By Kevanté Cash
In conversation with Anja Allen of The Island House to discuss the impact of The Island House Film Festival on the Bahamian creative arts community .
When The Island House (TIH) was built, it was done so with the intent not only to host guests from around the world within a unique touristic space that reflects most of Bahamian life, but also to act as a contributing space for community involvement and engagement. Thus, the vision for The Island House Film Festival (TIHFF) was born, according to Anja Allen, manager at TIH and organiser of TIHFF.
2019 IHFF poster with Festival art by Delton Barrett.
When Allen and her team considered the missing element among events and activities celebrating artistic expression, they found aspects of storytelling and filmmaking were not included among more common place and established festivities. And such, they bridged the gap and in 2017 held the inaugural TIHFF premiering Maria Govan’s second feature “Play the Devil”.
Though the film festival is only in its third year, Allen says she has seen the impact it has made within the Bahamian creative arts community and how it has strengthened appreciation among Bahamian creatives for the medium of film and the artistry behind filmmaking.
“We have consistently grown our community engagement year to year. This year we are hosting three ‘Introduction to Filmmaking and Acting’ workshops led by the Bahamas Artist Movement (B.A.M) – one of which will be held at Government High School and the other two taking place at The Island House where a diverse mixture of students from L.W. Young, Government High School, St Anne’s and Galilee Academy will attend in an intimate group session.
Continuing Allen’s remarks, “We have also increased the amount of Bahamian films screened. We will be screening six Bahamian shorts throughout the festival with each filmmaker present to introduce their work. We have taken a big step forward this year by partnering with the University of The Bahamas, and will be hosting two lectures on campus for students to enjoy: ‘Screenwriting Lecture’ and ‘Insight into the Entertainment Industry Lecture’; as well as the screening of Trinidadian filmmaker Mariel Brown’s “Unfinished Sentences” on campus at 6 p.m. All of the UB related programme is FREE for all students.”
As organiser of the TIHFF, Allen says her goal for the festival was to add to the rich culture of The Bahamas by showing international, regional and local films in an intimate surrounding. It was important for her and her team to introduce a non-competitive film festival where Bahamians and Bahamian residents can assemble to celebrate and focus on films and filmmakers from the Caribbean region, uplifting Bahamian ambassadors of local narrative films, such as Kareem Mortimer, Maria Govan, Lavado Stubbs, Travolta Cooper among others.
She says hosting panel discussions and workshops for aspiring and existing filmmakers within the country was also another key goal of TIHFF team, citing, “Supporting panels and workshops that educate and inspire creativity amongst the Bahamian population, as well as placing a strong focus on education outreach programs, in order to expand and grow the film industry was important to us as well. We think that we have attained certain goals and are on the path to enhancing these goals and our reach. We have also made sure to keep all talks and workshops free and screenings at just $10 so the community at large may enjoy.”
This year, Allen and her team are grateful to support a diverse range of documentaries being featured within the festival from around the globe, namely: “Unfinished Sentences” from Trinidad & Tobago (screening at UB), “The Raft” from Sweden, “Icarus”, “Life in The Dog House” and “The Gospel According to André” from the United States, “Of Father’s and Son’s” from Germany/Syria and “Reggae Boys” from Jamaica.
The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas joins in with Allen and TIHFF team in honouring international and regional, but especially Bahamian filmmakers who have made it that much easier to host festivities of the likes showcasing exceptional works that contribute to the greater good of the creative arts community.
If you are interested in attending a workshop, panel discussion and/ or seeing a film this weekend, you may call 1-242-698-6300 or contact [email protected] for bookings, or visit their webpage at the-island-house.com/cinema for more information. The Island House Film Festival runs from Friday, February 1st through Sunday, February 3rd.