Trini film producer wins top award

Trinidadian born filmmaker Jolene Mendes.

“Extra Innings,” a period drama produced by Trinidadian born filmmaker Jolene Mendes, won the top award for Best Feature Film at the 2019 Manhattan Film Festival held in Cinema Village, New York in May.

The film, set in 1960’s Brooklyn, tells the story of an aspiring baseball player who is torn between pursuing his professional dreams and remaining devoted to his religious family who are affected by mental illness.

“Extra Innings” features actors 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.

The award represents the highest accolade to date won by Mendes, a graduate of the film production conservatory programme at the New York Film Academy, who marks her feature film producing debut with the film.

Several of her previously produced short films have screened at festivals around the world, winning awards at the Soho Film Festival, the New York City International Film Festival, the Coney Island Film Festival and the Orlando Film Festival.

According to Mendes “This award has special meaning for us all, as the project was a labor 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 has had a passion for and curiosity about film and television production since her childhood in her native country Trinidad. But since the island did not have a thriving film industry at the time, she never thought a career in film was possible.

Following her graduation from high school, she studied briefly in Canada before switching career paths, relocating to New York and enrolling at NYFA to pursue her dream of film production.

Since graduating from the conservatory programme in 2015, she has been working steadily as a film producer, making it her mission to make films that have the potential to “inspire and make a difference in the world.”

“I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to make my passion into my career. 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 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. She hopes to have it completed in time for the 2020 film festival season.

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