Canada is the Country of Focus at Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival 2012

Simon (Émilien Néron) in Monsieur Lazhar. Courtesy of Music Box Films

Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival logo.

Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan in Incendies. Photo by micro-scope, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

From left to right: Richard Fung (filmmaker), Faisal Lutchmedial (filmmaker), High Commissioner Karen L. McDonald, Christy Garland (filmmaker), Christian Sida-Valenzuela (Director of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival) and Ian Harnarine.

To support TTFF’s efforts, the High Commission of Canada to Trinidad and Tobago facilitated the screening of two well-regarded Canadian films, Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, for the Trinidad and Tobago audiences. The latter of these two movies, Monsieur Lazhar, was named awarded Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2011.

The decision by the TTFF to have Canada as their country of focus acknowledged the contribution of the Caribbean diaspora in Canada to arts and culture as well as international filmmakers who find their inspiration in the Caribbean.

What made the 2012 edition of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) unique?  Canada was the country of focus!

Trinidad and Tobago has actively been seeking co-production agreements with Canada and the festival should go a long way to further developing the trade relationship between the two countries. For example, the Canadian-produced Home Again, which premiered at TIFF this year, was partially filmed in Trinidad with the use of a local production company and speaks to the sharing of expertise in the film industry.

These kinds of projects are paving the way for future collaborations as Trinidad and Tobago consider implementing incentives like the temporary importation of film, television and radio equipment without crews having to post a Bond, or pay duties and Value Added Tax.

When the mission was approached to become involved in the festival, it was without hesitation that High Commissioner Karen McDonald agreed in order to foster and highlight the ongoing collaborations between the Government of Canada and Trinidad and Tobago in security, education, industry and culture.

The bilateral relationship between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago is strong and High Commissioner McDonald expressed the sentiment that she truly felt that “together Canada and Trinidad and Tobago have aspired, and together we have achieved”. And it is events like this which go a long way to promoting that mutually beneficial relationship. As Canada’s Governor General, the Honourable David Johnston, so aptly put it during his historic visit to Trinidad and Tobago, “ours is a relationship of trust”.

Other films with Canadian connections shown at the Festival included a documentary narrative short Mr. Crab by Faisal Lutchmedial, the documentary short The Chiney Shop by Jeanette Kong, the documentary feature The World Before Her by Nisha Pahuja, Dal Puri Diaspora by Richard Fung, and The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song by Christy Garland, which received the award for Best Caribbean Film by an International Filmmaker at this year’s outing of the TTFF.

In addition to showcasing Canadian film, the festival also hosted four Canadian filmmakers including Ian Harnarine, director of Doubles with Slight Pepper which received the Award for Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF 2011.  The local festival also welcomed Christian Sida-Valenzuela, director of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival who sat on the judges’ panel.

In partnership with the High Commission and sponsored by RBC Royal Bank, the 2012 edition of the TTFF, which ended on October 2, was the largest edition of the festival to date, with over 120 films being screened.  More information on the festival can be found at