Glitzy launch party announces Cayman’s new film festival

The Cayman Islands will be home to its very own international film festival next year following the launch of CayFilm, the Cayman Island International Film Festival, on Friday night. 

The festival is the brainchild of local photographer Tony Mark and will be hosted in Cayman between June 18 and 21 next year. 

Special guest and Oscar nominated actor Terrence Howard joined a crowd of about 250 people at a red carpet event at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Friday to officially launch the project. Mr. Howard, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in 2005’s “Hustle and Flow,” is no stranger to Cayman, having featured in the Cayman Jazz Festival in 2008. 

Guests at the event got a taste of Hollywood glitz and glamor as they were snapped by “paparazzi” as they arrived for the cocktail reception. 

Prior to the event, Mr. Howard, Mr. Mark and a CayFilm panel that included tourism councilor Joey Hew, film director Jonathan Chu, Virgin Produced chief executive officer Jason Felts, and Rene Rigal of EVP Motion Pictures, held a press conference to outline their plans and hopes for the upcoming film festival. 

Mr. Mark said that, in association with the Cayfilm festival, a Cayman Film Institute would provide a solid platform for local artists.  

This semester has already seen 12 students attend the program at the University College of the Cayman Islands, with plans to later expand the program to a full-time associate’s degree program. 

“[We created it] with the goal of training young Caymanians to be able to make their own movies and also to be able to support and be an infrastructure so we can start bringing down some big Hollywood movies to be shot here,” Mr. Mark said. 

Mr. Hew said the festival would allow the Cayman Islands to tap into local talent that currently did not a platform for expression.  

“There is a lot of opportunity here in the Cayman Islands for the film industry. We have a lot of young people who are interested and talented,” Mr. Hew said. “We are going to start promoting the Cayman Islands to shoot small films and to actually become a major player in the world of film.” 

A regular visitor to Cayman from a young age, Virgin Produced’s Mr. Felts explained that the advent of a film festival for him was extremely personal. 

“Introducing it [CayFilm] to the island and to the world is a huge deal,” Mr. Felts said. “The Cayman Islands as a world-class destination is perfectly positioned to really make its mark.”  

The beauty of the Cayman Islands would prove a draw for filmmakers, Mr. Rigal pointed out, but said there was more to it than that. 

“Obviously, the location is beautiful but it’s never just the location, it’s the culture, it’s the people and I think there’s such a warmth and there’s such a richness and there’s such a friendliness here,” he said.  

“There’s a soul to the people and I also like that it’s a melting pot of different cultures, the sum of all that coming together is something that’s really inspiring. Here there is always so much energy with everything that goes on,” he added. 

The launch party featured a screening of the film “The Two Faces of January,” starring Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac.  

cayfilm cayman islands

The panel of CayFilm talk about their hopes for the festival. From left, Joey Hew, Tony Mark, Terrence Howard, Jonathan Chu, Jason Felts and Rene Rigal. – Photos: Laura Buttigieg