It is my pleasure to join the Caribbean’s premier film festival and I am honoured to be here on behalf of BPTT. I offer my congratulations to the T&T Film Festival organizers for continuing to stage this event which is key to developing the local film industry here in Trinidad and Tobago.
For those of you who don’t know, my name is Claire Fitzpatrick and I am the President of BP Trinidad and Tobago, a role I took up 5 months ago. And although I have not been in this beautiful country very long, my love for film extends over decades. I was introduced to film when I was quite young; and the power of film has stayed with me.
I have always found that films can be associated with specific points in our lives and serve many purposes – whether to learn, dream, laugh or cry – or talk to us on a personal level. I distinctly remember my early introduction to films - Saturday evening my siblings and I watching my father take the pictures off the wall and struggle to set up the rented cine-real with that nights chosen film, I also remember the first time I went to a cinema theatre and the film.
Cinema, both then and now, speaks a universal language. It has meaning and relevance for all people, regardless of their national, cultural or social backgrounds.
Film however, can also give an aspect of a country's culture. It can capture the real life and the imagination of its peoples. It allows for cultural expression and gives enjoyment, thrill and excitement to people.
I have a personal passion for the arts and upon joining the team at BPTT, I was thrilled to learn that we have been a proud sponsor of the T&T Film Festival for the last 7 years.
We believe in being an active part of the communities in which we operate, and through this partnership with the T&T Film Festival, we believe we are hitting that goal through our support of arts and culture in Trinidad and Tobago.
What this film festival has achieved however, is to create a new niche for developing arts and culture right here in T&T and by extension the Caribbean. The festival showcases the limitless possibilities that come from film-making and film production.
Film and video are playing an increasingly important role in how we communicate and share our stories in this “social era”. Having a programme such as this provides the country with an opportunity to develop and harness its promising talent. As one of the areas identified by the government for diversification, the film industry certainly has the ability to become a great export product.
BPTT has sponsored the Caribbean Film Mart again this year which will expose local film makers to film professionals specializing in international production and distribution. Our hope is that we are helping to catapult local films into the international market.
This year, we have 13 successful film makers who will meet one-on-one with international film professionals, following which they will “pitch” their project to an international panel of judges. The winner of the Caribbean Film Mart will receive $75,000 to bring their films to international audiences.
We also recognize the opportunity to learn more about film critiquing and that’s why we also sponsor the Youth Jury programme which is designed to give five young people the opportunity to develop a critical appreciation of independent film. By working with renowned journalist and film critic BC Pires, these young jurors will have the opportunity to be mentored as they critically analyze six (6) feature-length fiction films dealing with themes and issues affecting young people.
The experience of being part of the Youth Jury has proven to be a life changing opportunity for past jurors. For some it has even progressed from just a love of cinema, to actively working on their own film projects. We hope that through this sponsorship, we are helping to inspire a new generation of filmmakers.
And finally, the film that we are about to see, this year’s opening night film, “Hero”, tells the story of Ulric Cross, a Trinidadian jurist, diplomat and Royal Air Force (RAF) navigator. I did a little research on the late Justice Cross and I learnt that he is recognized as possibly the most decorated West Indian of World War II and he was very well travelled.
“Hero” is a perfect example of how we can combine storytelling and film-making to bring history alive and share the story of our heroes with a new generation.
This is my first T&T film festival, and I looking forward to enjoying some of the films over the next week. I have come to know that culture – our festivals, our people, our heritage can best survive when we combine long standing traditions with the beauty that is the art of film.
So I encourage you all to enjoy the Film Festival – the events, the cultural exchanges and the hundreds of films that enable the young - and young at heart - to learn more about the world through the eyes of filmmakers from our shores and beyond.