Pan! Our Musical Odyssey, the opening film at the 2014 edition of the festival, first debuted “This Connect” for the CreativeTT 2015 Smartphone Film Festival. Although only six minutes long, “This Connect” received favorable responses from those who saw it at the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival in Toronto this month.