BY: LEANNE BENN
This year, the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival celebrated twelve years through the act of diversity and legacy in the city of Toronto, bringing Caribbean flair and spice to the streets of Little Italy near the historic Royal Cinema on College Street. It was an evening and night filled with delicious food, lively steel-pan music, celebrities, Caribbean cinema and buttery popcorn.
The CTFF gala launch took place on September 6 at the Capitol Trattoria Pizzeria, where a portion of the street was closed off to make room for a street island party. The night was epic and when you think of the words ‘epic— Caribbean—Soca— performer’ there is only one person that should come to mind: Caribbean music superstar Machel Montano. This VIP gala was held to host the King of Soca’s documentary premiere —Machel Montano: Journey of a Soca King by Bart Phillips (Trinidad and Tobago, 2017, 77 minutes)
Songs like Too Young To Soca and Big Truck might ring a bell if you have followed the journey of this musical sensation from his initial start in Trinidad and Tobago. The opening gala also welcomed Soca Queen, Alison Hinds, actor Joseph Marcell (from Fresh Prince), Sheldon Shepard and the honorable Jean Augustine. The evening also featured appearances by the acting consulate general of Trinidad and Tobago to honor Machel Montano’s contribution not just to Trinidad but to the entire Caribbean community.
Machel Montano’s music is a fusion of Caribbean history that transcends our struggles as island people in order to showcase the spirit, fun, dedication and hard work it takes to make our lives comfortable.
The executive director of CTFF, Frances-Anne Solomon, put a lot of thought into the layout of this year’s film festival in order to properly reflect the theme of legacy. Films from all over the Caribbean and the corresponding filmmakers had a chance to make an international debut to a Canadian audience. As Solomon said, “It was hard to pick this year’s program, but those we’ve chosen will not only entertain, they will also challenge our audiences to consider our legacy as Caribbean peoples here and throughout our diaspora. We need to think about what we’re leaving now for future generations.”
This year, the festival featured fourteen feature films and thirty short films from eighteen different countries across the Caribbean.
This mass appeal to the Caribbean public offered a chance for expressive and creative freedom as actors and directors made their debut while some returned to share their talents. Just like the opening documentary by Machel Montano, the festival boasted eleven powerful documentaries in total, offering a range of different genres for various film enthusiasts.
Some powerful documentaries included The Roots of Culture night on September 14th which featured two documentaries including: Sorf Hair by Shari Petti (Trinidad and Tobago, 2017, 24 minutes) exploring how natural hair is perceived in Trinidad and Tobago and across the Caribbean and Pimento and Hot Pepper-The Mento Story by Rick Elgood (Jamaica ,2015, 59 minutes) that explored the roots of Jamaican music and dance which was called: Mento.
There was so much variety from the 2017 CTFF that it covered almost every aspect of film, from action to comedy and romance. Each night of the film festival since its opening featured a different theme and showing of approximately two feature films and two shorts. Legacies of Race, Legacies of the Land, Legacies of Identity, and Twisted Legacies were all some examples of overall explorations. On September 15th, the films offered explored action, drama, and identity. The Check by Richard B. Pierre (Canada, 2016, 6 minutes) covered the issues of humans, technology and discovering our true self. Shoot The Girl by Natalie Thompson (Jamaica, 2016, 11 minutes) was an action-packed short about urban survival skills. The feature presentation that night was Cutlass by Darisha J. Beresford (USA/ Trinidad and Tobago, 2016, 97 minutes) which was a drama that included kidnapping, mental strength, and internal freedom, this film was also inspired by a true story.
The evening continued with a second round of showings including the world premiere of Shashamane by Giulia Amati (Barbados/ Italy /Ethiopia/ Jamaica/ UK, 2016, 80 minutes). This film explored Jamaican and African heritage from the Caribbean to the country of Ethiopia, in search of lost identity and Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie. Movies like this truly covered the theme of identity that many people from various diasporas struggle with.
The CTFF 2017 was a delightful exploration of Caribbean culture and identity and helped add the warmth of island culture to the streets of Toronto. The lead sponsor this year was FLOW and other sponsors and partners included: Telefilm Canada, ACP, The Royal, Film Jamaica, Toronto Black Film Festival, One Caribbean Media, NOW Magazine and others. For more information and for your chance to see some fresh and amazing films next year, check out caribbeantalesfestival.com