The Academy Awards-nominated film, “Embrace of the Serpent” is among the lineup of internationally-acclaimed films to be screened at this year’s trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff), under its Panorama section. The film is one of three from Colombia, which is the country of focus at this year’s Festival.
Also in the lineup are documentaries on the lives of CLR James and Maya Angelou, as well as “Miles Ahead,” about Miles Davis, starring and directed by Don Cheadle; and “Bear Story,” from Chile, which won best short animated film at the 2015 Academy Awards.
The 11-minute “Bear Story” was the first Chilean work to be nominated in the category. It tells of a bear who builds an elaborate mechanical diorama in an attempt to remember his past life before he was ripped from his home and sent to a circus. The story is an allegory of what happened to many Chilean families during the murderous reign of the 1970s Pinochet regime.
Other films in the lineup include:
— “Dheepan” directed by Jacques Audiard, a moving film about three Tamil refugees – a former soldier, a young woman and a little girl, who pose as a family in the dire aftermath of Sri Lanka’s devastating civil war. Together these complete strangers try to build a life in a dangerous, hostile housing project outside Paris. The film won the prestigious Cannes 2015 Palme d’Or Award.
— “Ninth Floor,” a documentary directed by Mina Shum, looks at the 1969 riot at the Sir George Williams University, when six Caribbean students mounted a protest against institutional racism. Their standoff snowballed into 14-days of chaos, with riot police storming the occupied ninth floor, and a hail of computer cards raining into the streets below. Among the students were Trinidadians Paul Keens Douglas and Bukka Rennie.
— “Ixcanul” directed by Jayro Bustamante, focuses on the plight of María, a 17 year old Mayan girl who lives and works with her parents on a coffee plantation on the foothills of an active volcano in Guatemala. Although Maria dreams of going to the big city, her condition as an indigenous woman trapped by an imminent arranged marriage, does not permit her to change her destiny. In a life threatening twist, she is forced to go out into the modern world where her life is saved, but at a devastating price. Ixcanul was Guatemala’s first ever nomination for the Academy Awards (2015) for Best Foreign Film.
Also, Amnesty International will again award a human rights prize at the festival, which runs from 20–27 September.
Established in an effort to support the promotion of human rights in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean, the Amnesty International Human Rights Prize will be awarded to the maker of the feature-length Caribbean film screening at ttff/16 which best highlights a human rights issue.
“Caribbean filmmakers continue to speak out about issue impacting gender equality, indigenous people’s rights, the treatment of children, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the situation of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent and so much more, empowering many who remain voiceless, through their medium. As long as human rights violations continue to exist, there will always be a need for films that speak so eloquently about the issues” said Chiara Sangiorgio, thematic adviser at Amnesty International.
According to Annabelle Alcazar, programme director at the ttff: “Caribbean filmmakers and writers have always been fearless in addressing issues that affect and impact the region, and the medium of film remains a powerful vehicle in the struggle for justice, equality and peace. As a showcase for the best in Caribbean cinema, the trinidad+tobago film festival remains committed to providing a space for such important work.”
This year the three films in competition for the Amnesty International prize are:
— “Se Bondye vie Yuli” / “God Willing Yuli”
Director: Jean Jean
— “Antes que Cante el Callo” / “Before the Rooster Crows”
Director: Arí Maniel Cruz
— “El Acompañante” / “The Companion”
Director: Pavel Giroud
The winning film will be chosen by a 3-person jury which comprises Sunity Maharaj, a media consultant and trainer, and the Managing Director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies; Folade Mutota, a Social Development Advisor and Lobbyist and the founder of the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), an organization whose ground-breaking work in the area of women, gender, gun violence and peacemaking has received regional and international recognition; and Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty International’s London-based coordinator of the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty.
In addition to receiving a trophy, the winning filmmaker will also be given a cash prize of TT$5000 (about US$750).
The ttff celebrates films from and about the Caribbean and its diaspora, as well as from world cinema, through an annual festival and year-round screenings. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of Caribbean cinema by offering a wide-ranging industry program and networking opportunities. The ttff is presented by Flow, leading sponsorship by Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (FilmTT), and supporting sponsorship by RBC Royal Bank, The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, the Tourism Development Company and the Embassy of the United States of America.
Visit ttfilmfestival.com for more information.