GATFEST 2015 rewards best films
Two cities. Five days. Nine workshops. Fifty-two screenings. Seventy-plus local and international submissions.
Those numbers give an idea of the scope of the third Greater August Town Film Festival (GATFFEST), which culminated in the handing out of nine GATFFEST 2015 awards at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, on Sunday night. The workshops had started the previous Tuesday, June 23, in Montego Bay, St James.
Other important festival numbers are nine Viewers' Choice awards for Animation, Film/screenplay and Documentary over three nights of screenings; four judges (David Morrison, Franklyn 'Chappie' St Juste, Tanya Taylor and Kael Eytel); and one ambassador, Kadeem Wilson.
After the awards ceremony, Wilson told The Gleaner "I really feel the world is discovering Jamaica in a different way with this festival. GATFFEST is training Jamaicans for film-making on an international level. I feel proud to be a part of it."
(In addition to his stage work, the young actor has appeared in the movies Home Again, Destiny and the Cannes International Film award-winning Ghett'a Life, and is working in Storm Saulter's current project, Sprinter.)
Chairman of the GATFFEST planning committee, Professor Ian Boxill, also spoke about the festival's international reach. "The festival is important to the development of the local film industry, especially for those in marginal communities. It has created (for local film-makers) an outlet which extends internationally," he said.
Boxill elaborates on the theme in his welcome in the printed GATFFEST programme, speaking of "home-grown creative talent competing against experienced and aspiring international film-makers".
Boxill said, "The third annual staging of GATFFEST has generated a great deal of interest, with offers of collaboration locally and across the globe, stretching from Haiti to Brazil and Colombia ... . We have a truly international programme, which has been demonstrated through the submission of more than 70 films from every continent except Africa. Our feature film, The Epiphany, which pays homage to Amy Jacques Garvey, is accompanied by 50 short films of every genre."
GATFFEST grew out of the University of the West Indies Community Film Project (UWICFP), started in 2012 by the Centre for Tourism and Policy Research in the Greater August Town community. The project encourages youth from the community to get directly involved with innovative storytelling and film-making around important community and national issues. It contributes to their education, social development and economic empowerment. The project has produced more than 150 graduates in filmmaking and video editing.
UWI Mona Principal Professor Archibald McDonald states in the printed programme that "the intricate, long-lasting nature of this festival and its ability to create social change within one of Jamaica's most marginalised communities ... is one of the major reasons that this has become a flagship event for the university." He noted, too, the project's spread to the UWI's western campus in Montego Bay.
There, last Tuesday, American film-maker and director Ashlea Patterson conducted the workshop 'From Script to Screen', followed the next day by one on 'Directing and Decision Making on Set'. That night, there was a screening of Trafficked in the Caribbean, about human trafficking in the region.
On Friday in Montego Bay, there were workshops by Marcia Weekes, a Jamaican film-maker living in Barbados. These were on 'Directing and The Business of Film-making'. Also, 'Make-up Techniques for Television and Film' was done by image consultant Cathy Stephenson, who worked on Ghett'a Life.
On Saturday, Weekes and Stephenson repeated their workshops in Kingston and Kurt Wright, a Jamaican New York Institute of Technology BFA graduate, conducted one on 'Screenwriting'.
Fifteen screenings (including dramas, science fiction, animated shorts and documentaries) were done in Montego Bay on Friday. In Kingston, there were 18 on Saturday and 17 on Sunday, preceding the awards ceremony. Local productions that received awards were:
n Secret at Blue Waters, written by Marcia James DaCosta and directed by Anthony Carpenter (Friday's Best Film).
n Shoes on the Go, a Studio 174 animation (Saturday's Best Animation).
n Just Action, directed by David Johnson (Best Documentary).
n Heart Shaped Box, directed by Kevin Jackson, and Trapped in The Mirror, directed by Mark Smith (a tie for Saturday's Best Film). The latter also received the Best UWICFP Award.
n Homeless, directed by Andre Hall (Lennie Little-White Award for Best Local Film).
A special prize for the creators of the Best Film was a pass to the Love Your Shorts Film Festival 2016 in Sanford, Florida. GATFFEST's Best Director, Kevin Fraser, won the Franklin St Juste Award for the international documentary Twenty Eight Feet: Life on a Little Wooden Boat, about a man who deserts his home on land to live on a small boat at sea. It also won the Best Cinematography and the Best of GATFFEST Award, donated by Archibald McDonald.
The overall project was coordinated by UWICFP's Melissa Tulloch, with Sasheena Douglas doing the coordinating in Montego Bay.