Interview with Festival Director Frances-Anne Solomon (CaribbeanTales International Film Festival (CTFF))

The CaribbeanTales International Film Festival (CTFF) celebrates the talents of established and emerging filmmakers of Caribbean heritage who practise their art across the Caribbean Diaspora worldwide – including Canada and the Caribbean, Europe, the Americas, Africa, China, India and the Middle East. CTFF presents a multi-ethnic mix of exciting and dynamic films that showcase diverse shared stories and cultures.

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  • Matthew Toffolo: What is your film festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers? 

    Frances-Anne Solomon: CaribbeanTales International Film Festival is the only annual Caribbean film festival in Canada. We focus on promoting filmmakers of colour and celebrating the talents of established and emerging filmmakers of Caribbean heritage worldwide. Over the past 13 years we have built an incredible community of filmmakers through not only our festival but our various support programs such as the CaribbeanTales Incubator that now has a 5 year production deal with Flow, our accelerators that take place around the world in places like south africa, belize and cuba , our short film challenges for emerging talent, our production slate, and our year-round screening series and partnerships. We love to watch our filmmaking community grow — and know that we have had a part in helping to build careers and talent.

    What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)? 

    Our festival theme this year is ‘Light It Up’. We are programming films that inspire change and push boundaries, films that are speaking to the changes we want to see in the world. It’s a call to action. A call to arms. A call that’s been ringing out for a long time and Caribbean filmmakers are answering that call in force. We’re asking them to focus their light on all the changes in the world, to showcase their vision of change and spread their message, to lead the way. The world can be a dark place, but we can look at that darkness and say ‘Light it Up.’ Our festival runs across 10 days and cinema-goers will have a chance to see a broad spectrum of films from around the region and the diaspora, with themes ranging from legacy and culture, women of colour creators, revolution, environment, LGBTQ plus many more.‬

    What are the qualifications for the selected films? 

    The director, producer, writer or lead character in the film needs to be be of Caribbean heritage. We accept feature-length films, short films or web-series and the project can be any genre, including documentary, fiction – drama, thriller, comedy, scifi/horror or animation. Filmmakers can submit through our website www.caribbeantalesfestival.com

    Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why? 

    Programming is a complicated and difficult task, and yes often certain films may never be seen because they don’t fit into the program or the programmers aren’t in touch with the issues of various communities. However, the world is changing and we are thrilled to see more focus on filmmakers of colour, especially women. CaribbeanTales was founded and is run by women of color so this issue is close to our heart. We started the festival at a time when there was a need to focus on people of colour and we have been working steadily for 13 years to change the way festivals are programmed and what films get to be seen by a wide audience through not only our festival but our distribution platform www.caribbeantales-tv.com. 

    What motivates you and your team to do this festival? 

    It’s the absence of a platform for our work and realizing that the way to solve the problem was for us to create that platform ourselves and to show the work that we believe in. One year, someone approached me and suggested that since I had so much content they would work with us to set up a film festival. After that first festival experience, I thought, this could solve all of our problems – of visibility and access. We were making films and they were not being shown anywhere. So we created the platform and we solved our own problems. I like to think that we started a movement. It’s about being inspired by work that reflects different expressions of our reality.  

    How has your FilmFreeway submission process been? 

    As a programming team it has been wonderful, in that, our comments and thoughts are very visible and accessible. We aren’t necessarily finding an audience on Film Freeway but those who have submitted have noted that it has been a smooth process.

    Where do you see the festival by 2023? 

    Our festival has been blessed with an incredible, dedicated community of Caribbean diaspora, who attend regularly. What we’d like to see in the next few years is to expand our audience into the younger diaporia community both in Toronto and around the world. We are so inspired by the change that is occurring and we feel we have a voice in that. We’re hoping to partner with more top media and corporate sponsors who understand our mission. We’d also like to expand our Short Film Challenges so that we can provide enhanced funding and support to the film community and eventually create a feature-film fund for emerging filmmakers.

    What film have you seen the most times in your life? 

    The Piano by Jane Campion just blew my head right off. It’s an epic post-colonial female-driven story, just the kind of film I see myself making really. A heroic journey, in which the hero is a woman who traverses wild and challenging terrains and triumphs in the end. A mother daughter story in which each saves the life of the other. A complex tale. I loved how interior and quirky the story was. The only thing I’d change is of course the ethnicity of the central character – I seek to tells stories of women of color. But it was a great starting point for me in my own journey.

    In one sentence, what makes a great film? 

    For me a great film is one where  the audience can dive into the lush emotional world of memorable characters, and a central character who dreams and dares passionately. A great film is one that packs an unforgettable emotional punch. 

    How is the film scene in your city? 

    Toronto has a truly vibrant and engaged film community. There are so many outlets for filmmakers to connect with the film scene here, from screenings, workshops, panels and more year-round. In the last couple of years we have seen a dedication towards gender parity from the top down, which has really increased the amount of female filmmakers being seen and heard. There is a strong filmmaking community of colour as well, we have festivals dedicated to every country and ethnicity you can think of. We all interact with one another, creating a wonderful community of support. 

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    Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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