By Stephen Weir
The 15th annual Toronto-based CaribbeanTales Film festival opened last night online.
“ In spite of what’s happening in the world right now, we have continued to forge ahead,” said festival founder and moviemaker Frances-Anne Solomon. “ In our new online programming we able to reach an even wider, global audience than the traditional theatre film festival … Necessity truly is the mother of invention.”
The festival’s kick-off theme was “The Trini In Me” with a focus on Trinidadian filmmakers and the International premiere of Grace & Saleem, directed by Jian Hennings.
Grace & Saleem is the first of nine feature films to be shown at the festival which runs until October 2nd and will be seen on the Video-On-Demand CaribbeanTales-TV (CT-TV) platform.
Caribbean, Canadian, American, British and Japanese film makers will be presenting a Caribbean-centric look at the issues of the day, using an ” island style of story-telling “to make film magic.
Five “must-see” movies are:
- Generation Lockdown – An American film by New York based Sirad Balducci. This short film is seen through the eyes of Caleb, an eleven-year old boy as he tries to save his friend’s life during an active shooter attack in his school in New Jersey.
- Queer Coolie-tudes – This film directed by Trini-Canadian Michelle Mohabeer could be the sleeper hit of the festival. She describes her 2019 movieas a groundbreaking creative documentary.
The film sees the term Coolie (a word used to describe gay and transgendered Indo-Caribbeans) as a slur equal to the N-word. Mohabeer tracks the intergenerational lives, histories, identities, familial relations and sexualities of a diverse range of subjects from the Queer Indo-Caribbean diaspora in Canada.
The film is part autobiography and part documentary and very much an art-house full-length feature. Mohabeer interviews a number of Caribbean Torontonians who talk about their sexuality and self-identification. Some are of mixed race, including: dougla (Indian-African mixture), callaloo (creole mixtures), genderqueer, disabled, AIDS activist, and some who have a penchant for performing drag.
For movie fans unsure of many of the issues of sexual identity with the Indo-Caribbean community, a selfie video with the director is an excellent primer prior to watching. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xdexStARHW-RYnKkjOoJiom2cMHNmbYI/view
- 3. But You’re Not Black – A 30-minute documentary film based on the real life experiences of film maker / comedian Danielle Ayow. She is a Chinese-Caribbean-Canadian woman who, driven by people’s inability to separate her skin colour from her culture, tries to “own” the Trinidadian identity she knows should feel like hers.
- Malpaso – Director Hector Valdez’s 2019 “Dirty gem” is about Black and Albino twins who have to fend for themselves in a violent and impoverished society unable to understand the “pigmental” condition, in this impressive Dominican movie.
- A People’s Art – In this film Ayesha Casely-Hayford is the host and narrator in a personal journey to discover the history, meaning, and origins of England’s Notting Hill Carnival.
Casely-Hayford is a British/Ghanian actress and lawyer who lives in the UK.