Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 29th 2015 Contents B1
of dance ---Page B40
If any Trinidadian knows about
Africa and its potential for both
making and distributing films, it s
The filmmaker and educator was
born in Ghana of a Trinidadian father
and a Jamaican mother. He studied
African filmmaking at Howard Uni-
versity's film school. He teaches a
course on African films at UWI's
film programme, which he also
He's been shooting one film in
South Africa and plans to shoot
another in Ghana. And most recently
he had the honour of being among
the first non-Africans up for an
award at the renowned FESPACO
film festival in Burkina Faso for his
film Haiti Bride.
Ramesar has been deliberately try-
ing to enter the African film market
because he sees it as a promising
target for filmmakers, particularly
those from the diaspora.
"The festival was the next phase
in me being located and positioned
as an African director with all the
attendant market space," he said.
The festival, the largest in Africa,
"was crawling with distributors," he
said. The market reach, he explained,
included not only Africa, a continent
of around one billion people, but
Trinidadians and Tobagonians
interested in producing and promot-
ing films can learn a lot from Africa.
The Nigerian film industry is now
one of the biggest in the world. Nol-
lywood is only rivalled by Hollywood
and Bollywood. The movie industries
of other African countries are grow-
ing as well.
"The Ethiopian film industry, like
the economy, is starting to boom,"
said Ramesar. "There are 23 cinemas
in Addis Ababa alone."
Ethiopian films can draw "crowds
around the block" and a filmmaker
can recover the cost of a film in "two,
three weeks," said Ramesar. All of
this has been accomplished with no
"Expat Ethiopian business people
are funding things to be made in
Ethiopia. So it's private money," he
explained. "Last year there were 87
feature films made in Ethiopia."
If a T&T filmmaker hopes to make
an impact abroad, focussing on the
American market is not the best
"When you talk about the holy
grail of Hollywood and selling in
the American market, it's a rabbit
hole," said Ramesar. "Because we
are not going to be as successful
economically selling our film prod-
uct to the Americans as we can in
Africa, India and even China."
Africa is also where great film-
makers can be found.
When he was studying film in
the 1980s, said Ramesar, "Africa
was making some of the best cin-
ema on the planet."
"Now," he added. "These guys
have gotten really good. They're
like the Shakespeare of cinema."
The Oscar-nominated film Tim-
buktu, by Mauritian Abderrahmane
Sissako, was up for FESPACO's top
prize, the Golden Stallion of Yen-
nenga which is comparable to the
Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance
Film Festival and the Palme d'Or
at the Cannes Film Festival. It lost
out to Fievres by Moroccan Hicham
Ramesar was glad for the oppor-
tunity with FESPACO, which ran
from February 24--March 7, in Oua-
gadougou. It gave him to spend
time with some of these filmmak-
"To be in a space for two weeks
with all of these African filmmak-
ers, it was just a tremendous expe-
rience," he said. "Sometimes we're
up night and day watching movies.
Talking right through and gaining
information from each other."
At FESPACO, Haiti Bride, about
a woman who loses her groom in
the 2010 earthquake, was well
received: a good sign for Caribbean
The showing was sold out.
"It was hushed when my film
started. Someone shouted, Mag-
nifique!' I was shocked myself,"
Besides his African films, Rame-
sar is working on a film, The Last
Dance of the Karaoke King, about
an over-the-hill chutney singer,
which he hopes will appeal to the
market in India.
Entering mid-career, he said he's
trying to make his films, with which
he's known to take artistic risks,
"I had a nice time with the crit-
ically acclaimed stuff," he said, "but
now I want to have a much stronger
connection with general audiences."
But even while there's potential,
Caribbean filmmakers may have
some work to do reaching African
audiences, many of whom are igno-
rant about the Caribbean, said
Ramesar. He tells of having to show
someone T&T on the map.
The man responded, Ramesar
recalled, "My god! Can you land a
for local films in
Haiti Bride director Yao Ramesar at the Ceremonie Officielle de Remise Des Prix Speciaux at FESPACO 2015.
Director of Haiti Bride, Yao Ramesar being interviewed by French TV. PHOTOS COURTESY YAO RAMESAR
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