News day / THE eighth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest will be preceded by CineLit, a Latin American and Caribbean literary film festival, on April 16, at UWI.

This is a partnership between the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and Latin American countries with diplomatic missions in TT. Among them are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain and Venezuela.

Marina Salandy-Brown, festival director, revealed this at the launch at the National Library, Port of Spain on Wednesday. She said there are 31 films in Spanish and English, some for children, while some, which are award-winners, are in Spanish and subtitled.

In addition, Unfinished Sentences, a film about the life of Wayne Brown, who influenced many local writers, will have its Caribbean premiere at the Central Bank Auditorium on April 26.The core festival, packed with events of all kinds celebrating books, writers, words and ideas, begins at the National Library on April 25, and continues to April 29.

Salandy-Brown said the festival lineup features some of the best writers of the Caribbean and its diaspora, including writers recognised by prestigious international awards. TT-born and Canada-based AndrĂ© Alexis and Jamaican Erma Brodber, who last year were named as winners of Yale University’s Windham Campbell Prizes, will read and discuss their work, alongside Jamaican Lorna Goodison, who just a few weeks ago was named a 2018 winner of the Windham Campbell Prize.

She also said this year, Bocas was one of a handful of festivals around the world selected to join in marking the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize. As a result Bocas will host the 2013 winner Eleanor Catton of New Zealand, who will be joined by the renowned Sri Lankan writer Romesh Gunesekera, and the poet Mere Taito of Fiji.

The 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush will be marked with a special event considering the ways Caribbean people and culture have helped shape the rest of the world. This includes the launch of a new novel by Anthony Joseph that turns the life of iconic calypsonian Lord Kitchener into fiction.

Then there is the launch of a young adult novel entitled Tito by prize-winning Chilean author Marcelo Simonetti, whose hero suffers from the same football fever that all Latin people do.

“It is the first time a Chilean literary work has been translated into English for publication in the Caribbean,” said Salandy-Brown, who added that the translation was done by Ian Randle Publishers of Jamaica.

Salandy-Brown spoke too, of the new Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize, donated by Dr Kongsheik Achong Low. It consists of a cash award of US$3,500, a year’s mentoring by an established writer, travel to the United Kingdom for a one-week intensive creative writing course at one of Arvon’s internationally renowned writing houses, and three days in London to network with editors and publishers, hosted by Arvon, in association with the Free Word Centre and a leading London literary agency.

This prize is for three years to enable the development of the best emerging literary talent in the region.

She also announced the 2018 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters is to be awarded to Anne Walmsley, writer, editor and researcher.

The NGC Children’s Bocas Lit Fest starts off with a nationwide storytelling caravan that ends at the Children’s Library, Port of Spain. The highlights are the April 25 Mayor’s event, where 300 children with teachers from ten schools from all over the country will have lunch in Woodford Square, and on April 29, there will be a celebration of the birthday of Dragonzilla, the children’s mascot.

Among other features of Bocas this year is a big night of literature and music at the Big Black Box, and the 2018 CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature, which comes with an award of Can$10,000, and $2,000 each for the other two finalists. In addition, all three books will be guaranteed purchases of at least 2,000 copies.

Lisa Burkett, manager, corporate communications, National Gas Company, said the festival continues to fill her company with an immense sense of pride, having distinguished itself as the Caribbean’s premier celebration of writers, stories and ideas.

She said: “Being listed among the world’s top 20 literary festivals must be acknowledged as a commendable achievement! Today, I am honoured to acknowledge this event as one of our fastest-growing and most rewarding partnerships.

“NGC’s unequivocal endorsement of the Bocas Lit Fest is also premised on the organisers’ determined thrust towards the development and promotion of enduring Caribbean literati.”

Earlier, Helen Johnson, director of the Heritage Library, called for the literary world to get on board with the inaugural People’s Choice Award (which is sponsored by Newday) and cast their vote online before the April 25 deadline.


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