After experiencing several film festivals, Patrick Jerome, Haitian-American filmmaker, realized that nothing like this existed in Boston. Arriving in America to a different film industry, he created the Boston International Film Festival (BIFF) to not only present his own films, but to bring culture and movies throughout the world to the city.
With only a small number of films accepted, the Tenth Annual BIFF will be screening over 100 movies from 30 countries at the Boston Common AMC Loews. Jerome said a record-breaking number of filmmakers are coming from South Korea, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the Netherlands, and France.
“It has been a great adventure because Boston didn’t have an international film festival and we are very excited about this,” he said.
From April 13-22, filmmakers, directors, and actors from all over the world will be making appearances throughout the week. This year’s BIFF opens with the short film “The Magic Man” and followed by feature film “Dambis” with a Red Carpet event preceding the 9 p.m. screening. Jerome will be presenting two of his latest films: “Beyond Control” and “Open Vacancy,” which features Haitian actors.
“It makes me feel happy and proud that so many movies are coming this year that keep up the international spirit,” he said.
Jerome, who has been a filmmaker for over 20 years, emphasized that he is a screenwriter first, but also a director and producer. He said his scripts are derived from inspiration and real-life experiences and events.
While still living in Haiti, Jerome, 19 at the time, created his first film “Rezo San Pitye” (Ruthless Gang), which focused on gang violence in the country. He said there was no industry in Haiti, so a filmmaker must “get driven by their passion.”
“You have to be very ambitious, and I managed to make a film and climb a big mountain,” he said. “From Haiti to the U.S., it was a different experience and once you have talent, you find your way through.”
When moving to the U.S. and settling in Boston, Jerome said it was difficult to get back into the film industry. In 2001, he wrote his first movie in America, “Deportation.” As an American Red Cross social worker, he was inspired by the people he met who had issues with the law and were threatened to be deported from the country.
After raising half a million dollars, he created another film “Holla at Me,” which he described as a hit man haunted by his conscience, and continued producing films every year.
After working on a movie with some friends, Jerome shared his ideas with them to create an international film festival as a way to present their films to the city, family, and friends. After getting in touch with the city and explaining the concept, he said he received a great deal of support from the mayor’s and governor’s office.
“It was a mind-blowing experience because we didn’t know what we were getting into, but it was very much welcomed in Boston,” he said.
Jerome said he was surprised that the festival was getting “bombarded” by Hollywood films, but the biggest surprise was the attendance of renowned actors such as Patrick Swayze, Michelle Naomi, and Jack Black, who attended the first year of BIFF.
With a more competitive film industry, he said it is interesting to watch other’s films at the festival because you learn from them and meet other filmmakers, especially with technology constantly evolving. When he started, digital software, linear editing, HD formatting did not exist, but Jerome remained in the business because he felt it was his gift.
“One thing about films is that good movies can remain good movies,” Jerome said. “The ideas and scripts are what make good films and the technology is what doesn’t matter.”
Tickets are $250 for an all Access VIP pass, which includes the opening and closing night galas, $75 for an all screening pass, and $12 for individual sessions. You can purchase tickets at the theatre or the BIFF website.