The first-ever Georgetown Film Festival is embarking on a mission to boost Guyana’s film industry through not just an annual event screening locally produced short films, but also consistent and viable support for local filmmakers.
The Festival, tentatively slated for May 2023, is expected to be a three-day event screening at least six films per day, all directed and produced locally.
Executive Director of the festival Akbar Singh said, “Our tagline is ‘Our stories are Universal’ so we want to attract everybody. We want this to be, not to be cliché, edu-tainment. We want to educate through entertainment. From the young to the old, the student to anyone who is just interested in seeing some good indie local films and connect with what we’re doing.”
But, the Festival is not just an annual screening event. It also encompasses training and guided assistance for filmmakers in all areas of the film process; cinematography, set design, post-production, etc.
This training is done by both people within the company and external qualified facilitators in the different areas.
This project is the brain-child of Founder and Executive Producer of the festival Rae Wiltshire.
He is co-owner of the festival’s parent company, Georgetown Films Inc., and also an award-winning playwright who has been making short films for a number of years.
The 18 films set to be screened in 2023 are currently being created by filmmakers trained in April of this year.
These films are all 15-30 minutes long and touch on themes of fantasy, horror, psychological thriller and even mental health challenges.
Films also include diverse casting with open casting calls for characters of various ages, ethnicities and genders which is reflective of the diverse team working to create the films.
How it all got started …
The workshop in April marked the beginning of preparations for the 2023 film festival and was facilitated through funding from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Cultural and Creative Industries Grant.
Additionally, the festival is partly funded by sponsorship from the Commonwealth Foundation and British High Commissioner Jane Miller, who both committed to providing continued support.
Wiltshire has been working with co-owner of the company and Executive Director of the Festival Akbar Singh for some years in creating short films prior to embarking on this transformational initiative.
Singh said, “He (Rae) had this project where he would create 20 short films. And, at the time, we were working with his not-so-good camera and we were recording sound via cell phone.”
“It moved from that to working on Eating Papaw on the Seawall, which is our biggest project to date.”
‘Eating Papaw on the Seawall’ is a film that is first of its kind for Guyana – a queer love story of “two boys forced to love in the darkness, as their love cannot ripen in the light.”. Wiltshire’s said he aims for the film to bring changes in Guyana by shattering stereotypes in the way gay men are portrayed, humanizing the characters in a society that often dehumanizes gay men.
Wiltshire was able to create this film after participating in the Commonwealth Shorts, Caribbean Voices film workshops in 2020 where he was the only Guyanese selected to receive the grant that funded the creation of this film.
Since then, the ‘Eating Papaw’ film has attracted international attention, despite final production only having been completed earlier this month.
This film is set to be screened for the first time at the upcoming Georgetown Film Festival.
Goals for the festival…
While the inaugural Georgetown Film Festival will feature 18 original films alongside the bonus screening of Guyana’s first locally written and directed gay love story, there are hopes that the festival will be bigger and better with more films in each coming year.
“Train, Network, Build, Create - Those are the key words we use when it comes to everything we do.”
“At this point, the fact that we’re so small is obviously a drawback. We’ve had to outsource for a few skills that we needed. But hopefully as time goes on we’ll grow bigger and have more of a network to call upon and we will need to outsource less.”
“For now, we will build on the workshops where we’re hoping to not only hold them once a year but also hold them maybe twice, and maybe carry them further out in the country.”
Singh also hopes to use the Film Festival as a way too support and showcase the talents of creatives in various areas. He and Wiltshire share a passion for art in various forms, having both graduated from the National School of Theatre Arts and Drama.
“When it comes to the arts, I have been involved not only in film but also in theatre. I’m a member of the National Drama Company. So, the creative industry overall, I want the entire Industry to prosper not only in film but the arts as a whole.”
“I want us to propel not only filmmaking but also theatre, also fine arts, also dancing. I want us to also liaison with those other aspects of the arts later on and build with them and to carry them with us.”
Singh is urging persons interested in being a part of the work being done at the festival to reach out via the Georgetown Film Festival’s Facebook or Instagram pages.
Auditions for upcoming films will also be promoted through their social media pages and successful aspiring actors selected from these auditions will be paid for their work.
Interested sponsors can also reach out via the number 615 8413.