One key way the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival (T&T) is able to grow and remain a vibrant, cutting-edge entity is through its associations with other film festivals. Some of T&T team attend major festivals such as Toronto, Miami and Cannes, and they are in partnerships with other festivals, such as Femi in Guadeloupe and ZIFF in Zanzibar. Networking serves various functions. Seeing how other, often more established, festivals operate can provide T&T with valuable lessons on how to improve; and other festivals provide precious networking opportunities. Most importantly, by attending other festivals T&T is able to discover great films that would not otherwise be available in loco.
Two members of the T&T team recently returned from such journeys. Co-director Annabelle Alcazar attended the Verona African Film Festival in Italy. The oldest film festival in Europe screening exclusively African and African diaspora content, the Verona festival celebrated its 31st anniversary this year, and had as its theme “Revolution, the Arab spring and the diaspora”. Not only did Annabelle attend the festival as a representative of the T&T, she also had served on the festival’s jury. Also recently taking place was the 5th annual Dominican Republic Global Film Festival, at which T&T founder and Director Bruce Paddington was a guest. The Dominican Festival is one of the fastest-growing in the Caribbean. While in Verona, we asked Annabelle a few questions.
Could you tell us about the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival?
We are in our sixth year and our festival is the largest in English speaking Caribbean. There are more important festivals in Cuba and in the Dominica Republic, but for our linguistic area we are the largest. The festival runs for two weeks, the last of September and the first of October. In the last edition we showed 85 films, between documentaries and features, mainly from the Caribbean, which is our focus. We had films from Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica and other islands; from countries bordering the region, like Venezuela and Colombia; and the diaspora. We are now opening a new area of interest which is the African films.
What is your relation with the Verona Film Festival?
This is the first time one of us has visited the Verona Festival. This happened because one of our directors was in Zanzibar last year to participate at the festival there. Among the jury, there was Fabrizio Colombo, the artistic director of the festival in Verona, who is looking to expand the scope of the festival to include more films from the diaspora. He invited us to participate at the festival in Verona. We hope to start a good relationship with an exchange of films and experiences. Starting next year, there will be films from Trinidad and Tobago here in Verona, and we hope to receive some films from Africa, through the support of the Verona Festival.
You are co-director of the T&T, what does this entail?
T&T has grown so much that it has become a full time job for me. I have to look for films, vision them, and shortlist the candidates to participate at the screening. We also offer workshops and other activities. All this must be organized, prepared and it requires much time and attention.
How did you evaluate your experience in Verona?
I am not knowledgeable on African film on the whole. This is why I attach much importance on this experience, to get a perspective through this festival. We do have contacts with Zanzibar and some link to West Africa. We hope to acquire more experience on north, central and southern Africa through our friends in Verona. So far I have seen very good films, of good quality, high standards, all dealing with very important issues. I enjoyed watching the films so far. I have also appreciated the opportunity to meet young filmmakers. The African film industry is growing and I am pleased to see the results.
The Caribbean film industry is still very small. Our government is encouraging the growth of this industry because our society needs to diversify. So far, we are doing well thanks to natural resources, but these are not to last forever. The government in Trinidad and Tobago is trying to set up other industries which will provide occupation to the population, and the film industry is one of them. We encourage young people to get closer to film making. Here in Verona I have seen some good films shot and produced by young people, I am inspired by them and I hope this will also be possible back at home.