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IFF Panama: Mariel Brown’s ‘Unfinished Sentences,’ an Ode to Family, Love and Loss

Variety logo Variety 4/3/2017 Anna Marie de la Fuente
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Grief is a strange beast. When “Unfinished Sentences” helmer Mariel Brown’s father died in 2009, she was afflicted with a psychosomatic hearing problem and plunged into a deep depression. A celebrated Caribbean writer-poet, her father Wayne Brown succumbed to lung cancer not long after he was diagnosed.

“Although our relationship was difficult, it was full of love, and when he died, I felt like a thread that was slowly unraveling,” she mused.

Encouraged by friends and family to make a full-length documentary about him, she worked on “Unfinished Sentences” for some six years, reeling in the help of writer-docu doctor Fernanda Rossi.

While foremost a tribute to her father, “Unfinished Sentences” explores his life but also their complex relationship through the years.  Ultimately, it has served as a cathartic experience.

“It brought my father closer to me,” she said, adding: “At its heart, it’s about family, love and loss.”

Based in Trinidad & Tobago, Brown has made a slew of award-winning non-fiction shorts, features and TV series through her banner, Savant Ltd, some of them intimate portraits of artists like her father.

She first pitched “Unfinished Sentences” at Ventana Sur in 2015 where she was encouraged to present it to IFF Panama’s Primera Mirada, one of four chosen out of nearly 50 submissions. “Just being selected is a nice feather in my cap,” she said. She hopes to secure more funding to complete its post-production.

To make “Unfinished Sentences” she raised more than $10,000 on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, through pledges of just 122 backers. Brown also tapped what limited government funding was available for her doc, budgeted at $100,000.

“It would have been virtually impossible to make this documentary 10 to 15 years ago,” said Brown who pointed out that Trinidad & Tobago now produces two-to-three features a year, compared to one every five to 10 years. Budget cuts due to a recession in this oil-rich country has impacted the Production Assistance and Script Development program (PASD), which offers small grants of up to $15,000 per projects.

“At the moment, FILM TT (the new name for the Film Company of Trinidad and Tobago) is offering micro grants towards marketing costs of up to $1,500,” said Brown.

Aside from taking it on the festival circuit, she hopes to screen it at home. “I hope that the Trinidad audience will respond well to a film that is deeply personal and full of love.”

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