Shooting Stars – CayFilm Film Festival 2017: Lights, Camera, Action!

Sponsors, celebrities and guests gather at the Closing Night Gala, held in The Ritz-Carlton ballroom, with actor Wes Studi and Hollywood agent Michael Black kneeling in front.

“Film, Food and Fashion” was the theme of the 2017 CayFilm International Film Festival, held exclusively at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. From June 30 – July 3, filmmakers mingled with visiting celebrities and ticketholders keen to see short and feature films submitted from countries around the globe.

The Friday Opening Night event, which was accessible to VIP ticket holders only, celebrated the 25th anniversary of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” The Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom foyer was transformed into a gothic lair where Dracula himself and one of his female victims posed for pictures with those who dared stand beside them.

James V. Hart, the screenwriter of the film, was present for the reception and introduced the special screening held later that night.

Unlike the cold temperatures one might expect to encounter in Transylvania, the event was an unseasonably warm one, even indoors. A power cut on the western side of the island had The Ritz-Carlton running on generators, and so the ballroom foyer was fighting against the hot outdoor temperatures. Luckily, the power came back just in time for the film to proceed.

Saturday was dedicated to screenings and panels, including the rare opportunity to meet Loren Carpenter, cofounder of Pixar. The day’s schedule ran from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with moviegoers moving from one screening room to the next, bags of popcorn in hand.

Sunday brought special effects guru Dieter Sturm to the ballroom, talking about his body of work and the wonders of movie magic, followed by a film acting class taught by actor Wes Studi and his wife Maura Dhu Studi. These interactive sessions and film screenings throughout the day culminated in an extraordinary dinner at Blue by Eric Ripert, with the famous chef himself taking up the spatula in the kitchen.

Celebrities, visitors and residents mingled at a cocktail reception and were then invited to sit for a four-course dinner with wine pairing that took them from tuna carpaccio through poached scallops with wild mushrooms and smoked butter to seared tenderloin with a truffle jus and dessert.

Chef Ripert visited the tables throughout the evening, adding a very personalized touch to a rare and special culinary experience.

On Monday, in a nod to the food and fashion additions to the CayFilm theme, the morning screenings in Ballroom 1 were dedicated to the subject of food, and in the Rembro Room in the afternoon, three local designers – Kenzie Rose, Isy Obi, and Olivia B – presented some of their latest designs and spoke about their creative inspirations.

It was around this time that VIP ticket holders started heading home to dress in their finest for the Pixar-themed Closing Night Gala. The décor did not disappoint.

Boo’s door from “Monster’s Inc.” stood sentinel at the main entrance to the ballroom while out on the verandah, the main bar threatened to lift from its foundations, thanks to a crowd of multicolored balloons soaring above it in an ode to “Up.”

The center of a 360-degree white lounging couch rose into a flurry of “corals,” “sea fans,” and other underwater flora and fauna, instantly recognizable to fans of “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory.”

Once the ballroom was ready to open its doors, it was a countdown to the awards ceremony which recognized films submitted from countries around the world.

Screenwriter James V. Hart was given a lifetime achievement award, as was Loren Carpenter, part of a night that saw winning local and international filmmakers accepting their trophies with gratitude.

“It has been another great year,” said Tony Mark, cofounder of the CayFilm Film Festival with his wife Jenn. “Once again, we saw an extraordinary range of films and it was wonderful to see the growing interest of local filmmakers in the industry.

“We can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2018!”