Thursday, July 23, 2009

Intimate and Inspiring

(Canada chronicles continued ...)

Some of my film work has been screened at various festivals - in Trinidad and internationally, but until this year (apart from festivals in Trinidad) I've only ever physically been to two of the international festivals - both in England. The second one was the Commonwealth Vision Awards (2004), which wasn't really a festival - it was an award ceremony at which they screened the films of those of us who had been awarded.

The first was the Commonwealth Film Festival in Manchester (2003), where my film "All of Emily" was screened. It was a good experience, but perhaps because it was my 'first time' and I didn't know anyone, it was also a bit overwhelming. Opening night was a huge bee hive of people dressed in black, swarming around, greeting each other with dramatic 'Daaaaahhhhlings!' followed by the theatrical kissing of both cheeks and the exchanging of call cards and fancy postcards advertising films (none of which I had or knew anything about doing). It took a while for me to sink in.

In contrast, the recent 4th CaribbeanTales Film Festival (my third physically-attended international festival) was very intimate. I found this to be one of its strengths. The experience allowed everyone the opportunity to connect and interact easily with each other ... whether as founder, member of audience, film maker, organizer, volunteer, member of the media or guest of honour (who, this year, was Euzhan Palcy).
(l. to r.): Euzhan Palcy and Frances-Anne Solomon at CTFF 2009
Source of photo

I think it's safe to say that everyone there was struck by Euzhan Palcy's ageless beauty, grounded energy and humility. I don't think she needed to speak much. Her work and her presence speak on her behalf. But when she did speak at length on the Saturday of the festival, in an interview with Professor Elizabeth Nunez, it was fascinating ... hearing of her life, inspiration and evolution as a film maker.

In her early years in Martinique, among other things, she used to write short stories, lock her brothers in a room with her (so they wouldn't escape once they were bored) and direct them in acting out her plots. They were always anxious to hear what was going to happen next in these 'productions'. It took me back to my own childhood when I would write short stories and books for my sisters, read to them and stage productions (not locking them in the room though), using their various dolls as the actors and the bed as the stage/location. My sisters would eagerly await the next episodes and sequels.
Carmen and Geoffrey
Source of Photo

The beautifully produced opening night documentary - "Carmen and Geoffrey" was well selected. The love and passion these two share(d) for each other, their art and life in general was highly moving and emotive ... not only to me, but to others who commented on it post-screening. Through the film I saw their life partnership as a spontaneous, creative, combustive and alive experience - still ongoing. Early in the movie, Geoffrey, riding in a car, tells the camera that when he set eyes on Carmen for the first time, he knew she would be his. Four days later he proposed, she accepted and the rest is history.

How many can dive with such passion and immediacy into something or someone that they don't even 'know'?

I remember someone once tritely commenting to me (on the heels of an earlier CTFF) that the festival was small and simply consisted of the founder's friends and family. Being there this year I noted that the festival did indeed feel like a gathering of family and friends - literally and otherwise. The air of familiarity and fraternity placed icons not on lofty pedestals, but as neighbours on chairs around cosy tables with everyone, as equals. It was the 'friends and family' aspect of the CTFF that embraced us all as an integral part of the bigger picture.

You live and learn. This time I made little quarter-page flyers advertising Emily,
with links to the CTFF
. Photocopied and guillotined at Kinko's on Bloor. Handed out to people in the area.

On a more personal note, what was this festival for me?

From my observation, audiences (whether small or more sizeable) were appreciative and respectful of the films they viewed. The feedback I got for my two (especially "Invisible") was good.

I reconnected with some people I already knew and haven't seen in a while and made connections with new ones (including other film makers) from Canada and the Caribbean.

I got interviewed by the Caribbeancamera newspaper and one of the TV stations.

I met up again with Professor Nunez (with whom I'd done a writing course at UTT last year) and she gave me the impetus to get back to working on my novel, Lily.

I got to speak/practice French a few times (inclusive of telling two French visitors about mon roman).

I was reminded of a few things ... one of them being that time waits on no one, that focus and dedication are of the essence and that one must find/know and follow/live one's passions. What else is there?

Most of all, I was grateful to this festival for being the catalyst in my decision to return now to Toronto. For both obvious and inexplicable reasons, TO has captured my heart and spirit in a way that no other place (to date) has. I had been intending to come later in the year ... but when I unexpectedly got the email about the CTFF, something in my heart blazed open in a way that I had not felt in a long while and I knew that, for whatever it was worth, I had to go there now. (Guided by a "Magical Raven" - long story). I knew the blazing heart feeling wasn't specifically about the festival. It was/is about something larger and more ongoing ... i.e. being alive, following my heart and trusting where it leads me even when I don't always know and understand exactly why.

3 comments:

kikipotamus said...

It takes a lot of faith and courage to follow a calling or a pull before you even know why, which is how it usually happens. I admire you for being able to do that and am so glad you did it in this instance.

Shubhajit said...

Wow! Great going. Congratulation and enjoy the limelight

Inkster said...

i think you've found your sat nam :)