Cathy, Ceephas and Luigi may not be mainstream Hollywood characters just yet, but a number of young filmmakers here intend on making them household names, in the first instance.
Those were the names of the central characters starring in the three short films, which topped the list of the recently held Film Festival. Another short film documented the journey to the fashion component of the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival this year.
The event, which was capped with an award ceremony last Saturday at Coco Creole in Rodney Bay, was the first ever National Youth Film Festival to be held here. Organized by Rise Saint Lucia Inc., a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 2007 and dedicated to the healthy development of young people, it was geared toward attracting short films by young St Lucian artists. In the end, the event short- listed eight short films for consideration by a panel of judges that included Kendal John, McDonald Dixon and Carl Schoenfeld head of post graduate education of the Raindance Film Festival, London.
Raindance is a UK based institution offering training to thousands of new and established filmmakers each year, in all aspects of film. Among its high profile alumni are Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) and David Yates (Harry Potter).
According to Schoenfeld, the film festival was quite useful and encouraging showcasing the wealth of talent, energy and drive, which young people here quite evidently possess.
“I think the opportunities here for these young people are tremendous,” he expressed. According to the learned filmmaker the winning selections were not by fluke, each one deserved to be in the top spot videographers made specific decisions about their films.
“The emphasis now should be on really making sure you talk to all your Government officials, shops and hotels, who benefit from a healthy, aspiring and ambitious community and ask for their help so they can get a bit of kick back from all of this so that the right infrastructure can be put in place to facilitate these kinds of ambitions,” Schoenfeld told the STAR.
Winning the award for Best Film at last Saturday’s event was Jelani Paul of Untitled 51 whose film “Luigi” depicted the struggles of local artist Luigi St Omer, who according to the young filmmaker has gone through a mental relapse.
“Luigi has decided that he doesn’t want to continue painting. He wants to quit his alcohol addiction. He wants to just distance himself from everyone in and around him as a person. So he went through an enigmatic painting process where he woke up each morning, started painting and went back to sleep when he was done,” the young filmmaker explained.
The film follows the renowned painter and art tutor’s recluse lifestyle away from public life in a house in Choiseul. Asked why he chose that subject Jelani replies, “actually he chose me. I never had the intention of really doing this, it was something Luigi wanted me to just do for a website or something, but I just wanted that piece to be a little more creative since it was for an artist,” Jelani explained.
Though his entry into the film festival was quite accidental, after he was spotted by one of the organizers when he was out working on another project, Jelani says he was happy that he participated. Having been involved in film now for two years the producer/filmmaker says there is scope for events like the festival.
“I think the film festival can actually become something that can be beneficial for interested young people in the future. In my opinion it can continue to grow allowing persons to put their films out there and get some recognition from the public,” he said.
Daniel Lester also took part in the film festival producing a film called “The Rehearsal” based on the Saint Lucia Tourist Board’s upcoming Jazz and Arts Festival Hot Couture. Involved in still photography and videography for a number of years he says his film came out of a proposal submitted to the SLTB to document the process.
“I went to all the rehearsals and auditions and one night I could not sleep and decided to do a piece to submit to a TV show,” he relates.
The piece video was posted to YouTube and received favourable feedback from the Tourist Board and the public. In the end Daniel decided to submit his short film.
“I think the film festival is a very great idea and I don’t think it should stop here,” he stressed. “The idea of having new people come in is great to help us network and learn from each other.”
According to Ted Sandiford who won the People’s Choice Award at the festival, “it was a very interesting event”.
“I took part in the Animation Festival so people know me as Ted Sandiford, the animator. I have only been in ‘real life film’ for two years, so it was very refreshing to be in a festival in my own country because I had to fly to Trinidad each year for the Animation Festival,” he told the STAR. According to the young school teacher, what needs to be done from here on is to create a framework where young persons can be educated on the whole technology and using it to enhance the creative process.
“At one time I would give my students a project to create a product. They had to find ways to market the item and they would come back with drawings and designs, now they all come in with short films to explain their ideas,” he says calling for film to be added to the CXC syllabus. His film “Ceephas” followed the life of a young boy who was deprived of having as much as fellow students. After being taunted, he tries his best to fit in, in spite of incessant calls by his mother to stand up and be a man.
Not quite as fortunate as the other filmmakers Kershima Louis of Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) says she had no prior experience in filmmaking. Yet, her film, which featured Kezia St Brice as a troubled girl called Cathy won the Best Performance award as well as second place. As President of YAM, Keshima explained that her organization is involved in sexual, reproductive and human rights and so decided to build a film around their services.
“When I found out about the film festival we were lost as to what exactly we would be doing,” she said. “But after Colin showed us a website with short films I got inspired to write a script for a movie. I figured it would have to be something that happens every day, something everyone could relate to. We decided to go through a film that not only showed what YAM was about but what everyday youth go through,” she told us. The film, which she says is to be continued now that the bug has hit the group, will delve into the vision twenty-twenty plan for her organization.
The goal of the Rise Youth Film Festival according to Colin Weekes was to provide an avenue for young St Lucian filmmakers to showcase their work and give them another outlet for their creativity.
“At first it was a bit of a challenge getting persons to understand what we wanted to do and why we were doing it,” Weekes explained. “But now that we have pulled this one off, we definitely want to document it properly going forward as we intend on making this an annual affair. All in all we are encouraged by the support for the first event. We’re also grateful for the support from Coco Palm, Courts, UNDP and the Creative Industries.”
One of the main sponsors of Rise Youth Film Festival was Courts (St Lucia) Ltd, title sponsor. They offered the first place winner a top of the line laptop, while second place received an iPad and a digital camera went to third place. The People’s Choice film “Ceephas” won a Mac Book.
Other sponsors of the event included Holiday Taxi, Wingz N Tings and Excel Signs. The films are expected to be showcased during the upcoming Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival at a date and venue to be announced.