DPM Symonette says BIFF Creating Avenues for Local Talent

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — Audience members at the Bahamas International Film Festival watch 79-year-old musician James Brewster sing, in the documentary “Jamesie: King of Scratch,” at the British Colonial Hilton, on December 10, 2007.  The film, directed by Andrea Leland, focuses on the United States Virgin Islands’ official music Scratch Band Music, or Quelbe, and provides an opportunity to delve into the music form through looking at one of its most famous artists.  (Photo:
Eric Rose)

By: Lindsay Thompson

NASSAU, Bahamas
– The Bahamas International Film Festival staged here has proven that these shores are continuing to be a choice for block buster movies, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon Brent Symonette.

Addressing international movie stars, from Academy Award winners to honourable mentions, and local film producers, Mr. Symonette officially opened the Fourth Annual Bahamas International Film Festival on Friday, December 7, 2007, at the Atlantis Theatre on Paradise Island.

He credited the BIFF for giving upcoming Bahamian filmmakers the opportunity to grow in an ever changing and highly competitive industry.

Mr. Symonette especially mentioned “one of the proud accomplishments” of the local film industry, that being Bahamian filmmaker Maria Govan, who spent more than $400,000 to produce her movie, Rain, here.

He also saluted Bahamian professionals who worked on Rain included location manager Martina Carroll; producer, Heather Carey; production assistant, Ranel Hanna; artist Margo Bethel; and actresses Marion Bethel, Juanita Kelly and Vivica Watkins, who died earlier this year.

“The Bahamas International Film Festival has reached its fourth year, and all indications are that it is continuing to grow from strength to strength. It is truly gratifying to see such a noteworthy event evolve into maturity and refinement,” Mr. Symonette said.

“This, we believe is also symbolic of The Bahamas’ growth as a location for filming. We have had a good share of successes over the years. In recent times our achievements in the area of film production has increased,” Mr. Symonette said.

This year’s festival under the theme “Women in Film” was extended for a week, December 6 to 13. It features over 80 films from 26 countries and a number of Bahamian premiers. Noted Hollywood actress Daryl Hanna was honoured with the Career Achievement Tribute Award presented by Bahamian resident Sir Sean Connery. Emerging star Naomie Harris, who appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean II and III, received the Rising Star Tribute presented offshore bank and trust company Ansbacher (Bahamas).

The Opening Night Film was the action/drama “Battle in Seattle,” starring Academy Award Winner Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Ray Liotta, Michelle Rodriguez, Joshua Jackson, Andre Benjamin and Martin Henderson.

“We are very grateful that Daryl Hanna will accept the Career Achievement Award,” Mr. Symonette said. “Ms Hanna has been known throughout her career for leaving a lasting impression on audiences. Her work has been innovative and captivating, and we are priviledged to be a part of honouring her.”

He also acknowledged the work of Naomie Harris, a favourite of Bahamians who loved the film, 28 Days Later.

According to Mr. Symonette, this country’s location is once again attracting some of the most desirable film shoots from studios and independent filmmakers. The most prominent ones in the past five years have included Pirates of the Caribbean II and III, the remake of Casino Royale, and Into the Blue with Paul Walker and Jessica Alba.

“We are especially pleased that European filmmakers are also taking interest in The Bahamas,” he added. “This summer, the Italian film Matrimonio alle Bahamas or Bahamas Wedding, was filmed mainly on the island of Exuma. The film posted strong opening numbers when it debuted in Europe last month.

“We are pleased that The Bahamas was able to play a large part in this film, and now filmmakers in North America and Europe have even greater confidence in our country as a film location,” Mr. Symonette said.

According to Mr. Symonette, the country owes “a great deal” to the film industry, adding that many Bahamians have received invaluable training as a result of working on film sets.

“The Bahamas can boast of having qualified personnel to work as location assistants, production assistants, wardrobe and lighting technicians and almost every other area on a set,” he said. “This is not only personally enriching to the individuals, but it is a precious resource to the filmmaker. The ability to source competent professionals right here in the location is an added incentive and more cost effective for producers.”

Mr. Symonette also noted that The Bahamas was grateful to the BIFF for showcasing many Bahamian filmmakers; several have been selected to compete in the competition for a top prize of $10,000.

The Deputy Prime Minister further credited BIFF for helping to train Bahamians at a very early age, stating that the “Children’s Film Workshop” has been so successful that it was requested again this year by the local community and festival goers.