The Timehri Film Festival, is a Guyanese and Caribbean film festival we, i.e., CaFA, started in 2016, in partnership with Rewind and Come Again (Blog). Now in its second year, the Festival is slowly but surely growing into what we envisioned for it.
Our very first year coincided with Guyana’s 50th Independence celebrations. All of the 30+ films were screened at the Moray House Trust, over a period of 4 days. Although not the first film festival in Guyana – SASOD, a local organization has been hosting a queer film festival in Guyana for the past 12 years, and there have been others – it was the first to really bring a focus to the work of Guyanese filmmakers and filmmakers from the wider Caribbean region. All of the screenings were free and open to the public and we screened films from the English, Spanish, French, and Dutch Caribbean to very modest crowds. Overwhelmingly, the response to the Festival was positive. People loved seeing themselves/Caribbean people on screen, enjoyed the variety in the stories being told, and were impressed by the quality of the films being made by Caribbean filmmakers. A lot of other feedback we got, centered around us needing to share these films with larger audiences, ie, do a better job of promoting the Festival and filling the seats, as well as screening to different audiences and Guyanese people who would never make it to Georgetown, or Moray House, for that matter.
We listened, worked on a few things, and tackled the planning for this year’s Festival with last years’ experience, as our guide.
The attendance at this year’s Festival was much better than last year’s, although we saw many of the same faces this year. In the lead up to the Festival we received good coverage in the papers, on the radio and through social media. This year, we worked with a volunteer, who helped keep our social media vibe going before and during the Festival. There was many people who attended last year’s Festival who either brought friends or recommended the Festival to people they knew. Our opening night, which featured a package of short films by Guyanese filmmakers both at home and in the Diaspora, and saw the premiere of the only Guyanese film shot in Guyana, Adero, was standing room only and we were graced with the presence of the First Lady, Her Excellency Mrs. Sandra Granger.
We added new partnerships. We partnered with Carver Bacchus, Founder of Green Screen TT, an Environmental film festival in Trinidad & Tobago, and Raquel Thomas of the the Iwokrama International Center for Rainforest Conservation, to present a day of environmental films. Billed as Guyana’s first Environmental Film Festival, the films were screened at the beautiful Umana Yana, in Georgetown and featured films from Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, all dealing with aspects of the Environment. The Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry, joined us. We also hosted the launch of Reel Guyana, a media company founded by Alex Arjoon, to produce environmental content for Guyanese audiences.
We also tinkered with the presentation of the Festival. Our budget currently does not allow us, as is typical with many film festivals, to host filmmakers for the Festival. So, we asked the filmmakers to prepare short video introductions and to answer a few questions about themselves, designed to give our viewers a better understanding of who the filmmakers were, and why they made the films. This was a huge success. Many viewers expressed the joy in being able to see the filmmakers and get a sense of who they were by looking at the snippets. Needless to say, this is something we will continue to do and improve on.
Another huge development, was the offsite screenings we conducted during the Festival, and are continuing to host, a month after the Festival concluded. During the Festival, we visited the Berbice Women’s Prison and the Lusignan Men’s Prison, to screen films to the inmates. At the men’s prison, we screened the film, Songs of Redemption, a film depicting life in the General Penitentiary in Jamaica, taking a very human look at the way inmates there, use music to help them do their time. The inmates’ response to the film was both thoughtful, and sobering, making the Q+A after that film one of the most emotional we experienced, during the Festival. At the women’s prison, we screened a collection of short films bringing some well needed moments of levity to their lives, for the day.
We also screened and are still screening films to younger audiences. We hosted a screening at the Business School during the Festival, and more recently at the Juvenile Detention Center in Sophia, in partnership with the Guyanese NGO, Epic Guyana. We will be screening at the Children’s Drop In Center, also in Sophia.
Opportunities to partner with other organizations in Guyana have also cropped up. We were invited to be a part of this year’s Linden Riverfront Festival, bringing two days of Guyanese and Caribbean films to Linden.
All in all, we are having a fantastic time putting on this Festival and sharing the films far and wide in Guyana, and are already looking forward to 2018. Our challenges remain funding and attracting a wide audience. But we will be working to deepen the relationships we have built and do work with youth and in communities where these types of experiences are not common, all in an effort to spread the #CaribbeanFilm love.
If you like the work we are doing and would like to help, we welcome contributions however they come. We would appreciate any volunteer efforts, in-kind support, as well as financial support. If you would like to volunteer or are interested in partnering with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also make a tax-deductible donation through our parent organization, the Caribbean Film Academy, using this link.
Here’s a look at some images from this year’s Festival: