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​A Carnival of Film

THOUGH I’VE never been and still am not an official part of it, I’ve been a friend of the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival since the first one in 2006, because I think it’s vital that we see ourselves, not just Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington, on our own big screens. For most of the first 14 festivals, I’ve done either or both of a roundup/intro and/or a “film of the day” like today’s, recommending strong films.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was also a member of the first jury that awarded a cash prize and wrote the judges’ report and, since Jonathan Ali, then the festival’s editorial director, bounced his great idea for it off me five years ago, I’ve been the mentor to the Youth Jury. I’ve also been invited to serve on the programming committee twice, first in, I think, 2009, and again this year.
With five days inclusive left of the festival and space already running out here, I’ll jump straight in. Because I won’t risk prejudicing the youth jurors, I won’t recommend their films in competition, other than to say they are all good and you should watch all and decide for yourself. The Youth Jury films are: Avatara; Choosing Destiny; Isla Sirena; K.I.N.G; Mortenol; and Yellow Girl & Me.
If you can see only one film each day — and, under re-lockdown, you can see more — I would choose these.
Friday: Malpaso (Hector M Valdez/ Drama/ 80’/ 2019/Dom Rep-Haiti/ Unrated); available all day. The man who made one of the best time-travel comedy dramas, ever, Melocotones, blows the viewer away with stunning black-and-white cinematography in a gripping, sympathetic tale of two young brothers, one an albino. Black-and-white is all over every frame and the storytelling is sit-up-and-take-notice good. A film festival film worthy of the name.
Saturday: The Last Tree (Shola Amoo/ Drama/ 98’/ UK-Nigeria/ Unrated); available all day. Though not a Caribbean or West Indian story, Shola Amoo’s tale of a colonial heritage being upended and splintered in the Mother Country can be readily understood by everyone in or from the former British Empire. A clever script leads to the protagonist having to choose where he was really birthed — and came of age.
Sunday: Dear Child (Luca Ammendola/ Documentary/ 76’/ 2020/ Brazil/ Unrated); available all day. You could make an impressive documentary by just setting up a camera at random in a Rio de Janeiro favela and pressing, “record”, but this story of an Italian priest doing Christ’s work as a fisher of children is polished, even if it’s subject matter is pretty grimy. Not a fun film at all but it is ultimately rewarding and leaves the viewer hopeful; if only finally.
Monday: Code R.E.D.D. (Joel Moss/ Crime Drama/ 90’/ 2020/ Trinidad & Tobago/ Unrated); available all day. It’s neither favour nor false patriotism that allows the selection of a Trinidadian action movie. The script is unlikely to win awards for originality but the direction is pretty damned slick and some of the performances immaculate, particularly the lead ones. The voiceover — a very difficult thing for the highly self-conscious Trinidadian to pull off — works like a charm. Yes, there are flaws, but the good parts make up for those in spades. Real fun.
Tuesday: Timeless Havana aka La Imagen del Tiempo (Jeissy Trompiz/ Drama/ 70’/ 2019/ Cuba/Unrated); yellow bundle. A proper film festival art film, Timeless Havana starts in the dark with no sound but that of waves washing gently ashore. Not even a subtitle appears until a minute-and-a-half in, an image doesn’t arrive until nearly the second minute — and then it flashes and flickers on-and-off. The viewer accustomed to the ultra-linear Hollywood blockbuster may be steupsing before long, but the patient cinefile willing to go some way towards a work of art will be cheering in the same manner by the end. Challenging and rewarding, but definitely not for those who want an explosion or a gunfight every few minutes.
First runners-up are: Friday: I Don’t Call it Ghetto. Spanish/West Indian/ World documentary filmmaker, Miquel Galofre, doing what he does best, freezing onscreen fantastic real life characters in golden moments.
Saturday: No Place Like Home. Perry Henzell’s long delayed second film after The Harder They Come, very reminiscent of …Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 masterpiece, If.., could easily have been the film of the day — and still leaves me wondering whether it should have been!
Sunday: Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica. A documentary and a musical both, this is a film that will have you dancing out of your seat and cheering.
Monday: Stateless. A documentary about one of humanity’s worst moments, viz, the deliberate, considered and legal stripping of citizenship from 200,000, Spanish-speaking, second- and third-generation Dominican Republic citizens of Haitian descent. Thoroughly disgusting but equally important.
Tuesday: Servidao (Servitude). This documentary about slavery in Brazil very nearly was the film of the day. Amazing cinematography.

BC Pires is having a Film Festival tabanca already…

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