Trini film producer wins top award at Manhattan Film Festival
Trinidadian filmmaker Jolene Mendes' film has earned top accolades at the Manhattan Film Festival.
'Extra Innings', a period drama set in 1960s Brooklyn, won Best Feature Film at the festival which was held in May. The award holds extra weight considering that the project marks her feature film producing debut.
Her film tells the story of an aspiring baseball player who is torn between pursuing his professional dreams and remaining devoted to his religious family who is affected by mental illness. It stars Alex Walton, Aidan P. Brennan, Mara Kassin and Geraldine Singer. It was directed by Albert Dabah and Brian Dillinger from an original script written by Dabah, and is based on his own life story. Mendes produced the film with Rabia Sultana.
According to Mendes, "This award has special meaning for us all, as the project was a labour of love in every way. We didn't have a big budget, but we had a story with a big heart, so generously shared with us by Albert. In a festival that screens nearly 200 films annually, for our film to win the most prestigious award meant everything."
Mendes is a graduate of the film production conservatory programme at the New York Film Academy. She has had several short films screen at festivals around the world and has won awards at the Soho Film Festival, the New York City International Film Festival, the Coney Island Film Festival and the Orlando Film Festival.
"I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to make my passion into my career," she said. "What I love most about film is the ability it has to have such a huge impact throughout the world. The fact that you can sit down for a couple of hours and laugh, cry, be motivated or feel inspired is so special to me.
"For all these reasons, the journey we have taken with 'Extra Innings' has been truly unforgettable. It has some wonderful things to say about ambition, family and making hard choices. It also tackles the sensitive issue of mental illness in a very real and relatable way. Everyone who sees it can learn something from this film."
Mendes is now in post-production on her next feature, 'She Paradise', which she produced with Marie-Elena Joseph. The film was written by Maya Cozier and Melina Brown and is directed by Maya Cozier.