By Lincoln DePradine
Machel Montano and Alison Hinds are names that are synonymous with great soca music. However, they were in Toronto last week for more than just their music. Montano and Hinds were in the city to participate in the 12th Caribbean Tales International Film Festival (CTFF), which runs until next Thursday.
The festival is showcasing more than a dozen feature films and 30 shorts from 18 countries.
Among the films are new, original Caribbean TV pilots such as BattleDream Chronicles, HEAT and Machel Montano: Journey of a Soca King.
It’s the second time in less than two years that Montano – a multiple Road March and Soca Monarch winner of Trinidad and Tobago – is being portrayed on film for a movie-going audience. His first was as the co-star in the feature film, Bazodee. He described his acting debut as “amazing’’, adding that filmmaking is a good avenue to “carry the energy of the Caribbean’’ to the rest of the world.
“I really, really loved the acting; I think I can do it again,’’ Montano said. “I think that energy is a high energy celebration of life and acceptance, and I want to spread that energy around the world.’’
Journey of a Soca King chronicles Montano’s growth from a child star to an internationally recognized soca performer.
Hinds, the Barbadian soca sensation, has acting roles in two CTFF films – HEAT and BattleDream Chronicles.
HEAT, described as a “steamy Bajan crime drama’’ of race and passion, is the work of internationally acclaimed Barbadian/British director and writer, Menelik Shabazz.
Hinds is also one of the voices in BattleDream Chronicles, the Caribbean’s first “Afro-futurist animation’’ film. In fact, all the voices are of Caribbean people, including Jamaicans Leonie Forbes and Sheldon Sheperd; Guyana’s Nuriyyih Gerrard; and St Lucian Joseph Marcell.
British-based Marcell, 69, is best known for his role as Geoffrey the Butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; a role he has downplayed as simply another job in his 45-year acting career.
“It’s phenomenal but it was simply a job,’’ Marcell told The Caribbean Camera in an interview last Thursday at the screening of BattleDream Chronicles at Cineplex Cinemas in Scarborough.
The cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which was shown on NBC from September 1990 to May 1996, included Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro, who played “Carlton’’. New York-born Ribeiro is the grandson of Trinidad calypsonian, Roaring Lion.
Marcell’s Toronto itinerary has included a television appearance and a reception in his honour hosted by the Consulate General of Saint Lucia in Toronto.
Marcell moved to the United Kingdom when he was nine years old, but remains a regular visitor to the Caribbean, while maintaining his acting career. “I’m at an age where I should retire; but I’m not retiring and I continue to be an actor,’’ he said.
CTFF is spearheaded by the CaribbeanTales Media Group, the world’s largest distributor of Caribbean audio-visual content. The group produces, markets, and sells Caribbean-themed film and television content for global audiences.
The group’s CTFF project is supported by Cable & Wireless, which also operates as Flow.
“The Caribbean has always had talented filmmakers; what it has lacked is a support system that enables skills development, assistance in production and distribution, and ultimately the opportunity to monetize content,’’ said John Reid, CEO of Cable & Wireless. “Through our partnership with CaribbeanTales, we are changing this, helping to transform the Caribbean film industry and showcase its talent to the world.’’