The Future of T&T Filmmaking!
  Samantha Khan
FEATURES
July 2017

Whether it is sitting for the first time as the lights go down in the theatre or huddling up with our siblings to watch a scary movie, we all have vibrant memories of our encounters with the world of movies. For some, it is thrilling enough to experience film’s enchantment as a spectator but for others, the call runs deeper. They are beckoned beyond the screen, compelled to make their own cinematic magic.

In order to nurture this desire and talent, the UWI St. Augustine Film Programme is dedicated to supporting emerging filmmakers. Recognising that great movies are born at the intersection of theory and technique, the curriculum uses a combination of film studies and film production to cultivate talent in its students. Since its inception, the Programme has assisted its students in the production of numerous prolific short and feature-length films, many of which have garnered local, regional and international acclaim.

The UWI Film Programme Coordinator, acclaimed filmmaker Yao Ramesar, guides students in harnessing and directing their talents and planning their career paths. Having made over 120 films, screened in over 100 countries, this first Caribbean Laureate in Arts and Letters, brings over three decades of experience to bear on a new generation of emerging filmmakers.

One such student is Jian Hennings. In his final year at the Programme, Jian has recently completed the feature, Back to Freeport. For Jian, one of the most appealing facets of film production is the collaboration involved. He considers film to be the ultimate form of artistic expression, and enjoys the way in which a wide variety of people come together to form a cohesive unit and create a piece of art. Applying this model of collaboration with dexterity, Jian created his own work of art in Back to Freeport, which is an official selection at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival this year. It is a comedic drama that follows protagonist Jamal as he is forced to return to village life when he must repair his dilapidated childhood home. For more information on Back To Freeport, check their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/backtofreeportfilm/ .

For third-year student Anna-Lisa Wickham, however, the lure of film is more about self-expression. She is particularly drawn to the fact that film allows her to step out of her usual quiet persona and helps her to share her voice and perspective. She can express herself and let people see the world through her own lens. She uses the power of film to give voice to the voiceless. Her film, It Still Haunts Me, does this expertly. It is an adaptation of Om Jai Jagadish, a chapter from Anna Levi's novel, Nowherians. Anna-Lisa also delves into deeply complex themes in her documentary short, Living Without You, which features interviews with three individuals grieving for lost loved ones. Find it on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClVhxq9mjGFWCh5l4OOJVbg .

While Anna-Lisa is intrigued by film’s ability to express an individual’s subjective experience, Amir Aether Valen Ali is enticed by its ability to shape society through encouraging people to be more self-aware. On the verge of completing his final year at the UWI Film Programme, he cites the following quote as his inspiration for pursuing a career in film: “The first step to controlling your world is to control your culture, to model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in”. Amir has chosen to shape his world through film, starting most notably with his documentary short, Who I Say I Am, which is a masterful exploration of the link between a person’s name and their identity. Amir won both the “Best T+T Documentary Short” and the “United Nations T+T Award for Best Emerging Documentary Filmmaker” at the 2016 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival with Who I Say I Am. See more on Amir’s website: https://elementsofmentalzen.wordpress.com/ .

Quite unlike the three previous filmmakers, second-year student, Shari Petti discovered her passion for filmmaking almost accidentally. She was working as an extra on the set of Bazodee and was intrigued by the behind-the-scenes action. Interested in learning more about the process of filmmaking, she volunteered on set and subsequently fell in love with the art of filmmaking. While studying at the UWI Film Programme, Shari started her documentary series, Small Lime, which features conversations with a range of people on topics ranging from mental health to the entertainment industry. Being involved in the film industry has provided her with many opportunities, including being invited to work on a project in Barbados. Follow Shari’s Facebook page to keep up to date with her work: https://www.facebook.com/sharipettiii/?pnref=lhc .

For Shari, as well as the other filmmakers emerging from the UWI Film Programme, the future is brimming with exciting opportunities for collaboration, self-expression, cultural exploration, career advancement and, most importantly, adventure. Whether it be venturing into oneself and expressing a unique viewpoint, or venturing into the world and sharing the stories of others, the power of film is profound and limitless. 

By: Samantha Khan | FEATURES | July 2017


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