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The annual Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) has come to an end and us viewers in the English-speaking were treated to a variety of wonderful films. For my final TTFF 2020 article I will be reviewing four of the festival’s narrative award winners. Let’s dive right in:
Malpaso (Dominican Republic, Haiti) – Best Narrative, Feature Length
This film is a triumph. Plain and simple. Malpaso is the story of twin brothers, street smart Braulio and naive albino Candido, who must fend for themselves in the grimy, crime-infested titular town after their grandfather dies.
It is shot in black and white, making the strong visual storytelling and imagery even more striking. The performances by both young leads are phenomenal and truly award-worthy. Also award worthy is the work of director Héctor M. Valdez, who delivers a sleek, gripping and riveting story with not an ounce of fat on it. I was engaged from the first image to the last, and I suspect this tragically beautiful story will haunt me for a long time to come. And I am completely okay with that.
Malpaso Score: 10 out of 10
Mortenol (Guadeloupe) – Best Narrative Short Film & Best Film as Decided by a Youth Jury
When an 11-year-old boy’s brother is murdered by a gang and it is posted in a WhatsApp message, he goes on a quest for bloody revenge. But he learns the hard way that when plotting revenge you should always dig two graves.
Julien Silloray’s short crime drama is an intense little film. Young actor Chris Baltimore is like a stick of dynamite waiting to explode. His misadventures to acquire a gun are simultaneously amusing and sad. And you hope beyond hope each time someone tries to turn him away from his bloody path they would be successful. There is a slight pacing issue in the final act, but the resolution is touching and satisfying.
Mortenol Score: 8 out of 10
La Pieza de Casseus/The Raging Dance of Casseus (Dominican Republic) – Best Student Film
The film is about the titular young man who works at a bodega but wants nothing more than to dance. The chasing-a-dream storyline is nothing new, and it’s not the selling point of The Raging Dance of Casseus. The selling point is the mesmerisingly gorgeous visuals that explore Casseus’ memories and mind scape. Actor Steeven Labady pours his heart and soul into this role with his highly emotive eyes and frenetic dance moves. Calling this one a work of art is by no means hyperbolic. Impressive work by director Camilo Mejía.
The Raging Dance of Casseus Score: 7.5 out of 10
Zeen? (Canada) – Best Narrative Medium Length Film
Imagine if all your knowledge of the Caribbean came from the stereotypes you saw in films, television and other media. Well then you might be like Chad, the pretentious Canadian film director who was born in Jamaica but only visited it while on a cruise. Chad has gathered a (mostly) Caribbean cast and crew to make his dream project “Brothers in Babylon”, a completely tone deaf and ignorant “Caribbean” crime drama.
This mockumentary, starring, directed and co-written by Calyx Passailaigue, is what I would call a creeper comedy. You would be watching the weirdness and silliness unfold and you’re mildly amused and then BAM! Some utter nonsense has you bursting into raucous laughter. Being from the Caribbean and having studied in Jamaica (UWI Mona crew, big up unnu self!) I got all the references and jokes. But I think anyone can enjoy this amusing little look at the filmmaking process and cultural misappropriation.
Zeen? Score: 7 out of 10
So huge congrats to all the award winners and kudos to all the TTFF crew. Truly a great festival. For my previous TTFF 2020 reviews you can click here for TT action movie Code R.E.D.D., here for TT supernatural thriller Mightier dan de Sun and here for trio of dystopian tales Immune (UK), Inexorable and Timeout (both from Martinique). And for more Caribbean film reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here.
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