By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
When you host a well-organized film event on a beautiful island in the Atlantic Ocean, the appeal is instantaneous. For the Bermuda International Film Festival, which kicked off its 11th season this past Friday, the mix of top flight films and a genial atmosphere make for a winning combination.
The Festival opened on Friday night with the UK audience pleaser St. Trinian’s, a comedic fare by director Oliver Parker, best known for his film adaptations of the Oscar Wilde plays The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband. This current romp stars Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry and Mischa Barton. The film tells the hysterical tale of the efforts of a motley crew of ungovernable teenage girls who use their wit and ingenuity to save St Trinian's School from bankruptcy. The film has been a major box office hit in its native UK since its release last Christmas.
In all, this year’s Festival welcomes almost 80 films from 32 countries. Among the well-received international hits in the World Panorama section are The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Import, Export, Operation Filmmaker, Up The Yangtze and The Edge of Heaven. Closing the Festival on 5 April will be the highly acclaimed The Band’s Visit, which was the major winner at this year’s Israeli Oscars, as well as picking up prizes at the Cannes, Montreal, Munich, Palm Springs and Tokyo film festivals.
The core of the Festival is the two competition categories, one for Narrative Features, the other for Documentary Features. Among the high profile films competing in the Narrative Feature Competition are the Santa Barbara Film Festival winner Amal, the Cannes Film Festival sleeper hit Caramel, the Rotterdam Film Festival winner Wonderful Town, the Goya Award prize winner XXY from Argentina, as well as other film festival circuit hits, such as Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame, Iska’s Journey, The Big Shot-Caller and Young People Fucking. All will compete for the Mary Jean Mitchell-Green Award, which carries a $5000 first prize.
The Documentary Feature Competition also boast a high caliber roster of non-fiction works from around the world, including Democracy In Dkar, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, Iron Ladies of Liberia, Jerusalem Is Proud To Be Present, Saving Luna, Silhouette City, Souvenirs and View From The Bridge: Tales From Kosovo.
All features in the Festival are eligible for the Bacardi Limited Audience Choice Award, which includes a cash prize of $3000. New this year at the festival is a Reel Music Sidebar, with four films including Lou Reed’s Berlin (directed by Julian Schnabel), the classical music documentary Five Days In September, the UK hip-hop film South Coast and the chronicle of the Marley Family concert in Ethiopia to celebrate the life of Bob Marley in Africa Unite.
This year’s Festival features a focus on Modern South African Cinema and a group of Bermuda-shot films, including the feature Behind The Mask: Bermuda Gombeys Past Present And Future, chronicling the many gombey dance troupes on the island. The gombeys combine African roots with a nod to St. Kitts’ Masquerade dancers, and originated at a time when slaves wore masks in order to present their complaints to slave masters without fear of retribution.
Saluting local talent and bringing in international auteur films from all over the globe, this year’s Bermuda International Film Festival takes its place as among the most sophisticated and enjoyable film events on the festival circuit.