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Third Annual Turks & Caicos International Film Festival

By Matthew Matlack, Sea Turtle Creative

When I received notice that the documentary short, “East Caicos Expedition” (www.eastcaicosexpedition.com), had been accepted into the Turks & Caicos International Film Festival, I was elated. I shot the film over three whirlwind days in October 2019 with the plan being to take the next six months to edit the video and submit it to the 2020 festival. The festival was limited to a virtual event that year and I really wanted to attend in person IF the film was selected, so I made the tough decision to hold on to the film for another year. But the wait made its acceptance into the festival even sweeter!

Much like the quick trip to film the expedition on East Caicos, I flew into Provo on Thursday, November 11, 2021 and had an early flight on Sunday to get back home. I went to find The Shore Club while it was still daylight, so I knew where I was going the next morning. I became envious of those attending the Thursday events as I followed along on the Turks & Caicos International Film Festival (TCIFF) Instagram feed. I had hoped to experience a little Junkanoo, but the Thursday Night Fish Fry wasn’t happening at The Bight Park due to COVID. (I hear it’s coming back soon?) So, I headed down to the beach to take a dip and catch the sunset.

On Friday morning, I was thrilled to be up early and excited for the film to screen that day. I headed to Shay Café in Le Velé Plaza for latté and breakfast. I met a kind young lady working there and we exchanged YouTube channel information. I love meeting other people who are passionate about what they are creating. There is so much life in that.

The first session of the day was the Young Turks Art Exhibition and Screenings. My film was included in this session because of the ancient petroglyphs found in the cave. When I arrived, I came upon a media event for all the youth who contributed paintings to the festival’s poster contest. I was able to peruse all of the wonderful pieces of art and fell in love with the winning poster “Mother Earth” by 17-year-old Janella Forbes.

John Galleymore and Mat Matlack at the screening of their documentary “East Caicos Expedition” at the Turks & Caicos International Film Festival.

There were two films shown as part of the art screenings and “East Caicos Expedition” was the second one. Festival Director Collin Burrows invited me up to introduce the film. It was a thrill to be in the room with 50–75 people experiencing the film for the first time. The sound system and projector were first class. The film was well received, especially by the young people in the room, and that made me so joyful.

The festival took a break for lunch and I made my way to Bugaloo’s, now located on Grace Bay Road. I started doing research about where to get a COVID test for my return on Sunday. I missed the Music Producer’s Panel at the festival, which was a bummer. 

But I made it back for the short films and was blown away by them. I was very inspired by the film “Antonese” by Conchboy Films (only.one/watch/antonese). The short takes you on a journey with Bahamians on Cat Island who learn to embrace the ocean and become modern-day superheroes to overcome their fears of what lies below the surface.

That evening was a festival gala. The high ticket price meant that this starving artist had to sit it out, but again, I followed along on Instagram and got to see folks enjoying their evening with Nile Rodgers and other celebrities. I ended up having drinks and a great dinner at Mango Reef with the star of “East Caicos Expedition,” John Galleymore. It was no gala, but we had a great time celebrating the screening of the film!

I was excited for another full day at the festival on Saturday, which started with the Writer’s Panel. Here, we heard from TV and film producers Jamund Washington (“First Baptist,” “Gimme the Loot”) and Deniese Davis (“Insecure,” “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”), plus artist manager, Krystle Hartsfield (Sony, Roc Nation, Moonshot). It was insightful to hear of their experiences in the industry, motivating to have them advise on how to get noticed, and encouraging to hear them speak of having “that one person” who helped them . . . now, they are the ones giving back.

The evening session was very well-attended. We enjoyed a wonderful interview by Festival Director Colin Burrows with actor Brian Cox (“Braveheart,” “The Bourne Identity,” “X2: X-Men United,” “Troy”). Then we had the pleasure of watching a new episode of Brian’s latest HBO series, “Succession.” It has some amazing actors. The characters are horrible people, but it’s a great show.

That evening’s gala was in full swing as I was departing the resort to head back to my Airbnb. But I ended up chatting with Festival Organizer Lizzie Foster and she convinced me to join the festivities. So I changed out of my flip flops and put on a collared shirt—there was a red carpet, after all. I got to enjoy the company of Daniel LeVin, one of the guides of the expedition to East Caicos.

Then I felt like an A-lister as tons of screaming fans shouted my name and the flashes of the cameras blinded me while I was strutting down the red carpet! No, that didn’t happen, but I did get my picture taken on the red carpet as I made my way to the showing of “Eternals,” the new Marvel movie. I was impressed by the amazing surround-sound from a portable system. Kudos to the crew running it! At almost three hours, the film felt a bit long, but was enjoyable.

I had a hard time understanding how Marvel movies connected with the film festival. I was pleased to hear Colin speak about Disney (who owns Marvel) declaring they are working to make their film productions, resorts and theme parks more sustainable and green (thewaltdisneycompany.com/environmental-sustainability/). That’s welcome news.

Poster competition winner Janella Forbes and her mother walk down the red carpet.

You see, some of the purposes of the festival are to honor the oceans, to lift up creators that are doing works supporting ecological awareness and to expose the world to all that the Turks & Caicos Islands have to offer. I just love an organization with purpose and these resonate with me.

The festival had beach parties and special dinners. There was so much going on that I wasn’t able to make it to everything. I really wanted to see Andre Musgrove’s “Child of the Cenote,” but I was high above the blue waters (on the plane) when his film screened. I’m thrilled for the TCI to have such a wonderful film festival. Karen Whitt (festival chairperson) and Colin Burrows, along with the rest of the festival board and volunteers created an amazing experience. I think 2022 is going to see the festival grow as the word gets out about this gem. I hope to see it flourish.

Filmmaker Mat Matlack is based in Columbia, Missouri with one foot in the Bahamas. He and his wife Shannon enjoy exploring the North Atlantic and Caribbean. They have two potcakes and a love for all island dogs plus a passion for protecting the ocean’s fragile, yet extremely important, ecosystem. Their 8-year-old daughter sometimes joins them on the adventures. (Visit SeaTurtleCreative.com).

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Gary James at Provo Pictures (www.provopictures.com) used a drone to photograph this bird’s-eye view of Dragon Cay off Middle Caicos. It perfectly captures the myriad of colors and textures that make God’s works of art in nature so captivating.

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