Yes, it’s over. The theatre is empty. The screen is black. The annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF) has gone dark for the 17th time … sort of.
Late last week the venerable CTFF announced the winning films in its 2-week downtown Toronto movie fete. And while there were no big surprises in the movies that took top awards (The Caribbean Camera was accurate in our predictions), the CTFF announced that from this week until October 22nd, people can watch virtually all the movies that were screened at the movie marathon.
It is not clear if the 2022 film festival was a success or not – there were certainly excellent films screened and people did come out. But it wasn’t the same festival we have grown to love. After years of showing the film entries at the comfy 400-seat Royal Cinema on College Street, this year CTFF moved downtown to one of the Carlton Cinema’s smallest and most uncomfortable theatres (150 seats) screens in the building. And while many nights it was sold out, that was not always the case. On Opening Night, the theatre was at best half full, and the evening programme was held for 30 minutes waiting for tardy ticket holders to arrive! Stilt walkers. Wire benders. Pan. And Mas like you have never seen before. This year the festival found its niche in screening short films and documentaries about carnival, be it Toronto’s Caribana or the original Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival.
The big winner this year was T&T’s 2021 Lavway, Our Story by Ryan Gibbons. It is a magical movie made by devotees of the Caribbean arts and released last year in Trinidad. No deals yet for Netflix or CBC’s Gem, this feature hit the mark with the Caribbean Canadian audience. It is an hour-long explosion of colour, music, costumes, dancing and dark mystical stories about all things Carnival in the streets of Port of Spain with Mas band Tribe.
“It feels great for me and the team winning this Best Feature Film Award.” Ryan Gibbons told the Caribbean Camera. “I am based in Trinidad and Tobago so, no I am not doing anything currently in Canada, but we are exploring what more we can do with the film after this. We are looking into entering other festivals. As for future films… let’s just say the story of Lavay lives as I am currently working on a new Caribbean documentary!”
Although not directly about Carnival, Bakosó: AfroBeats of Cuba, The Best Feature Documentary Award winner this year received a strong audience response for its documentary. AfroBeats traces the African origin of Bakosó, a recent transatlantic musical fusion into the Cuba music scene. It is best viewed with volume up!
In previous years Caribbean Tales has premiered full length features with name stars. That was not the case this year. The biggest “feature film” was Opal an animated children’s film from Martinique.
Could it be that the much larger Toronto International Film Festival overshadowed every other cinema event in Toronto this Fall? They got the
movies they wanted including films that would better premiered at CTFF, most notably David Chariandy’s Brother. Set in Scarborough in the 1990s, this full-length feature would have made a bigger splash at CTFF.
Toronto actress Rhoma Spencer has been featured in the Caribbean Camera of late for her recent accomplishments on the stage (a Dora nomination in September) and now we are writing about how she won the CTFF Best Short Documentary for her first ever 4-minute Black Lives Matter short movie My Execution Will Be Televised. Using Facebook, the paper caught up with the actress-turned-filmmaker at the Port of Spain film festival earlier this week.
“Wow! My little film that can – My Execution Will Be Televised – is my first foray as a filmmaker after years of telling stories for the stage,” she wrote. “I am humbled by this award that recognizes the work and stories brought to the screen by filmmakers that address systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination.”
Lavway, Opal, Bakoso and all the other movies are available for viewing on computer and television screens. The CTFF is selling $15 passes that gives people on-demand access to over 50 films, special screenings, talkbacks and Q and A chats. The movies are available for watching until October 22nd.
What to watch? The Caribbean Camera has printed the 2022 winning movies.
And the Winners Are
BEST FEATURE FILM:
Lavway, Our Story by Ryan Gibbons (Trinidad & Tobago)
BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY:
Bakosó: AfroBeats of Cuba by Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi (Cuba)
BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY:
Reel Black: Our Film Stories by Ayan Tani, Emeraude Domingos-Mbuku, Tristen Sutherland (Canada)
BEST SHORT FILM (2 films tied):
Sins of the Father by Azriel Bahadoor (Trinidad & Tobago) & Dorlis by Enricka MH (Martinique, Guadeloupe)
Woke by Dara Eshaghian (Canada)
Opal by Alan Bidard (Martinique)
CARIBBEAN SPIRIT AWARD:
Toronto Caribbean Carnival: Fun and Free by Irina Volkova (Canada)
My Execution Will Be Televised by Rhoma Spencer (Canada)
IMPACT AWARD (2 films tied):
Traces-Eritaj by Vox Sambou & Yoktown’s (Canada) & Maria Kristu; The Buumba Story by Paul. S. Wilo (Zambia)
The Roll Out by Dewayne Force (UK, Jamaica)
The Last Supper by Dilia Oviedo-Luciano (Dominican Republic)