Kristof West has many inspiring stories to tell.
At just 20, West, a budding filmmaker and photographer, is eager to hold his mirror to local society and reflect the positive energy he sees from his people every day. It’s a desire, he says, that is fuelled by his passion for T&T and its rich culture.
“I want to tell the people’s story, highlighting the beauty of cultural difference and the experiences that shape them,” a wide eyed West began saying when he spoke to the Kitcharee on Thursday.
“I always wanted to preserve experiences, whether it be travelling, meeting new people or admiring nature I’m always inspired to capture a fragment of that experience. And film offers the closet replication of my vision,” he continued thoughtfully.
West, a graduate of a United World College (UWC) in Hong Kong, China, grew up in a culturally diverse home. The son of entertainment promoter Heathcliff West and Ms World 1986 Giselle La Ronde-West, Kristof has been involved in local arts from as early as he could remember. His older brother Kye is fast building a name as a concept event promoter.
West said his time in China led to an even greater appreciation for his Caribbean roots. Sitting in a classroom filled with students from around the globe he was exposed to a world perspective. It’s there that he fostered a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of his own story.
“Studying at a UWC, your classroom is filled with students from all over the world giving you access to unlimited stories about places you’ve either never heard of or always dreamt of visiting. Though this made the world feel so much smaller, I was constantly reminded that there is so much out there to hear, see and do. The main benefit to studying at an international school is the diversity of ideas, beliefs and visions for the future,” he revealed.
West said he found the education outside of the classroom equally instructive. He found similarities in peoples from all walks of life from opposite sides of the planet. It’s a relatability he aims to capture in his own work.
“The biggest lesson I learned outside of the classroom is that no matter how different we are as people there will always be a story we can relate to. Being able to relate to people is something that we need, to be able to truly understand people. By telling stories of where we come from and of what made us who we are, we are able to offer someone something to relate to. By sharing a story you share a laugh, a smile and an experience,” West revealed.
Film in TT
Unsurprisingly, however, the culturally aware filmmaker said his ultimate goal is to make Caribbean people proud of the images that represent them in mainstream media. And with the thrust and investment in local film with the establishment of the local film company and the success of the trinidad + tobago film festival in recent years, he sees that vision as more than a pipe dream.
“There has been a lot of development in the sector and I hope more will be done in the coming years to facilitate other young creatives in exploring their interests. I want Caribbean people to be proud of what we produce and to support local creatives in the way they do foreign,” a highly motivated West said.
The restrictions of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has momentarily slowed his moving train. West said he is using the down time, however, to do some deep introspection.
“The pandemic has given many including myself time to reflect and make the needed adjustments to our fast paced lives. For me, I value how I spend my time a lot more now as I saw how extensive time felt during quarantine,” he said.
His lens remains his main escape as he remains focus on his first goal of returning to China with the stories of his homeland.
“I would say that I’m always working on something. I continuously take videos and photographs of things that inspire me throughout the day. I hope to eventually showcase some of my photographs at my university’s art exhibitions next year,” he concluded with a twinkle in his eye.