Film enthusiasts of Trinidad and Tobago, the region and the rest of the world gathered at the venue for the launch of the eighth edition of the festival, which featured the Caribbean premiere of the Nigerian/United Kingdom movie, Half of a Yellow Sun starring actress, Thandie Newton.
Founder and Festival Director, Bruce Paddington noted during his welcoming address that the festival has grown to become the second best film festival in the region behind the Havana Film Festival which has been in existence for over 40 years.
“We had a ‘hot’ year in 2012, attracting over 17,000 people to attend screenings and other events. This year, we expect even larger audiences,” he explained.
With the tag line, “Hotter,” Paddington said the festival this year would exceed that of previous years, even the 2011 edition, which he branded as a hot spot when it was held during the State of Emergency experienced in Trinidad and Tobago.
The two week festival will showcase over 140 feature length films and shorts from Trinidad and Tobago, the region and the Caribbean Diaspora. Paddington noted, “We always had hot films but we are becoming more international by including films from countries in South America such as Chile, Argentina and Uruguay while remaining true to our vision of promoting local, regional and Caribbean Diaspora films.”
He said while Half of the Yellow Sun is not directly a Caribbean diaspora film, it features two countries that have made an important impact on the history of the region.
This year, the festival also features a film from China and next year, attendees can expect films from the Middle East and other regions that have connections to the Caribbean.
“The world is beginning to listen and show interest in a festival put on in a country with only 1.3 million people,” he said while noting the festival has been featured in major trade journals such as Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and other film-maker magazines.
He said journalists from these and other magazines would be in attendance at the festival in addition to officials from the African Motion Picture Awards Organisation based in Nigeria who are here to encourage more films from the Diaspora to be submitted to their awards.
Paddington said ttff’s growth was assisted by its partnerships with other festivals and is now able to assist the establishment of other festivals in the region, which would benefit the Caribbean film industry.
“We may not have invited Gerard Butler to ttff, who I heard caused a frenzy at the recent Caribbean cricket series in Trinidad but we have invited over 100 regional and international film-makers and professionals to share their ideas and expertise with the growing Trinidad and Tobago film community,” he said.
“We have the right ingredients: great films, workshops, panel discussions and parties assisted by forward looking partners and sponsors and all we have to do is mix them together in the right ratio, turn up the heat and make our festival menu even hotter.”
Producer of Half of the Yellow Sun, Andrea Calderwood, who was also present at the festival premiere said the ttff was instrumental in supporting the production of the film and offered to host the Caribbean premiere before the film was completed.
She said while she has produced several other films, including many African films, this one was particularly challenging as it was the first film she had done based on a story from Africa written by an African.
The film is adapted from the 2006 novel of the same name written by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The film was directed by UK based, Nigerian writer, Biyi Bandele. Calderwood explained that Bandele was born in Nigeria at the beginning of the Nigerian civil war which provided the back drop for the novel and the film.
“It is a story that changed the history of Nigeria and we were happy to have the opportunity to make it into an accessible and moving film,” she said.