Flowers (right) pictures on a commercial shoot on the Brac hopes to base his new movie, The Bluff, on the island. Photo: Naomi Johnatty

Cayman Islands film-maker Frank E. Flowers has landed a deal with streaming giant Netflix to direct a major feature film based on the islands.

Flowers will direct and co-write the movie set in the 1800s and starring Zoe Saldana as the lead character Ercell, a Caribbean woman whose secret past is revealed when her island is invaded by pirates.

Flowers told the Cayman Compass that he and co-writer Joe Ballarini came up with the concept while on lockdown in Los Angeles. They are currently working on the script and hope to shoot the movie, provisionally titled ‘The Bluff’, in Cayman.

The title has a double meaning, says Flowers, but literally refers to its primary setting on the Brac landmark during the early settlements. 

“To maintain authenticity, it would be great to film as much of the movie there as we can,” he said.

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Deadline Hollywood announced Wednesday that Netflix had won a “hotly contested auction” for the movie, which will be co-produced by the Russo brothers, whose previous credits include the Avengers movies and Chris Hemsworth thriller ‘Extraction’.

Zoe Saldana and Frank E. Flowers collaborated previously on his debut movie ‘Haven’.

Flowers said he was excited by the project and happy to work again with Saldana, who starred in his debut movie, ‘Haven’, filmed in Grand Cayman in 2004.

“It is a blessing to have such an incredible team of creatives come together to make a feature film that has authentic Caymanian roots with commercial action elements and starring a female lead who hails from the Caribbean,” Flowers said.

“Like many young women, my daughter looks up to Zoe and is inspired by her pride in her Caribbean culture. I am so thankful to be part of changing the narrative in Hollywood about what it means to be a hero.”

Caribbean stories

He said the story was grounded in Caribbean culture and based on historical documents and folklore from the islands, mixed with a “tight, twisting plot and visceral action”.

He added, “It’s an incredible opportunity for us to share a fresh narrative about the islands, one that shows historical richness and the varied physical locations found within the shores. I also see it as an opportunity to further train and inspire local filmmakers to tell their stories.”

The details of the shoot have still to be finalised.

Flowers said he hoped it could be filmed on the islands but acknowledged there was work to be done to ensure Cayman could host a production of this scale.

Flowers and crew on the set of the Cisco commercial, filmed on the Brac last year. – Photo: Naomi Johnatty

“Even before this project, I have been working with the Government and other private sector parties to facilitate filmmaking as a new industry for the Cayman Islands. It has been a productive start, with the Cisco commercial I directed last month and some other productions which will begin shooting here in March.

“There is still much to do in order to attract bigger budget projects but with the right vision and support, anything is possible.”

He said ‘The Bluff’ was a special project for him because it would showcase a story that reflects Cayman and its people.

“For too long, Caribbean stories have been absent from mainstream films. Right now, audiences are asking for these authentic narratives, and I truly hope our efforts inspire more Caymanians to embrace different career paths, to take pride in our stories and realise that they need to be told.

“One day, Lord willing, we can evolve to a place where film and television is a viable, sustainable career option for more artists in Cayman.”

The movie will be produced by Mariel and Cisely Saldana for Cinestar and by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Mike Larocca and Angela Russo-Otstot for AGBO.

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