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‘Let’s tell our stories’

John Sealy

‘Let’s tell our stories’

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The big?picture from the just concluded CaribbeanTales Film Festival 2012 is that Caribbean people can define themselves by telling their own stories. But the film industry must become a viable medium, attracting investors and assuring them of returns.
And this investment cannot be secured if there is no audience participation and receptive markets.
“All that work still has to be done,” says Frances-Anne Solomon, chief executive officer of the CaribbeanTales group of companies. “But when I look at the difference between two years ago [when the festival started] there is much more general awareness about the value of film . . . . People need to see themselves rather than other people.
“This is a colonial by-product; the rationale of slavery was that if you take their culture away from them and only give them images of the ruling people then they will not have self-confidence, in that they would not be able to do anything.
“We as a people have to rebuild our national confidence through telling our story. It is a fundamental and essential part of the health of our culture that we see ourselves on screen.”
And if the feedback from organizers of CaribbeanTales 2012 is anything to go by, our film industry seems headed in the right direction.
“It has been an incredible success. We did not expect such a large turnout the final night. There was more interest in the Caribbean film than we anticipated; so it means that the festival has a bright future . . . .”
Addressing the issue of violence in some films, Solomon said that the aim of the festival was to show a range of stories.
“It is important to acknowldge that our stories are very diverse . . . all kinds of stories that need to be told. Some of them are happy stories, some are difficult. Life is full of all kinds of variety,” Solomon said.
“We still have a lot of work to do . . . . What is critical is, the audience base. If the cinemas know that they are going to put on a good Caribbean film and it is going to be sold out they would do [the show] . . . .”
Solomon advised that when making movies, consideration ought to be given to the return on investment by the business community.
 “We have to . . . develop a sustainable industry. That is not existing at the moment and that is very scary, but very real. We can talk all we want about a film industry, but if film-makers cannot make money from this work it’s going to remain at the level of a hobby – and that is not sustainable,” she said.
She is calling on the region to come together and work towards getting the industry moving.     
One of the highlights of the festival was the interaction of a number of overseas film commissioners with the local film practitioners.
Co-chairs of the CT2012 Symposium, Alison Saunders and Ben Arrindell, lauded the success of the focus on Caribbean Film Commissions: Best Practices And Business Opportunities.
“There was a good turnout and we were particularly pleased with the public sector participation. Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, who was also Acting Prime Minister, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry with responsibility for Culture, Shirley Farnum, assured those present of the Government’s commitment to the establishment of a Film Commission, a Cultural Industries Fund and passage of the incentives legislation in short order.”
Saunders said the presentations by the visiting film commissioners provided practical information on how these initiatives could be expedited.
One of the highlights was the showcase of winning films from the CTA Competition For Caribbean Films On Science And Agriculture, the first event of CT2012.
“The five films done by youth from the region were well received, and one of the two winning film-makers who participated in the festival was voted Best Director in the 48-hour Film Challenge. CaribbeanTales is very appreciative of this partnership with the Technical Centre For Agriculture And Rural Development, based in the Netherlands, that sponsored this event.”
Acting Minister of Agriculture Haynesley Benn spoke on the potential value of a career in agriculture and the importance of sharing success stories through the medium of film.