Cayman film festival ready for debut

Cayfilm, the Cayman Islands International Film Festival, will open Thursday, June 18, with a screening of “Serena” starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, followed by a star-studded gala at Camana Bay. 

Creating new interest in the Cayman Islands as a world-class filming destination, the three-day festival plans to open up the world to Cayman’s young and aspiring filmmakers.  

“It is way bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said festival director,Tony Mark. “I thought it would start small and develop by year five. This is like my year five already and it is my first one. It is a little overwhelming, but the support has been great.” 

Ticket sales have been swift: Of 350 VIP passes, only 40 are left. The VIP passes allow access to everything on the schedule, including the opening gala, the closing gala and awards ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Saturday,June 20.  

“A lot of the film festivals in the Caribbean haven’t been gaining momentum,” said Mark. “We are in a really good position because our infrastructure, our security, and our luxury is able to attract people.” 

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Mark, an Emmy-winning video editor, writer and director who has worked on hit TV shows and feature films for 20 years, has lived in Cayman for five years. He has served on the boards of various film festivals in the U.S., and he is a local photographer and videographer and runs Cathy Church’s Photo Centre with his wife Jennifer.  

Mark grew up in San Francisco, and his mother worked for Francis Ford Coppola and for Lucasfilm. He attended the School of Performing Arts in San Francisco and graduated with a film degree from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. 

He has run an after-school program at John Gray High School and has introduced a pilot program at University College of the Cayman Islands on the craft of movie making.  

Young filmmakers  

As part of the film festival, several free screenings and workshops are scheduled for young filmmakers and actors, and anyone who is interested, at the Harquail Theatre on Friday, June 19.  

This underlines the festival’s intention of encouraging film education in the Cayman community. The films at the Harquail will put the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s Young Image Makers, the Department of Tourism’s “Through My Eyes” and Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s Underwater Film Festival initiatives all under the Cayfilm umbrella. 

The winners in this category will be announced that day with prizes awarded by Nickelodeon actors Carlos Pena (“Big Time Rush”) and Alexa Vega (“Spy Kids”). The winners will be invited to the festival’s closing awards ceremony. 

The festival team is also working to develop the Cayman Media Academy to educate Cayman’s youth by offering classes and qualifications relating to different career fields in the industry. This will be run throughout the year with the eventual goal of establishing a full-time associate degree program at the University College of the Cayman Islands. 

Teri Schwartz, the dean of UCLA Film School (one of the five top film schools in the world), is to be presented with the inaugural award for Outstanding Achievement in Film Producing at the festival’s closing gala and awards ceremony.  

“It is a wonderful honour to receive this distinguished award by the Cayman International Film Festival,” Schwartz said in a press release. “I am looking forward to attending this inaugural year, which promises to be an exciting celebration of great filmmaking.”  

Schwartz, who produced movies such as “Nuts” and “Sister Act,” is keen to develop an exchange program.  

George Town MLA and Tourism Ministry Councilor Joey Hew has supported the event from inception. He believes it will encourage local talent and showcase the islands as a world-class film location. 

Cayfilm board members and judges 

Jason Felts, CEO of Virgin Produced and executive producer of “Limitless” and “Immortals” is an official member of the board of advisers and partner of the festival. 

Other board advisers include Loren Carpenter, chief co-founder of Pixar and pioneer innovator in computer animation, talent manager Michael Black, and producer Robert Watts. 


Some 600 films from 56 countries were submitted and 200 (30 of which are local films) will be shown at the festival. 

“I was so happy to get so many local films,” said Mark. “I sent them all to my international judges so the films that got in are based purely on their merit. They didn’t get in just because they were from Cayman.” 

The categories include animation, narrative features, environmental focus, documentaries and extreme sports, and there are six nominations in each category.  

Cayfilm schedule 

11 screens are being set up at the Harquail Theatre, the National Gallery Cayman Islands and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, with special screenings to be held at Camana Bay on Thursday and Friday of the festival. 

Scenes from Rundown and from the Cayman Drama Society’s production of “Duets” and their upcoming show “Rent” will add to the mix of local talent and Hollywood heavyweights. 

Highlights of screenings include “The Week” starring Rick Gomez; James Franco’s “Yosemite;” the documentary “Poetry is an Island” about the Nobel winner Derek Walcott; and the international premiere of “Unexpected,” starring Cobie Smulders (“How I met your Mother”) and Anders Holm.  

Notable events include a live Skype talk with Jon Chu, the director of “GI Joe” and the “Step Up”; an animation workshop by Academy Award-winning Pixar founder Lauren Carpenter; acting workshops with Brian Cox (“Planet of the Apes,” “Red” and “Braveheart”) and Wes Studi (“Dances with Wolves,” “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Geronimo”); and a screen-writing panel by Paul Schrader (“Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”) and James Hart (“Hook” and “Contact”). 

The online schedule is color coded to show the various categories. 

“At any given time there could be 11 things going on at the same time,” said Mark. “You have a pass and that pass gets you around so you can pick what you want to go to, but you cannot possibly go to everything.  

“If you are a film lover, there is something for you; if you are a filmmaker there is something for you,” added Mark.  

  • Ticket information 
  • US$82 for the General Pass 
  • US$420 for the VIP Pass 
  • available on line and at Cathy Church Photo Center, Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Books and Books and Discovery Center at Camana Bay 

Check out the events on


From left, Joey Hew, Tony Mark, Terrence Howard and Jon Chu at the launch of Cayfilm last year.


Terrence Howard at Cayfilm Launch June 2014


Terrence Howard, Governor Helen Kilpatrick and Festival Director Tony Mark at the Cayfilm launch June 2014.


Rick Gomez

Dean-Teri-SchwartzUCLA Dean Teri Schwartz


Wes Studi


Reno Wilson


Paul Schrader
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