CaribbeanTales 2009

CaribbeanTales celebrates the success of 4th film fest

TORONTO – The much buzzed about 4th Annual CaribbeanTales Film Festival has come to a close after another successful year: four event-filled days celebrating the exploding film and television industry across the Caribbean and it’s Diaspora.

As Canada’s premier standalone Caribbean film festival, CaribbeanTales presented an astounding 65 of the best Caribbean films from around the world this past weekend. CaribbeanTales, Founder and Artistic Director Frances-Anne Solomon would like to thank all participants and sponsors for making this year’s theme “Caribbean Film – A Tool for Education and Social Change” a huge success!

A highlight of the festival this year was the CaribbeanTales Industry Development Program (CTIDP), an initiative that provided educational industry activities such as training workshops, roundtable sessions, and panel discussions on film practice, animation, business development and marketing to support producers to break into the Canadian industry.

Many special guests travelled from abroad to attend the festival this year including: Director Melissa Gomez (Antigua/UK), Producer Magali Damas (New York/Haiti), filmmaker and photographer Richardo Scipio (Vancouver, Canada) Penelope Hynam and Ian Smith from the Barbados Film and Video Association, Annette Nias from the National Cultural Foundation in Barbados, and Dr. Gladstone Yearwood, Director of the Errol Barrow Center for Creative Imagination, UWI, in Barbados.

Also present was a stellar contingent from Trinidad and Tobago including Lisa Wickham, CEO of Imagine International; Christopher Laird, CEO of Gayelle The Channel; Camille Selvon Abrahams, Founder/Director of Anime Caribe Animation and New Media Festival; Dr. Jean Antoine of the University of the West Indies; multi-media artist Elspeth Duncan, and emerging filmmakers Dara Healey and Andre Johnson.

Canadian-Caribbean filmmakers also participated in numbers including ReelWorld Film Festival President and Actor Tonya Lee Williams, multi-award winning video artist and lecturer Richard Fung, filmmaker and academic Dr. Michelle Mohabeer, Producer/director Nicole Brooks, Global TV Executive Karen King, National Film Board Producer Lea Main, “Soul” creator Andy Marshall, Director Powys Dewhurst and Vancouver-based Producer Glace Lawrence.

The festival’s high point took place on Saturday evening with the Tribute Awards Ceremony which honored the careers of a number of movers and shakers in the Caribbean film industry.

The coveted Award of Honour went to Mme. Euzhan Palcy whoo was the first woman of African descent to ever direct a Hollywood Studio movie when she made A Dry White Season with Marlon Brando and Donald Sutherland in 1989. Ms Palcy who came from France to receive the Award, spoke movingly of the importance of this Festival.

“It is most important to me that we as Caribbean people be able to express love and appreciation for each other, not just in our films, but in relation to each other. For that, I treasure this award above others.” Said Ms Palcy, whose first film Black Shack Alley, produced in 1983, remains a seminal Caribbean cinematic achievement.

Christopher Laird, Co-Founder and CEO of Gayelle The Channel in Trinidad received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering use of television as a tool for community and social engagement. Earlier in the festival, rapt audiences were also treated to the World Premiere of Christopher’s new film Drummit2Summit, which documents a tense stand-off between Police and local activists during the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain in April 2009.

Along with Mr. Laird, tribute was paid to several extraordinary Caribbean talents including Camille Selvon Abrahams who received the 2009 Innovation Award, for her groundbreaking and visionary work in establishing the Caribbean’s first Animation studio and film festival (Anime Caribe) that trains, produces and exhibits work by a new generation of Caribbean-centered Animators.

Jamaican Film and Theatre icon Leonie Forbes presented the Festival’s first Leonie Forbes Award to Canadian-Jamaican rising star Michael Miller for his work as an actor and youth worker youth-at-risk in Public Housing communities in Toronto.

Actor and Producer Tonya Lee Williams received this year’s Award for Community Service in recognition for her tireless generosity in establishing and maintaining the Reel World Film Festival and Foundation, whose vision is to showcase Canada’s diversity in film. The festival is now 10 years old.

Barbadian-Canadian actor, director, and producer Alison Sealey Smith received the 2009 Award for Excellence, presented to her by the Consulate General for Barbados in Toronto, Mr Leroy McClean. Ms Sealey-Smith’s many accomplishments include Founding Artistic Director of the Obsidian Theatre, Canada’s prolific and Dora Award-winning Black theatre company.

“Team Barbados (The Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), Invest Barbados and the Consulate General of Barbados)is happy to have been a part of this event and wishes the Festival every success as it continues to chart new paths in the artistic expression of the Caribbean’s stories.”said Leroy McCLean, Consul General for Barbados in Toronto.

The 2009 CaribbeanTales Film Festival was produced in association with The University of Toronto. Among the Festival’s many sponsors were the Consulate Generals for Barbados, France, Trinidad & Tobago, The Trinidad and Tobago Film Company and the Canada Council for the Arts.

The CaribbeanTales Film Festival is founded by award-winning director, filmmaker and festival curator Frances-Anne Solomon who has had great success with her most recent highly acclaimed feature film A Winter Tale (for Telefilm Canada/CHUM Television).

CaribbeanTales is Canada’s premier multimedia company that creates, markets and distributes educational films, videos, radio programs, audio books, theatre plays, websites and events, to showcase the rich heritage of Caribbean Diaspora worldwide.

CaribbeanTales’ mandate is to foster and encourage intercultural understanding and citizen participation through the medium of film, contributing to an inclusive Canadian society.

Caribbean People: Filmmaker Euzhan Palcy gives back

By Colin Rickards

euzhaneliz2TORONTO – When award-winning filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon announced her intention in 2005 of staging a Caribbean-focussed film festival in Toronto I recall a naysayer commenting: “It won’t work. Frances-Anne is dreaming.”

The lady was wrong in her assertion, because, though on a modest scale, the first Caribbean Tales Film Festival did work, and worked very well. She was right — though not in the way she meant the phrase — that Solomon was “dreaming.” She was also making the dreams into realities: The 4th Caribbean Tales Film Festival — a four-day visual feast — ended last Sunday.

“It is Canada’s only standalone festival showcasing the best of Caribbean cinema from around the world,” Solomon says with justifiable pride.

Featuring local and international Caribbean cinema, the Festival brought together full-length films and shorts, stories and documentaries, by Caribbean or Caribbean Diaspora filmmakers from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, the UK, Africa, India, the U.S. and Canada.

It has been said that the respect and esteem which any film festival enjoys can be gauged by the calibre of the guests — not just the filmmakers who attend to screen their work — the established professionals in the industry, who attend because they want to be part of it all.

Consequently, it was an enormous feather in Solomon’s cap when Martinique-born filmmaker Euzhan Palcy enthusiastically responded to an invitation to come to Toronto and play an active role in her Festival.

“Caribbean film festivals are always important to me,” Palcy, who flew in from Paris, told me. “It has always been my dream to be able to connect — and connect with — people in the Caribbean who are making films.”

She was the first Caribbean woman — and also the first woman of African descent — to direct a movie for a major Hollywood Studio movie. This was MGM’s 1989 South Africa-set film “A Dry White Season,” starring Donald Sutherland and Susan Sarandon, with a cameo appearance by Marlon Brando, which earned him an Academy Award Nomination.

Euzhan — it is pronounced Urzan — Palcy was already a fairly seasoned director, producer and writer by then, having made her first TV film, called “The Messenger,” for Martinique television at the age of 17.

She told me that she was so certain that filmmaking was what she wanted to do that when she went to the Sorbonne — University of Paris — she not only took Literature, Theatre and Opera, but also enrolled to study Cinema at the Rue Lumiere School.

At the age of 14 her mother had given her a novel by Josef Zobel about sugarcane cutters in Martinique, and she used it to direct a short film called “The Devil’s Workshop” in 1982. The following year she directed a full length film version of the book under the title of “Sugar Cane Alley.”

It won Palcy a Best First Film award from the French Academy of Cinema and the Silver Lion Award at the Venice International Film Festival. Since then, she has won awards at the famed Cannes Film Festival and elsewhere, and received French civil honours as a Chevalier in the National Order of Merit, and the Legion of Honour. Yet even with her international adulation she has remained grounded.

“Remember where you come from,” Palcy urged the young filmmakers attending the Festival. “Never forget. Always go back — and give back!”

She deliberately includes young would-be filmmakers on the sets of her films, to give them an understanding of the craft, and her director/producer — and writer — credits are significant.
They include an important 1994 three-part documentary on Martinique’s literary giant Aime Cesaire, who died last year. It was called “A Voice for History.” Her 1999 TV film for ABC called “Ruby Bridges” was about the six-year-old African-American girl who integrated the New Orleans’ elementary school system.

Palcy was last here in 2001 for the premiere of her film “The Killing Yard” at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was about the Attica Prison Riot of three decades earlier — and its official cover-up — and starred Alan Alda and Morris Chestnut.

“I pick my stories,” Palcy says. “I have a point to make.”

She was guest-of-honour at a lunch on Saturday, during which she was publicly interviewed by Trinidad-born author Elizabeth Nunez — who came up specially from New York — and answered audience questions. “A Dry White Season” was shown that afternoon, she received an Award of Honour on Saturday evening and “Ruby Bridges” was screened on Sunday.

Supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Caribbean Tales Film Festival had the theme “Caribbean Film — A Tool for Education and Social Change” and featured some hard-hitting documentaries, as well as films depicting social problems in the Caribbean and the Caribbean Diaspora.

“Caribbean film is palpably taking off,” Solomon says. “There has been an explosion of work over the past three years, but filmmaking is a back-breakingly hard profession, and a lot of us work in isolation.”

Her Festival opened with the Canadian premiere of “Carmen & Geoffrey,” a fascinating documentary about the lives of dancer, choreographer and actor Geoffrey Holder and his dancer/choreographer wife Carmen de Lavallade.

Solomon was running on adrenalin. She has just successfully presented her play “Lockdown” at the Toronto Fringe Festival, and tells me that it may in due course also become a film, as was the case with her stage play “A Winter Tale,” which went on to win awards at many international film festivals. The DVD was launched last Saturday.

For the record, Frances-Anne Solomon is still dreaming — of making next year’s Caribbean Tales Film Festival, the fifth, even better.

Photos: Euzhan Palcy in conversation with Trinidadian author Dr. Elizabeth Nunez; being interviewed by journalist Colin Rickards; and receiving the CaribbeanTales Film Festival’s Award of Excellence from Founder/Artistic Director Frances-Anne Solomon.

CaribbeanTales Opening Night Film: Carmen and Geoffrey

geoffreyandcarmen2smTORONTO – We are proud to announce that our Opening Night Feature is this beautiful documentary about the work of two exceptional artists, Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder, who stepped forward in the 1950’s to play a vital part in the newly energized world of American modern dance. It is also about a forty-seven year long love affair and the creative partnership that sustained their accomplishments.

“I walk through doors,” Geoffrey Holder thunders in the documentary “Carmen & Geoffrey.” “If I’m not wanted in a place, there’s something wrong with the place, not with me.” And when this 6-foot-6-inch choreographer and painter, with a big toothy grin and the oratorical style of a Caribbean James Earl Jones, thunders, the earth moves.

Mr. Holder has been a fixture in the theater and dance worlds in New York City beginning with the 1954 musical “House of Flowers.” The Carmen of the title is Carmen de Lavallade, Mr. Holder’s wife and creative partner for more than 50 years. Now in her 70s, she is still a beauty.

As the film, directed by Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob, follows Mr. Holder, he radiates the energy of a sun king. By his side is Ms. de Lavallade, the New Orleans-born dancer and choreographer who grew up in Los Angeles and met him when they appeared together in “House of Flowers”. They married in 1955.

geoffreyandcarmen2Ms. de Lavallade, we learn, was the best friend and dancing partner of Alvin Ailey, who was brokenhearted when she married Mr. Holder. Carmen is also a gifted choreographer and actor but her solo dance career is legendary, both with Ailey as well as John Butler, Jose Limon, Donald McKayle and others.
Geoffrey Holder came from Trinidad to debut in House of Flowers, which he also co-choreographed with Herbert Ross. Later he directed and designed the costumes for The Wiz winning two Tonys in the process. Geoffrey’s world-class talent as a painter has been recognized with a Guggenheim fellowship and he is a prize-winning author and photographer. His ballet, Dougla is a permanent part of the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s repertoire, as is his work Prodigal Prince for the Ailey Company.

 

Mr. Holder recalls that from early childhood he knew he wanted to dance and to paint. He was 7 when he made his performing debut with the Holder Dance Company, a troupe founded by his older brother, Boscoe. By the time he was “discovered” in 1952, Geoffrey Holder was already an accomplished painter, and the canvases shown in the movie suggest the sensibility of an extroverted Gauguin steeped in Caribbean folklore.

After “House of Flowers” he formed his own dance company and was also a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. He reached a pinnacle of acclaim in the mid-1970s with Tony Awards for best director and costume design for “The Wiz.” The fantastic outfits bore his artistic signatures: a brilliant palette and wildly playful and inventive imagery. His later choreography on “Timbuktu!” (a 1978 Caribbean version of “Kismet”) and “The Prodigal Prince,” a dance biography of Haitian artist and voodoo priest Hector Hyppolite, reveal work that was even bolder.
The film’s style is spontaneous, intimate and revealing, showing Carmen and Geoffrey’s natural penchant for uncommon good humor.

Above all, it provides us with models of lives boldly lived, and offers a paradigm for survival and accomplishment in one of the toughest professions to which anyone can aspire.

From: Creatively Connected Through Dance and Life By STEPHEN HOLDEN Published: March 13, 2009
This movie has been designated a Critic’s Pick by the film reviewers of The Times.

LOCKDOWN’s world premiere at the Toronto Fringe Festival

CTales09posterTORONTO – This July, CaribbeanTales in association with Leda Serene Films will stage the world premiere of award-winning director Frances-Anne Solomon’s new theatrical production Lockdown, brought to audiences for the first time ever at the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival (July 1st to 12th).

Lockdown’s explosive fictional story traces the fortunes of a diverse group of young people held hostage during a high school lockdown. The play’s high octane script picks apart the violence that threatens to undermine their dreams. It stars Jamaican film and theatre icon Leonie Forbes (What My Mother Told Me, Lord Have Mercy, A Winter Tale) and rising Toronto star Michael Miller (A Winter Tale, Get Rich or Die Trying), alongside a talented ensemble of young actors selected from city-wide auditions held across the GTA. The script was developed over the past year, through a collaborative improvisational process with the entire team.
Lockdown deals with the all too familiar issue of school violence, by focusing on eight students in their final year of high school. The story begins with an emergency lockdown: students trapped in their classes, while parents scared and helpless wait outside, and police officers swarm the school property.

Produced with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the Toronto Police Services Board, Lockdown’s Fringe theatre performances will take place at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Trinity College, University of Toronto, 15 Devonshire Place (check Fringe schedule for times).

A special Launch event hosted by CaribbeanTales will take place at the TOTA Lounge (592 Queen Street West) on Thursday, June 25th, 2009 at 7:00 pm. Guests will be treated to a sneak preview selected scenes from the play; and will have the opportunity to personally meet and talk with the actors afterwards.

As the city’s largest theatre event, the annual Toronto Fringe Festival embraces more than 100 theatre companies from Ontario, across Canada and around the world. With over 12 days of stage performances, the festival offers full accessibility to all members of the community, while enabling emerging and established artists to present their ideas regardless of content, form and style.

Lockdown follows the success of Frances-Anne Solomon’s highly acclaimed feature film A Winter Tale – an emotional story about a Black Men’s Support Group that comes together in a local Toronto Caribbean take-out restaurant in the wake of gun violence that takes the life of a young child. Among many prestigious, international awards, most recently at FESPACO 2009 (Africa’s Oscars held biannually in Burkina Faso, West Africa), A Winter Tale was nominated for and won Special Mention in the Paul Robeson Diaspora Award category.

As Founder and Artistic Director of CaribbeanTales, Frances-Anne Solomon is an accomplished filmmaker, writer, director and producer whose recent projects include The CaribbeanTales Annual Film Festival (now in its fourth year), A Winter Tale (for Telefilm Canada/CHUM Television); Heart Beat – a documentary series profiling Caribbean-Canadian musical creators; Literature Alive, a many facetted multimedia project profiling Caribbean authors; and the Gemini-nominated Lord Have Mercy!, Canada’s landmark multicultural sitcom, for Vision TV, Toronto1, APTN and Showcase.

CaribbeanTales is Canada’s premier multimedia company that creates, markets and distributes educational films, videos, radio programs, audio books, theatre plays, web sites and events showcasing the rich heritage of Caribbean-Canadian and Caribbean-Diasporic culture worldwide. Their mandate is to foster and encourage intercultural understanding and citizen participation through the medium of film, contributing to an inclusive Canadian society.

For more information, visit www.caribbeantales.ca and www.ledaserene.ca

Show Times (@ the George Ignatieff Theatre):
Wednesday, July 1: 6:30pm to 8pm
Thursday, July 2: 8:15pm to 9:45pm
Friday, July 3: 1:15pm to 2:45pm
Monday, July 6: 10:45pm to 12:15am
Tuesday, July 7: 1pm to 2:30pm
Friday, July 10: 4pm to 5:30pm
Sunday, July 12: 8:30pm to 12pm