The Gleaner, North American Oct 06 - Nov 5, 2022

THE WEEKLY GLEANER | OCTOBER 6 - OCTOBER 12, 2022 | | NEWS 10 By Sophia Findlay TORONTO CELEBRATED the Caribbean and African diaspora between September 7 and 23, during which time the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival (CTFF) launched its 17th annual instalment of what critics called “a magnificent line-up of amazing films”. Chief among them was the debut of the documentary feature film Steadfast: TheMessenger and the Message, a biopic of Canada’s first black female member of parliament (MP) and government minister, Dr Jean Augustine. From an intimate chat with mainstream news reporters Tammie Sutherland and Dwight Drummond, to a swanky reception at the Harbourfront Centre to celebrate the political icon’s 85th birthday, Toronto was abuzz with excitement. In fact, the cities of Toronto and Brampton proclaimed September 9 as Jean Augustine Day. The Jean Augustine story is one of inspiration and resilience. It had viewers spellbound through vivid enactments that detail the women’s advocate and social culturist’s determination to become a teacher, after coming to Canada as a domestic worker. The storytelling captured her fight for the rights of women and blacks in Canada, and included interview footages of Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau; former Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell; the first black Miss World, Jennifer Hosten; celebrity Chef Selwyn Richards; and many others, including several MPs and political leaders in Canada. On stage, during her conversation with CBC anchor Dwight Drummond, Augustine reiterated from the Fahim Hamid Ali film that gave insight of the impact she’d made on her political journey. She spoke about the lack of community relations, the non-communication of school boards and parents, as well as no Landlord and Tenant Act. “Wanting to make life better for myself was also wanting to make life better for the community, and I didn’t do any of those things by myself, as I was always in a team,” she stated. “I was always with the support, and I say, as Desmond Tutu said a long time ago, if I stand tall it’s because I’m standing on the shoulders of so many people who have supported me and who are supporting me. So it’s the community, and whatever success I’ve had, being, because there were allies because I work with so many people in the community who said, ‘yes, go!’” A souvenir coffee-table book of the film has also been published and available for purchase. In the meantime, as if Steadfast and over 25 other films weren’t impactful enough, creatives were offered grants of CAD$10,000 each to allow mid-career BIPOC film-makers to pitch their projects to an industry audience at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This was spearheaded by Caribbean Tales Media Group (CTMG) CEO and CTFF founder Frances-Anne Solomon, CTMG boardmember Denise Herrera Jackson, CBC executive director of equity and inclusion and CTFF Incubator mentor Nick Davis, and festival director Diana Webley. The popular and competitive BIG PITCH 2022, now in its 13th year, funded by Telefilm and Canada Media Fund, was staged in partnership with TIFF. It featured nine contenders from the Caribbean Tales’ incubator programmes, LIMITLESS for women and non-binary creators, and the Black Incubator and Studio Access Project. They pitched their projects to a jury comprising Canada’s top broadcasters and industry professionals, for cash, mentorship, and support in continuation of their creative paths and projects. The top three winners are: 1st place Kristen Lambie – FEVER STREET 2nd place winner Fennella Bruce – BACKBONE 3rd place Asis Sethi – SLAM DUNK, SEHAJ! Solomon told The Gleaner that she is happy about this year’s result and the quality of the participants, as the invested money was well spent. “I feel like it’s important that training programmes or internships be more than just show. We wanted each participant to develop, produce, market, and sell an actual product, so we raised money through sponsors and donors for funding…. She said the winners’ projects will now get funding to start production. “I can see them already on the big screen, you know; they’re all amazing,” Solomon said with excitement. CTFF celebrates the talents of established and emerging film-makers of Caribbean heritage who practise their art across the Caribbean diaspora and worldwide. CTFF presents a multi-ethnic mix of exciting and dynamic films that showcase diverse and shared stories and cultures. This year’s theme is dubbed ‘AhWakening: Our identity in a newworld and an understanding of worlds before’. “We are also very proud that the festival continues to be a platform for the work and support of Canadian Caribbean and African film-makers,” saidWebley. CTFF is produced by Caribbean Tales Inc, a registered Canadian charity. The company’s mandate is to foster and encourage intercultural understanding and racial equality through the creation, marketing and distribution of film, programmes, events, and projects that reflect the diversity and creativity of Caribbean heritage and culture. Best of Caribbean, Africa creativity share spotlight First black MP idolised in film, Big Pitch winners announced Dr Jean Augustine and CBC anchor Dwight Drummond chat after the screening of ‘Steadfast: The Messenger and The Message’. Winners of THE BIG PITCH pose with Caribbean Tales International Film Festival’s founder Frances-Ann Solomon (third left). Others are first-place winner Kristen Lambie (right), second-place winner Fenella Bruce (second left), and third-placed Asis Sethi. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS