A look at the 10th annual CaribbeanTales Film Fest

This week, film fans, filmmakers, and yes, the stars are all gathering here in Toronto for TIFF.

But that’s not the only film fest people are gathering for. Many are also here for The 10th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, or CTFF.

You might think of all inclusive vacations, crystal blue water and gorgeous weather when dreaming of the Caribbean. But it’s also making its mark in global cinema.

Over the last decade, CTFF has begun to include more films from the Latin American diaspora, including Pelo Malo from Venezuela.

Pelo Malo, which means bad hair in Spanish, is directed by Mariana Rondon. The film looks at a nine-year old’s obsession with straightening his curly hair, which he thinks is “bad hair.” This obsession leads his mother to think he’s gay, a shameful thing in a culture fueled by Christianity and machismo.

Some tense and heartbreaking scenes unfold in this film, as the themes of homophobia and racism are tackled through the boy’s physical appearance.

Sexuality is also the major theme in the Puerto Rican film, Mala Mala, which translates literally from Spanish as bad bad.

Directed by Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles, this documentary is a candid, evocative look at the lives of Puerto Ricans in the trans-community. With the exception of one person, the film’s subjects are trans-female, making the transition from male to female, and they all wish to be accepted within the mainstream as themselves.

With regards to the title, both directors have said that the term mala comes from the women in the film – they would say that they were mala when they were looking and feeling especially good.

Other changes at CTFF over the years include the CaribbeanTales Incubator program, which fosters filmmakers through mentorships.

Rodney V. Smith is a Toronto-based, Barbados-born writer, producer, director and the man behind the sci-fi drama, Out of Time, which is premiering at CaribbeanTales.

He has also been involved with the incubator program, and has given aspiring filmmakers some very helpful advice.

He says a crucial part in film-making is not necessarily an amazing story, a great cast, or beautiful cinematography – it’s the pitch. The pitch for all sorts of things, such as getting into festivals, funding, casting and distribution.

And he says many filmmakers don’t have this skill:

Advice like Rodney’s is some of the knowledge that has been shared in the incubator program over the years, offering support to Caribbean filmmakers who give a voice to stories that have not been traditionally told in film.

CTFF itself has been crucial in opening up the film world to people who don’t often see their realities reflected on the big screen. The festival gives them an opportunity to break through the industry and add their work to the global opus of cinema.

The Caribbean Tales International Film Festival runs September 9th to the 19th. For more information, click here.