The fourth-annual Bahamas International Film Festival awarded its top prize, the Spirit of Freedom, to Paul Haggis' In The Valley Of Elah, while the New Vision Award went to director Jennifer Sharp's Los Angeles-set romantic comedy I'm Through With White Girls, starring Anthony Montgomery and Bahamian-born actress-producer Lia Johnson.
Actor Anthony Mackie, one of the stars of Half Nelson (which won the New Vision Award last year) handed out the prizes, keeping with the festival's laid-back vibe by joking about his extracurricular activities at BIFF, which takes place at the enormous Atlantis resort complex, including hitting the water slides, drinking rum-flavoured cocktails and meeting 'Bahama Mamas.'
Prizes were also awarded to Daniel Junge and Siatta Scott Johnson's The Iron Ladies Of Liberia, which garnered the Spirit Of Freedom - Documentary prize, and director Hoku Uchiyama's exquisite short film Rose. Founder and festival director Leslie Vanderpool capped off the ceremony by announcing that BIFF's Filmmaker Residency Program was awarding $10,000 to local Bahamian filmmaker Gustavius Smith towards his project Built For Load.
This year's festival screened 88 features and short films and proved a creative forum for invited talent, including Stuart Townsend and Martin Henderson, writer-director and star respectively of the docudrama Battle For Seattle, which opened the festival following a glitzy, Versace-sponsored bash complete with catwalk fashion show and fireworks display over the harbor.
Also in attendance were directors David Mackenzie (Hallam Foe) and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson), while turning up again to lend his support as festival patron was Sean Connery, who presented Daryl Hannah with BIFF's Special Achievement Award and declared that he backs the building of a proper festival centre in Nassau to build BIFF as an event that can engage the local population year round.