Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) co-director Cameron Bailey said the four years he spent growing up as a young lad with his grandparents in Barbados shaped his life.
In his acceptance speech last week at the opening of the sixth annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival showcase that honoured him for his dedication and contribution to the Caribbean film industry, the British-born film curator and media personality noted the lessons he learned in the Caribbean country serve him well in his artistic endeavours.
“I attended a small one-room school in St. James where we used little slates that resemble iPad tablets,” he recalled. “I learned respect, old-fashioned values and diligence and I also learned how to do things in an unconventional way because you have to in the Caribbean. But the most important thing I learned was the value of Diaspora and how to live that.
“When I go to Barbados’ east coast which is the most powerful part of the island for me, I look out to the sea and I feel as if there is nothing that separates me from Africa. I feel as if I could commune with that continent even though I am not physically there. I also feel like what we have in Barbados and the Caribbean is a connection to Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America because those are all a part of what makes us and we can take from them.
“We own those things. Lots have been taken from us, but I feel that now is the time we can take from all the different things that led into our tradition and heritage. When I travel around the world representing TIFF, I carry all of that with me – that sense of working hard, unconventionality, of being part of the entire world and owning the traditions and cultures of the world because they float through me in one way or another.”
Bailey accepted the honour from entrepreneur and community activist Denham Jolly.
“This is overwhelming and a great honour,” said Bailey who founded the Planet Africa section of TIFF which lasted nine years until 2004 and headed the Perspective Canada Series before being appointed a festival co-director in January 2008. “We have our little festival (TIFF) starting tomorrow night, but there is no place I would rather be tonight than right here.”
A 1987 University of Western Ontario honours graduate, Bailey was Canada’s first Black film critic. He co-hosted The Showcase Revue, co-founded the Black Film & Video Network and completed his first screenplay, The Planet of Junior Brown, which was named Best Picture at the 1998 Urbanworld Film Festival in New York. It was also nominated for a Best Screenplay Gemini award.
Bailey was a member of the city’s blue ribbon panel assembled earlier this year to update Toronto’s official culture plan. He also co-chaired Toronto’s Civic Action Arts & Culture Working Group and represented TIFF last April at the inaugural Beijing International Film Festival where he met leaders in China’s film industry.
“It’s important that we celebrate and honour our own, especially those who represent us on the world stage,” said Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution chief executive officer Frances-Anne Solomon.
“Cameron was the first to bring an intelligent, diversity-focused perspective to film criticism and appreciation here in Canada and further afield. He has consistently articulated the perspectives of people of colour around the world and has given us a voice in the mainstream of global society.”
The Trinidad & Tobago Consulate in Toronto hosted the opening night of the Caribbean Tales Film Festival showcase during which Bailey was honoured.
High Commissioner Philip Buxo congratulated Bailey, adding that the diplomatic mission in the city is honoured to support an event that provides international exposure to the region’s talented film industry and promote the Caribbean as an ideal production location.
“The Trinidad & Tobago government shares these goals as we have identified the film industry as one of the sectors to develop and diversify our economy through attracting international productions and generating local employment,” Buxo said.
T & T recently launched a competitive incentive program that provides cash rebates of up to 30 per cent for expenditures accrued while filming in the twin-island republic.