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BC’s Best of the Fest

THE BEST thing about being on the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival’s programming committee this year is I’m one of half-a-dozen people who’s seen every film being screened and can recommend the ones worth watching.

The short list of recommendations is, of course: everything – or we wouldn’t have programmed them! And the longer list is even more satisfying.
The first two categories in the online festival A to Z guide (find screening days and times at https://ttfilmfestival.com/film-index-a-z) are Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean and the 40 or so films there are all worth watching. You could spend the rest of the festival week watching only TT and Caribbean films and be thrilled. From those two categories, I’d rate the standout features as: (TT) Doubles, Ian Harnarine’s opening night film (Monday, Naparima Bowl, Q+A), Fortune for All, Yao Ramesar’s family drama with a cast led by Michael Cherrie (Sunday, Tuesday) and Adam Bartholemew’s Panazz: the Story. Shorter film standouts include Miquel Galofre’s Stick is Life documentary on mokojumbies (two screenings Sunday), the hilarious animated short PB and the Buck, Ryan Khan’s ambitious Hey Nineteen (whose title alone pleased this Steely Dan fan), Karen Martinez’s Trinidad Remains, Nicola Cross’ Our Menopause and Shea Best’s daring Vulnerable.
From the Caribbean section, must-sees include Laura Amelia Guzman’s Babygirl, Hanif James’ distressing short, A Shade of Indigo, Nadean Rawlins’ pair of disturbing shorts, Parolytic and Boy, Girl and All the Rest – not feel good films at all but really good, Dancing the Stumble, a groundbreaking doc about mental health in Martinique from Wally Fall, 26: The Film (with the admission that it’s being made in Barbados might have prejudiced its selection favourably), Victoria Linares Villegas’ genre-bending Ramona, the visually stunning Un Gavillero en la Sierra, Carlos Lechuga’s Vincenta B and It Is Not Past, Ida Does’ documentary about the Desi Bouterse military dictatorship in Suriname; what you don’t know about it all will shock you. For the art film lover, Samuel Caraballo’s short, I Think a Lot About the Pictures I Didn’t Take would be hard to top.
The festival’s Panorama section offers some of the best films you’ll never have the chance to see again and I could almost recommend them all – but I’ll do my duty to you and try to name the unmissable ones, which include sit-up-and-take notice shorts like A Dead Marriage, The Kid, the performance-driven Lemon, Como Matar Una Muneca, the animated It’s Nice in Here, A Pinch of Honey, Edmond Albius, the Beirut-set Not Far from Here, White Spirit and the Australian two-hander drama, Mate.
It’s harder to name standouts amongst the feature length films because they are all so good but I do my duty and choose: the drama Shimoni (The Pit); the documentary Conversations with Ruth De Souza; Dusty and Stones, a doc about Country & Western-loving Zulus; the inimitable Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project; the groundbreaking doc La Bonga and the exceptional documentary, Black Barbie. Art film lovers should be pleased with When I Look at the Horizon.
Beyond the Panorama section are several other feature length narratives and documentaries as well as shorter films you shouldn’t miss. Nayola, an animated documentary should thrill the Waltz with Bashir crowd, or anyone at all. The subtle Brazilian drama Port au Prince may be the festival’s most overlooked film. Boca Chica, a coming of age, coming to reality drama from the Dominican Republic is one of the festival’s best. The documentary Diaspora, also from the DR, posits a Caribbean diaspora and features a terrific final sequence as its protagonists disperse.
Two remarkable shorts with similar roots are Black Girls Play: The Story of Hand Games and Ampe: Leap into the Sky Black Girl and two remarkably short-but-effective shorts are Welcome to Guyana and A Superhero. Raw Materials is a Jamaican coming of age and coming out drama set in a homophobic community. Short Cut, Keegan Taylor’s short horror tale of a young Trini man taking a short cut home through the local cemetery is very well handled.
The films are so good that pot luck ought to please you but, as lagniappe, I would throw in One of Ours, an unusual Canadian feature length documentary about identity that should have liberals and film festival-going conservatives (if there is such a creature) arguing from the moment the credits start rolling up.

BC Pires is watching films he’s already seen several times again with delight

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