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Interview with Duncan Hall, BIFF Deputy Director

On the eve of the Bermuda International Film Festival (BIFF), which began its tenth celebration on Friday, and Online Dailies Editor Sandy Mandelberger had an exchange with Duncan Hall, BIFF Deputy Director, about this year's special celebration.

Sandy Mandelberger: What are some of the exciting events being planned for the Festival’s 10th anniversary?

Duncan Hall: The centerpiece event of the festival is A Conversation With…Earl Cameron, the Bermudian actor whose film career spans more than 50 years. Earl grew up on Angle Street in Hamilton, a stone’s throw from the Liberty Theatre where A Conversation With… will take place. He was working as a merchant seaman when WWII broke out, and his ship was diverted to England. He did not have a passport with him, so he was stuck there. He got a job in a hotel – but a friend was appearing in a play in the West End and encouraged Earl to come along one night. He ended up in the play, was offered more parts – and launched a career that, more recently, has seen him appear in THE QUEEN and THE INTERPRETER. On Saturday March 17 at 1 p.m. at Liberty Theatre, we are screening Earl’s first film, POOL OF LONDON. Afterwards, Earl will sit down with U.S. film critic Peter Rainer, a frequent visitor to the festival, for a chat, then we’ll have a reception in his honour. The film programme always excites us, as does the presence on the island of so many of the filmmakers.

SM: What are some of the major ways that the Festival has grown in the past number of years?

DH: We began the festival in 1997 with 22 films over seven days in two cinemas. We grew to 28 films by 2000, but since then the festival has really taken off. This year, we are screening 85 films from 32 countries. The introduction of a World Cinema showcase, with which we take a ‘festival of festivals’ approach, screening films that have been well-received at the world’s top festivals, has proven very popular. Over the years we have added elements on a regular basis – we began screening films for children five years ago. Today we continue to do so in the main festival and also present the BIFF Kids Children’s Film Festival every October. The scope and quality of our short film programme received a real boost when, three years ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science recognised us as a Qualifying Festival for the Short Film Academy Award.

SM: How did the choice of honoring actor Earl Cameron come about and what are you hoping audiences discover about him?

DH: I guess the interesting aspect of Earl’s career for us is that we are all well aware of the ground-breaking work that Sydney Poitier was engaged in, but perhaps less well-known is that, on the other side of the Atlantic, Earl was doing similar pioneering work in the United Kingdom. I think people will appreciate even more what Earl means to the film business when they learn more about his history.

SM: What are some of the special qualities of the island of Bermuda that you hope guests will experience while they attend the Festival?

DH: People here are naturally hospitable. Our festival runs on volunteer power – and they help us by embracing festival guests with a level of hospitality that we have been told by guests in previous years is warm, friendly and inviting. The other element is the beauty of the island. Pink sand, azure blue water, the colourful houses with white roofs…Bermuda is a special place for visitors.

SM: What are some of the goals of the Festival in your second decade?

DH: We have built an event that is tremendously popular on the island, and that has been recognised by our visitors as a regional festival with a strong film programme. Our filmmakers tell us that we embrace the art of film, and so of course we want to ensure that we continue to be recognised in those ways. Beyond that, our goal as we enter our second decade is to build a strong financial platform for future growth. The corporate community in Bermuda is a generous supporter of the festival, but if we are to grow and develop we require additional support, and that may have to come from an international sponsor. Finding sponsor support outside Bermuda is our greatest challenge.

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