film festival tourism

Bahamas

Why Go: Beaches and sun, with movies as a bonus

Description

Launched in 2003, the Bahamas festival is slickly produced but is still struggling to snag top films and attract sizable audiences. Fest topper Leslie VanDerPool brings energy and glamour to the event.

Festival Website: www.bintlfilmfest.com/

Timing: Second week in December

Programming

A modestly programmed event, the Bahamas fest nonetheless includes worthy titles from the international film festival circuit, mixing them with a smattering of American indie fare. In deference to the local audience, African cinema is given special emphasis on the program.

Audience: Tiny. Mostly locals.

Special Guests

The festival has no trouble attracting celebrities, many of whom own houses on the island. Sean Connery is a particularly loyal supporter and appears regularly.

Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage at the 2006 festival

Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage at the 2006 festival

Screening Venues

Most films are screened at the JFK Galleria Cinema, a multiplex in the middle of the western part of New Providence Island. The theaters are small and have seen better days, but they are kept clean. Some evening screenings along with opening and closing night ceremonies are held at the large new theater at the glitzy Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.

Screening Schedule

Movies are screened in the afternoons and evenings, usually offering at least three choices for any given time. There are no outdoor or late-night screenings.

Ticketing

Tickets are cheap ($5). You can easily buy them at the theater right before the show.

Program Notes: Minimal.

Travel: Non-stop flights operate from many major American cities. The airport is not far from Cable Beach, which is a convenient place to stay for the Festival.

Getting Around

The festival runs a shuttle between the Atlantis Resort, the Hilton and the Theaters, but it only operates every half hour and is quite erratic. You can drive, but traffic in Nassau and along the west coast road (Bay Street) is horrendous. Also, you must drive on the left. Best best is to take the 10A jitney, which runs from Frederick Street in the center of Nassau to the JFK Theaters. Cost is $1.25. (American money is accepted everywhere on the island.) If you are staying on Paradise Island, there’s a ferry that will take you to Nassau for about $4. Taxis are ubiquitous in Nassau, but you have to get someone to call one for you to get home from the theater.

Surroundings

New Providence, the most populous island in the Bahamian chain, nonetheless shares the relaxed tropical ambiance the Bahamas are famous for. Crystal-clear waters in variegated shades of turquoise and powdery white sand beaches frame small settlements dotted with British colonial architecture in an array of pastel hues. The weather is typically in the low 80s (Fahrenheit), with a small chance of rain. The Bahamian people are extremely friendly and good-humored, making visitors feel welcome and at ease.

Accommodations

The Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island and the Hilton in town are both on the festival shuttle route. Because the fest takes place just after the hurricane season and before high season rates fully kick in, accommodations can often be had for more reasonable rates than at other times. Phone: 1-888-877-7525. http://www.atlantis.com/default.aspx

The Atlantis Resort

The Atlantis Resort

In 2008 I stayed at the Westwind timeshare resort  which has a  convenient location on Cable Beach with mini-bus stop right in front. All units here have kitchens, a boon on an island where restaurants are generally expensive and not very good. Phone: 242-327-7680. http://www.westwind1.com/index.htm

Westwind Resort

Westwind Resort

Restaurants

Restaurants prices tend to be sky-high, the service slow, and the food mediocre. One option is to rent a condo and patronize the island’s many take-out places, some locally owned, others American fast-food franchises.

Best Extra-Curricular Activities

  • Best Beaches: Cabbage Beach (Paradise Island), Cable Beach.
Cable Beach

Cable Beach

  • The Retreat. An unspoiled nature preserve just east of Nassau. Village Road. 242/393-1317.
The Retreat

The Retreat

  • The Versailles Gardens and the Cloister, Paradise Island. On the grounds of the exclusive Ocean Club.
The Versailles Gardens and the Cloister.

The Versailles Gardens and the Cloister.

  • Ardastra Gardens and Zoo. A pleasant spot west of town featuring pink flamingoes and other native species. Chippingham Road. 242/323-5806. http://www.ardastra.com
Flamingo Show at the Ardastra Gardens

Flamingo Show at the Ardastra Gardens

  • Nature tours featuring glimpses of the many varieties of birdlife on the island offered by Carolyn Wardle of Bahamas Outdoors. Phone: (242) 362 1574. www.bahamasoutdoors.com E-Mail:info@bahamasoutdoors.com
Birding South Beach

Birding South Beach

Mood Movies (Films set in and around New Providence and Paradise Island you might want to watch before you go.)

Casino Royale (2006) Several scenes were shot around Nassau and Paradise Island (mostly at the exclusive Ocean Club) in this superior entry in the James Bond franchise, .

Thunderball (1965). Most of this early Bond thriller was shot in and around Nassau and includes scenes of the Junkanoo celebration, historic downtown, and various idyllic beaches.

THE FESTIVAL YEAR BY YEAR

2007

2007 Program Book

2007 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: Razzle Dazzle.A hilarious send-up of children’s dancing schools in the style of Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap).

Razzle Dazzle

Razzle Dazzle

Unexpected Pleasure: Spotting Sean Connery among an audience of about a dozen people, lending his support to the career of a young Scottish director whose film was part of the festival.

2008

2008 Program Book

2008 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: Cold Lunch. A series of absurdist vignettes of life in contemporary Oslo penned by Norwegian writer Per Schreiner.  Eva Sorhaug directs with considerable panache.

Cold Lunch

Cold Lunch

Unexpected Pleasure: The enthusiastic sold-out audience made up mostly of locals cheering on their friends and relations in Rain, Maria Govan’s portrait of life among poor Bahamians.

Rain

Rain

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