BIFF: a celebration of artistic achievement

Leslie Vanderpool (Founder and Executive Director of Bahamas International Film Festival) with Sir Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage (Actors)

The 13th edition of the Bahamas International Film Festival (commonly known as BIFF) took place from December 5 to 11, 2016. As usual, this important film event had a huge success in the archipelago. The 14th edition is being actively prepared.


The organizers of BIFF even consider the last year as “Phenomenal” (with a capital P) because more than 90 films from 26 countries took part in this annual cinema meeting.

However, the staff did not have time to “rest on its laurels”. In fact, after the closing of the festival in Nassau, the capital, (while the opening was held in Harbour Island), it immediately started to prepare the 14th edition which will take place from December 10 to 17, 2017.

The filmmakers from around the world are already invited to submit their works via the platforms Withoutabox and Filmfreeway, until April 4 (the extended deadline is June 22). By connecting to the festival website without delay, filmmakers, especially those of the Caribbean area, will find all the necessary information and conditions to take part in BIFF.

Then, on next October 1st, candidates selected will receive their notification in order to participate in this great international celebration of film in the Caribbean, to meet professionals (actors, directors, screenwriters, producers…) and to establish contacts with these “greatest minds” of the 7th art, a very useful approach for their career. Despite the great fame of the guests, the festival takes place in accessible locations to encourage exchanges.


An excellent exposure for movies

During these eight days of festival, various events are scheduled: opening and closing night galas; tribute ceremonies to a Shining Star and Career Achievement Tribute Award ; awards ceremony for filmmakers with four categories of competition (Spirit of Freedom / Narrative & Documentary / New Visions / Short Film); panel discussions; master classes; educational programs where topics such as “Filmmaking in the Caribbean” or “Film financing” are discussed.

It should be noted that the competing films are screened several times through various islands of the Bahamian archipelago for a wide promotion and, after each screening, the director is present to discuss with the audience. The organization offers a personal and professional service to each participating filmmaker.

In addition to all these meetings, BIFF organizes during the festival (from December 10 to 13 in Harbour Island) a highly popular “Screenwriters Residency Program”.

Call for entries is also open until April 4 (an extended deadline is also set for June 22). This program offers screenwriters from around the world the opportunity to receive invaluable mentoring from film industry professionals and to compete for a cash prize awarded to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners.


Many talented screenwriters

“The Screenwriters Residency Program is not only an important component to BIFF but to the world and its flourishing filmmaking industry. The industry professionals that lend their time and expertise to BIFF on an island for four days, a program like this could not be  replicated anywhere in the world.  We are proud to have a forum to nurture the next generation of screenwriters”, said Leslie Vanderpool, Founder and Executive Director of the festival.

Over the years, several prominent mentors including Roger Corman (Scream 3), Kurt Wimmer (Total Recall, Point Break), Jib Polhemus (The Expendables, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and many others else gave their precious advice to the candidates.

It is necesary to know that the Bahamas International Film Festival is a non-profit organization. Its main mission is to present movies from the whole world to the Bahamian population and visitors in this archipelago.

Its founder and director, Leslie Vanderpool, is an actress who played in films such as “Children of God” (2010), “Let’s Talk about Sex” (1998) and “Sin’s of the Father” (2000). After years of hard work, this smiling young lady and her staff succeeded in making the Bahamas a world-famous film destination. More than 1,000 local and foreign films were already shown during this festival to more than one million film professionals and film enthusiasts from The Bahamas and around the world.

These films can be world premieres but all are always Bahamian premieres.


A significant economic impact

Over the 13 years of its existence, this film event already injected more than $ 25 million into the Bahamian economy.

Attracted by the quality of this cultural meeting, many Hollywood celebrities and famous people from elsewhere take part annually in BIFF. Among them, there are Sir Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Danny Glover, Cicely Tyson, Lenny Kravitz, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Laurence Fishburne, Lee Daniel, Naomie Harris etc.

Besides, this festival contributed to better situate on a map the islands of The Bahamas and, consequently, to develop its tourism sector. In addition, the archipelago which is composed of 700 islands enhanced its reputation as a major shooting location, particularly for Hollywood blockbusters.

The fame of this young festival is also reflected in the large number of publications specialized in the field of cinema that it managed to interest. These include prestigious Los Angeles magazines such as The Hollywood News Reporter, Variety Magazine, Hollywood Report, Moving Pictures Magazine or Premier Magazine. Other great newspapers, like The New York Times, The Financial Times and The London Times, also devoted articles to BIFF.

For his part, the famous American film critic, Jeffrey Lyons, did not hesitate to describe BIFF as “a shining light among a large field of film festivals and a celebration of international artistic achievement in one of the most beautiful places on earth”.


A very cool festival

BIFF has another famous “ambassador” : Sidney Poitier. The unforgettable Bahamian actor who played in the film “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), Oscar for the Best Film in 1968, encourages all filmmakers to come and show their works in The Bahamas. Moreover, in April 2015, Sir Sidney Poitier agreed to give his name to the prestigious “Career Achievement Prize” awarded by the Bahamas International Film Festival, it became the “Sir Sidney Poitier Tribute Award”. About this choice, Leslie Vanderpool said : “There is no person on Earth who is better suited to have the Career Achievement Award be named after him” (…) “Poitier is one of the finest actors for generations and is, simply put, an icon and a legend.”

In the same year, BIFF was listed among the Top 25 coolest film festivals in the world by the American magazine dedicated to cinema, MovieMaker.

So, this is a further reason for participating in the Bahamas International Film Festival, which promotes our Caribbean region and our talented filmmakers.