First Year Flaws Mark One World Bahamas Film Fest
by Eugene Hernandez
“This is our first year, please don’t say anything mean,” joked Monica Cooper, founder of the Bahamas One World Film Festival (November 13-17), near the conclusion of the inaugural event. Her comment to indieWIRE came after a tough few days that included numerous logistical challenges and a work stoppage by local projectionists that led to many films on the lineup never even screening during the festival.
Housed primarily at the Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino in Nassau, the event welcomed a few dozen filmmakers who offered the Americas premiere of their films — that is, the first showings in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The good-natured group made up the primary festival audience, which also included a handful of special guests. Most frustrating for all attendees was a film screening schedule that literally changed daily, making attendance impossible for anyone other than those with access to the small, friendly festival staff. Locals and hotel guests who visited venues seeking tickets or access were often met with no information and simply wandered back to enjoy other resort activities, much to the dismay of filmmakers.
“I thought the Bahamas One World Film Festival had all of the good intentions and possibilities to be a great festival destination… in the future,” explained filmmaker Daniel Zirilli, director of “The Stonecutter.” Continuing in an email to indieWIRE he added, “However, this first fest did not live up to that potential.” That said, Zirilli did praise the great group of festival organizers, attending filmmakers, and local Bahamians.
The festival was set to open with John Sayles’ latest film, “Casa de Los Babys,” but after technical and logistical problems, the opening was postponed by 24 hours. After the showing, some attendees made their way over to the casino bar for drinks. A few screenings were held at the kitschy rainforest-themed dinner theater inside the bustling casino, but as the event hit its final two days, showings were moved to a convention area inside the adjacent hotel.
Of the films that did screen in The Bahamas, Ron Mann’s “Go Further” was a hit, although attendee Woody Harrelson shied away from a post-showing Q&A session, instead chatting outside with friend Pierce Brosnan, who dropped by the showing at the local RND multiplex. Brosnan and Harrelson are in The Bahamas to shoot “After The Sunset,” a new Brett Ratner film. Also popular with attendees were Zirilli’s “The Stonecutter,” a 35mm movie shot in Tahiti and based on a fairy tale involving an island stonecutter who learns a lesson from a young girl. Attendees also singled out the roller skating doc, “8 Wheels and Some Soul Brother Music.”
“As with any inaugural event, it wasn’t without its problems, but the enthusiasm of the staff, the camaraderie of the filmmakers, and obviously the location made the Fest a very enjoyable experience for us,” said Michael Misconi, Thomas Mumme, and Mike Horan, the team behind the short film “The Treaty,” which screened at the festival. “There were a host of problems, mostly due to the main venue backing out [at the] last minute, which caused the schedule to be hastily rearranged,” they added in an email to indieWIRE, “The staff and the filmmakers rolled with the punches, creating a bonding experience. It became a film festival for filmmakers, as we were able to spend a lot of time together and exchange thoughts and experiences.”
The distribution team from Palm Pictures, including Ryan Werner, Nicolette Aizenberg, and Neal Block, were honored at Saturday’s awards dinner. Programmer Sandy Mandelberger toasted the company’s daring releases this year, although the large program of films from the company was unable to screen due to the technical and logistic problems. Director John Sayles was also honored on Saturday night, with IFC distribution head Greg Forsten on hand to accept the plaque for the director, who is working on his next movie. On closing night, rather than single out film winners, organizers decided to offer each film in competition an award of excellence.
“Despite first year problems, the Festival did fulfill its mandate to establish a beachhead for a larger event in future years,” Sandy Mandelberger told indieWIRE. “With greater support from governmental institutions, the business community, and the Bahamas Film and TV Office, we think that by next year, the Festival will become a true destination event for appreciation of film culture and the unique beauty of the Bahamas Islands.”