As the Caribbean’s largest community film festival, GATFFEST’s origin is deeply rooted in community development. The festival originated from the UWI Community Film Project (UWICFP) whose general objective is to contribute to the UWI developmental efforts in select inner-city communities. The UWICFP encourages community development and heritage tourism through film and video production. The main focus of the Project is to empower at risks youths through training and development that will increase their life chances by providing them with a skill. Participants learn the disciplines of directing, producing, costume and set design, cinematography, make-up artistry, art direction, acting and editing as they collaborate on film projects in the studio and on location. Training culminates with participants, in groups or individually, producing professional quality works that demonstrate their talents and abilities. These films are then entered into the GATFFEST Film Festival, and have their own category for judging.

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The festival continues to grow while focusing on community involvement and development. Past graduates of the UWI Community Film Project and other community persons are encouraged to get involved by submitting films and attending the free workshops. The festival also serves as a source of income for many community persons who are employed as interns during the festival.
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The festival also hosts free film nights in the inner-city communities that the UWICFP is involved in. These film nights serve as entertainment for these communities, as well as bringing the community residents together. In 2016 GATFFEST also visited local high schools to encourage student participation in the festival

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