Wednesday, 13 September 2017

CaribbeanTales Film Festival Opens with Documentary about Machel Montano

By Neil Armstrong

Machel Montano at the Canadian premiere of the film, "Machel Montano: Journey of a Soca King," at the Royal Theatre on Sept. 6, 2017.    Photo contributed

The 12th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival opened in Toronto with a stellar lineup of special guests, including renowned Trinidadian soca singer, actor, record producer and songwriter, Machel Montano.

He is the subject of the documentary, “Machel Montano: Journey of a Soca King,” directed by Bart Phillips which had its Canadian premiere on Sept. 6 at the Royal Theatre.

Also attending the event were:  Barbadian Alison Hinds dubbed the “Queen of Soca,” Joseph Marcell of St. Lucia and the UK, best known for his role as Geoffrey in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and Trinidadian Nickolai Salcedo – all actors in the short film, “Battledream Chronicle – The Series,” which had its world premiere that night.

“Machel Montano: Journey of Soca King” chronicles the soca artist’s growth from a child star to his reign as the world’s soca monarch, collaborating with Grammy Award-winning songwriters and producers like Angela Hunte and Diplo.

Cherrone Mokund, acting consul general for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto, presented a plaque to Montano in recognition of his contribution to the culture of his country and the Caribbean.

Montano underscored the significance of Caribbean culture and the importance of “telling our stories.”

“Battledream Chronicles is an animation pilot voiced by Caribbean stars. It tells the story of Syanna, a young slave in a futuristic world where plantations are video games.

She and her team of rebels must hack the system to gain their freedom.

Marcell plays arch-villain Zeus Thunderking, while Jamaica’s “queen of stage and screen,” Leonie Forbes voices Kerberia, the computer generated servant.

Salcedo is the rapacious Torquemada, Hinds plays Leto, Syanna’s mother, and Jamaican Sheldon Shepard is the charismatic teacher.

Talented Guyanese newcomer, Nuriyyih Gerrard plays the central character, Syanna.

“We have a legacy. We’re building something that has sustainability. And when Canada is celebrating 150 years of its story, we in the Caribbean are celebrating hundreds of years of our stories. Like the story of Toussaint Louverture who built an army and took on the trained troops of Napoleon’s army and won and created the first independent black republic in the world – one story,” said Frances-Anne Solomon, CEO of CaribbeanTales International Film Festival.

She also referenced the story of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara who “kicked out the Americans, kicked out the capitalists and created a communist country in America’s armpit that survives till this day – free, independent, healthcare, the best healthcare in the world, great filmmakers – one story.”

Prompted by a member of the audience, Solomon also mentioned Marcus Garvey, a Caribbean man “who created the concept of Pan-Africanism and created the idea that we, as people of African descent would build and be profitable on our own efforts.”

“Those are just the tip of the iceberg of the stories that we have to tell as Caribbean people,” she said.

Solomon said everyone has stories to tell and “this is our time to tell our stories.”

This year’s festival, which closes on Sept. 21, presents 14 feature films and 30 short films from eighteen 18 countries.

On Sept. 14, the feature presentation will be “Pimento and Hot Pepper – The Mento Story,” directed by Rick Elgood, a documentary which explores the origin of the Jamaican music, mento, and where it is today.

Two Jamaican short films, “Shoot the Girl” directed by Natalie Thompson and “A Broken Appointment” by Kaleb DAguilar will also have their Canadian premiere at the festival.

“Shoot the Girl” is about 12-year-old Trench Town tomboy, Likkle, who is schooled in urban survival skills by her father, Sting, and uses them to outwit the area don who kills her father.

Set to the backdrop of “Epilogue,” a poem by Kei Miller, “A Broken Appointment” explores the dynamic of closeting within a young gay relationship, and how “hiding in the dark” may lead to a destructive end.

“However, Miller’s poetry attempts to offer some optimism for the ability of queer Caribbean relationships to rise again after an unfortunate end,” notes the synopsis of the film.

The CaribbeanTales Incubator Program’s 2017 projects include Jamaican productions: “The Agency,” a 13-part comedic drama by Rick Elgood and Paul O. Beale, and “TRANScribe,” a 13-part travel documentary series that visually explores and celebrates Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora writers.

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