It’s telling that the Internet homepage for the Bahamas Film Festival prominently displays the current temperature on the islands — few fests, after all, are situated in so idyllic a location.
Fest founder and executive director Leslie Vanderpool concedes the attraction: “There’s always sun, sand and sea,” she laughs. “But once the sun goes down, or the weather turns bad, people start looking around for other things to do. One of the real challenges that face us here in the Bahamas is to redevelop and enhance our arts community. And I think the festival plays a big part in that.”
For its fifth edition (running through Thursday), the fest is keen to focus attention on local talent. Opening with indie drama “Rain” — written, directed and produced by Maria Govan, a Bahamian filmmaker who participated in the fest’s Filmmaker Residency Program back in 2005 — and closing with Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” (shot on nearby Rose Island), the event will unspool more than 75 films, all local preems.
For Vanderpool, her opening-night selection marks a turning point for this still-fledgling fixture: “Maria Govan raised her entire budget (approximately $1 million) from local investors. Her production generated jobs and fed the islands’ economy. And the film had its world premiere at Toronto in September. So, in many ways, her achievement feels like a vindication for us and for emerging Bahamian filmmakers overall.”
The region may sport a great deal of glamour, but Vanderpool takes care to highlight the event’s accessibility. Ticket prices are generally capped at $5, most panels are free and open to the public, and there’s a six-day workshop.
“We’re simply trying to offer local audiences other perspectives, fresh ways of looking at the world,” she says. “And independent cinema can offer some especially valuable examples of that.”
The lineup boasts a smattering of Sundance titles (“Sugar,” “August”), Tribeca picks (“Tennessee”) and some recent international successes, notably “Flashbacks of a Fool,” starring box office champ Daniel Craig.
Another 007, fest patron and longtime Nassau resident Sean Connery, will be on hand to present a career achievement award to Laurence Fishburne on Sunday; the following day, actress Anna Faris will be feted with a special Rising Star tribute.
When: Now through Thursday Where: Nassau, Bahamas Web: bintlfilmfest.com