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Developing Caribbean film culture

...UWI Film Programme embarks on exciting second decade
Published: 
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Film students attach a microphone to Machel Montano for a documentary.

The UWI Film Programme, which currently offers the only stand-alone film degrees in Film Production and Film Studies, in the Eastern Caribbean, is readying for its second decade of production.

Inaugurated in 2006, the programme has been instrumental in developing Caribbean aesthetics, visual and media culture, and in nurturing a talented cohort of emerging regional filmmakers. At a time when the Humanities and Arts worldwide are fighting for survival and economic recession in T&T is restricting diversification, the Film Programme has proved itself a highly productive, adaptable flagship for innovative education, injecting energy into the region’s cultural industries.

The programme explained its structure in a recent press release to the Guardian. It said over the three-year degree, beyond core production courses like directing, editing, cinematography, screenwriting and sound producing, students are guided to develop interpretive and production skills. This involves an understanding of socio-cultural and historical dynamics, as well as the relationship between film and literary genres and other art forms, like music. Courses also include Film, Literature and Drama, which, with its focus on adaptation, has stimulated former and current students to engage with regional and local literature, bringing classic and contemporary texts to the screen.

The eagerly awaited feature film adaptation of Michael Anthony’s classic coming-of-age novel Green Days By the River, now nearing completion, is a prime example of the Film Programme’s potential and benefits. Directed and produced by former students Michael Mooleedhar and Christian James, Green Days highlights an integral aspect of the programme’s rationale: ensuring Caribbean realities and issues are represented in an increasingly globalized media dominated by Hollywood.

Of all the work by past students, perhaps the best known is Roger Alexis’ Santana, the charismatic Trini puppet with many followers worldwide. Also popular are Nick Attin (for his three features —Little Boy Blue, Escape From Babylon and Tomb) and scholarship winner Stephen Taylor for his Buck—The Man Spirit feature. Current student Amir Ali is a 2016 UN award winner in the documentary category and a TTFF 2016 short winner. Notable alumni include TV personality Francesca Hawkins and actor Michael Cherrie.

Since its inception, the Film Programme has produced many short and feature-length documentary and narrative films, consistently garnering awards locally, regionally and internationally. Student and alumni films have screened at The T&T Film Festival, the Belize International Film Festival and the Portobello Film Festival.

The programme’s diverse faculty comprises filmmakers, researchers and academics headed by Yao Ramesar, the Caribbean’s first laureate in Arts and Letters in the inaugural Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence (2006).

The Programme’s purpose-built facility opened in 2014. Its cavernous studio is host venue for such film events as the T&T Film Festival, Green Screen Trinidad, Bocas CineLit, the Africa World Documentary Festival, Africa Film T&T festival and the Indian Cine Club—all typically free and open to the public.

A major milestone marking the tenth anniversary of the programme was its showcase event, the inaugural World Festival of Emerging Cinema. In May 2016, over four days, 192 films from 52 countries were screened at its custom-designed, state-of-the-art base in Carmody Street, St Augustine.

The programme also provides production services via its film unit, a source for professional exposure for the Programme’s students. Recent productions have included human rights commercials for the European Union and BBC / British Council Shakespeare in the Caribbean.

Ready for plenty more action in the coming decade, the UWI Film Programme continues to be guided by its mission, which is, to contribute to the growth of Caribbean film industries, to foster a distinct Caribbean film culture and develop awareness of the region.

More info

The UWI Film Programme

#12 Carmody Street

University of the West Indies

St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

Tel: 1(868) 662-2002 Exts: 82727, 82725

Email: film.programme@sta.uwi.edu

Facebook: UWI St. Augustine: Film Programme