The word ‘GATFFEST’ may not roll off the tongue like some other well-known film festival names, but that doesn’t discredit the hard work and talent showcased annually at the four-day festival. To the contrary, 2016 not only brought record numbers of people in attendance, it also saw an unsurpassed amount of international entries. This, says Ian Boxhill, organizer of the event, is due to perseverance, dedication and tremendous grit.
GATFFEST has evolved into one of the Caribbean’s fastest growing film festivals. Designed to help lift the spirits and lives of all Jamaicans, particularly those in underserved neighborhoods, the festival affords young people the opportunity to thrive and shine despite difficult circumstances.
A total of 80 films were submitted this year, eight of which came from recent graduates of the local school focused on underrepresented youth. This year was unique in the sheer amount of international entries pouring through. Filmmakers from Egypt, Belgium, Germany, India and Spain competed for the recognition. Jamaicans who participated included graduates from the UWI Community Film Project, as well as high school students who had participated in the inaugural GATFFEST School Competition.
Along with screening local, regional and international films, the festival hosts discussion panels, guest lecturers and free activities. Jhon Narvaez Escudero helped revitalize the UWI Western Jamaica campus with a class entitled “Tips for the Independent Filmmaker” during the most recent GATFFEST festival. Meanwhile, panel discussions took place at the Courtleigh Auditorium in Kingston, and centered around movie techniques and filmmaker trials and tribulations.
Each year’s festival caps off with an award gala, where winners of various categories are recognized and awarded prizes. Awards for the 2016 year included Best Local Film, Best Directing, Most Original Screenplay, Best Animation and several others. There is also a People’s Choice Award determined by audience members entering a secret ballot.
Entries must be between five and 30 minutes, with a deadline usually toward the beginning of April. Categories include Science Fiction and Horror, Drama, Comedy, Animation, Documentary, and Music and Dance.
Whether you’re an aspiring filmmaker, a curious tourist, or a supportive local, GATFFEST is definitely the place to be when summer rolls around. Check out previous entries through the University of the West Indies.