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Turner's big date with GATFFEST

By Sade Gardner
Observer writer

Monday, June 25, 2018

After eight days of community film nights, workshops and screenings across Kingston and Montego Bay, GATFFEST culminated Saturday night with its award ceremony at the Faculty of Medical Sciences and Teaching Complex at t he University of the West Indies, Mona.

American film-maker Ryan Turner was the major winner, copping five awards including the first Archibald McDonald Award for the Best of GATFFEST, for his sci-fi comedy A Date in 2025. He also won Best Young Film-maker, Best Directing, Best Cinematography, and Best International Regional Film.

Though Turner was absent, he sent thanks via video.

“I am beyond honoured, I don't know what to say. Are you tired of my face yet? I really wish I was out there in Jamaica getting this award; it means the world to me. When I started pursuing film-making as a career…it's a crazy thing to do, and awards like this and recognition like this makes it all worth it so thank you so much, sincerely,” he said on accepting the award for Best Young Film-maker.

A Date in 2025, which aired at the event, stars socially awkward Daniel (Sasha Feldman), who struggles to engage with peers.

Faced with depression and suicide, his artificial intelligence counsellor helps him leave his apartment after 42 days to go on a date.

The Jamaican film, Origins, by Kurt Wright, was also shown. It follows Three Finga Jack in his quest to reclaim the “culture well” from the White Witch, Annie Palmer. Nanny of the Maroons comes to his rescue when his mission is threatened, but Anansi outwits them all by stealing the box. It features actors Leonie Forbes, Kevoy Burton, and Isobel Whittaker. The film won the Lennie Little-White Award for Best Local Film and the Viewers' Choice Award for Jamaica Film Night 2.

Wright, who said he wanted to explore other themes in Jamaican film besides crime and music, shared plans to make the project a television series.

“This is actually the last public showing, we're putting together a series bible right now which is coming along really well. We're scripting out the first episode and then from there we'll see where it goes,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Double winners were Mark Gordon who won Best UWICFP Film and the Lamar Dookie Award for Best Editing for his film A Special Day; and Paulette King Morin who won the Spirit of GATFFEST Award and Viewers' Choice Award for her film, The Shardai Cousineau Story.

Other awardees included past winner Kevin Jackson, who won Best Animation for Abeeku and The Maroons and Raanan Berger whose film Up and Arise won Most Original Screenplay.

Some Viewers' Choice winners were Kyle Chin for his film Off Guard (first Jamaica Night); Edgar Deluque and Laura Morales for the film Palomo (Colombia Night) and Andre Newell's War on Love (Canadian Film Night). Richard Brown received The Mona Social Service Award for Change. Cash prizes were issued to the top three contestants of the GATFFEST/GK MPay one Minute Mobile Film Challenge.

Chairman of the GATFFEST Planning Committee, professor Ian Boxill, said he was pleased with the festival, and will look to attract new investors as he steps down as chair of the Grace Kennedy Foundation, a key sponsor.

“I think ultimately we'll have to look outside for additional funding. We have to bring on the private sector and see film as a business now, not just as a hobby or a one-off activity. So we're moving from film as an activity to an industry which means we have to have the many parts. I think it's a slow process, it will take some time, but I think we're on the right path.”

Boxhill hopes to include a film market next year, allowing possible investors to engage with film-makers. He also mentioned “a plane-load of Canadian tourists” who will visit the island for next year's staging, thanks to its partnership with Canadian film-makers this year.

GATFFEST, formerly known as the Greater August Town Film Festival, was conceived six years ago out of the UWI Film Community Project as a way to expose its graduates. The project has served communities like Hannah Town, Jones Town and Trench Town, and has produced over 300 graduates.