Competition Categories:

Spirit of Freedom: Narrative & documentary

BIFF has held Spirit of Freedom as one of its themed categories since it's very first festival.  Each film in this program explores the potential of the human spirit and how freedom affects - or is absent from - our lives.  


Our New Visions competition is a showcase for emerging artists, providing festival audiences with the opportunity to discover the next generation of visionary filmmakers. A Grand Jury Prize will be presented to the New Vision film category.  

Short Films

A short film is 31 minutes or less and often the only place where young filmmakers have the chance to explore story telling through cinema. Film Festivals are one of the few venues where multiple short films can experienced. BIFF is pleased to present one of the most interesting and diverse lineups of short films. A Grand Jury Prize will be presented to the Short film category.


Susan Batten

Screenwriters Mentor

Susan Batten is best known for her role as Luna Moody Holden on One Life to Live, a role she originally played from 1991 to 1995.

She graduated from North Carolina School Of The Arts and Columbia University Film School. She wrote and produced the film, SHOWING ROOTS, starring Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Grace, and Cicely Tyson.

Nate Kohn

Screenwriters Mentor

Dr. Nathaniel Kohn is professor at the University of Georgia and Associate Director of the George Foster Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in electronic media.  He directs the University of Georgia Cannes Festival Study Abroad Program and co-directs the University of Georgia Cannes Lions Advertising Festival Study Abroad Program.


He is also festival director of Roger Ebert's Film Festival, and he was co-founder and director of Robert Osborne’s Classic Film Festival. 


Dr. Kohn's credits as Producer include the Academy Award nominated Zulu Dawn starring Burt Lancaster and Peter O’Toole; the independent feature Somebodies, which premiered in competition at Sundance (2006); Rain, starring Nicki Micheaux and CCH Pounder, the Bahamas’ first indigenous feature which premiered at Toronto (2007) and on Showtime (2010); the feature film Bottleworld (2010); he was Executive Producer on the BET television series Somebodies (2008); and he is Producer on the feature length documentary Bayou Maharajah that premiered at the SXSW Festival (2013).


He has served on juries and mentored at the Atlanta International Film Festival, the Hawaii International Film Festival, the Kerala International Film Festival and the Bahamas International Film Festival. 


He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and of the book Pursuing Hollywood: Seduction, Obsession, Dread (AltaMira Press, 2006).

Dan Mirvish

Grand Jury

An award-winning filmmaker and author, Dan’s made several features, including Between Us, which starred Julia Stiles, Taye Diggs, Melissa George and David Harbour.  The film played at 23 festivals in 7 countries (winning the Grand Prize, Spirit of Freedom at the Bahamas International Film Festival in 2013), had a 50+ city theatrical release in the US, aired on Showtime, Starz and Netflix and sold to 144 countries. Dan is currently in post-production on his new film Bernard and Huey, which was scripted by Pulitzer, Oscar and Obie-winner Jules Feiffer. The film stars Oscar-winner Jim Rash, David Koechner, Sasha Alexander, Richard Kind, Nancy Travis, Bellamy Young, Eka Darville, Lauren Miller Rogen and Mae Whitman.


On his first film, Omaha (the movie), Dan was mentored by Robert Altman.  The film went on to play in over 30 international festivals and get a theatrical release in 32 US cities.  Dan’s film Open House, starring Anthony Rapp and Sally Kellerman, was distributed by The Weinstein Company and literally was the film that rewrote the rules of the Academy Awards’ Best Original Musical category.  Dan also co-founded the Slamdance Film Festival and is still actively involved as the mentor for new filmmakers.  Mirvish is the author of the critically-acclaimed nonfiction book The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking which was released this year from Focal Press/Routledge.  He also co-authored his best-selling novel I Am Martin Eisenstadt, which was the #3 “Book of the Year” for 2009, according to The Washington Monthly.

Jib Polheums

Screenwriters Mentor

Jib Polhemus is a manager/producer who has worked in the entertainment business for the past 20 years.  He recently founded the literary management company, Source Artist Management where he represents writers and directors. 


He started his career at CAA, where he met legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis, who hired him as a development executive.  While at De Laurentiis, he worked on numerous films including Paramount’s breakout hit, BREAKDOWN, starring Kurt Russell and directed by Jon Mostow.


From there he was hired as President of Simon West Productions, where he has developed and sold numerous high profile projects to numerous studios including: Warner Brothers, Universal, FOX, Paramount, Sony and others.


Currently he is Producing SALTY starring Antonio Banderas and Olga Kurylenko which wrapped July.  He is just finishing up post on a film he Executive Produced called STRATTON starring Dominic Cooper and Connie Nielsen.  Previously, he Executive Produced WILD CARD starring Jason Statham and Stanley Tucci for Lionsgate.  In addition, he co-produced blockbuster EXPENDABLES 2, starring Sylvester Stallone,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Jason Statham, and Executive Produced STOLEN starring Nicolas Cage.


He is also produced the graphic novel inspired NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: Darkest Dawn currently being released by Walla Distribution.  In 2011, he co-produced The MECHANIC, starring Jason Statham and Ben Foster, and also Associate Produced Paramount’s mega-blockbuster LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER, starring Angelina Jolie. 


During his tenure at Simon West Productions, he has overseen production and development on several other films including Oscar-winning BLACK HAWK DOWN, Sony’s WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, and Paramount’s hit, THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER written by best selling author Nelson DeMille.


In television, he has developed and sold shows to most of the top networks including CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC and WB.  Most recently, he is directing and producing, CRIMINALS for award winning documentary filmmaker’s Nick Fraser ’s company YADOO.  In the network world, he recently sold 40 Elephants to TNT and Lionsgate.  Previously, he Co-Executive Produced THE CAPE for NBC and HUMAN TARGET for FOX.  He has overseen a production deal at CBS Studios for the past 10 years and is currently developing projects with Entertainment One and Lionsgate TV/TNT studios as an Executive Producer.


In his free time, Mr. Polhemus is on the advisory board of Bahamas International Film Festival and lectures for the Columbia College of Chicago in film studies. He resides in Los Angeles, California.

Steve Shor

Grand Jury

With over twenty-five years in the motion picture industry, Steve Shor has worked in a variety of positions at a number of Studios.  His array of experience ranges from casting, production and agency/management positions. 

Steve's last studio was ten years with Columbia/TriStar Pictures as Manager of Business Affairs

Upon leaving TriStar, Steve started EarthArt Productions, where he developed and represented motion picture properties.  This operation merged with Red Sky Films, where Steve developed an independent film business plan to compliment Red Sky's successful commercial and interactive endeavors. 

Steve is currently an independent producer with a variety of projects in development and is in production on a documentary "Straws".


Steve was on the programming committee for the AFI International Film Festival (ten years) and consults with other festivals.  He is currently the  program director to the Sonoma International Film Festival; program director at the Long Beach Int’l Film Festival and a programmer/consultant for the Newport Beach Film Festival. He was also programmer for the Abu Dahbi Film Festival (two years), a board member (eight years) of the Hartley-Merrill International Screenwriting Prize.  

Christine Swanson

Screenwriters Mentor

Multiple award-winning filmmaker Christine Swanson earned her MFA in Film from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, one of the nation's top-ranked graduate film programs. Recognized early as a talented filmmaker, Christine was selected by NYU faculty as the Willard T.C. Johnson Fellow, the most prestigious fellowship given to the student who has achieved high standards in his or her work.


In December 2015, Christine received an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Television Motion Picture for For the Love of Ruth. Christine also directed three original cable movie premieres, To Hell and Back (starring Ernie Hudson and Vanessa Bell Calloway), For the Love of Ruth (starring Denise Boutte, Loretta Devine, Gary Dourdan and James Pickens, Jr.) and Love Under New Management , The Miki Howard Story (starring Teyonah Parris, Darius McCrary and Gary Dourdan) which broke network ratings as the most watched original movie in network history.


Christine was recently tapped to direct the feature film, Buffalo Soldier Girl , a true story based on the life of Cathy Williams, the first black female Buffalo soldier. Christine is also adapting the award-winning book, Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, into a screenplay. Christine is a professor at the low residency MFA Screenwriting Program at the University of Georgia as well an advisor to the Film and Television program at the University of Notre Dame, her alma mater. Christine resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Michael, and their children. 

Kurt Wimmer

Screenwriters Mentor

He attended the University of South Florida and graduated with a BFA degree in Art History. He then moved to Los Angeles where he worked for 12 years as a screenwriter before making his 2002 film, Equilibrium. In numerous interviews he cites Equilibrium as his directorial debut and first film, in which he also has a cameo role as a practitioner of the fictional martial art Gun Kata; however his actual directorial debut was the 1995 action film One Tough Bastard, starring Brian Bosworth and Bruce Payne.

Debra Zimmerman

Grand Jury

Debra Zimmerman has been the Executive Director of Women Make Movies, a non-profit NY based social enterprising organization that supports women filmmakers, since 1983. During her tenure it has grown into the largest distributor of films by and about women in the world. WMM’s internationally recognized Production Assistance Program has helped hundreds of women get their films made. Films from WMM programs have been nominated or won Academy Awards for ten of the last eleven years.

She is in great demand around the world as a speaker on independent film distribution, marketing and financing as well as on women's cinema. She has moderated panels and given master classes at the Sundance Film Festival, MIPDOC and Reel Screen as well as film festivals in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.  She has keynoted conferences and spoken on panels, including the Women’s Film History Conference at the University of Sunderland in 2011 and at the 2011 Visible Evidence Conference at NYU and the 2012 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference at Boston University.   She lectures regularly at universities across the United States, including Harvard, Smith College, Bryn Mawr, UCLA and others. 


Zimmerman has been closely affiliated with the International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) as the co-host of the Talk of the Day and as a tutor for their Summer Film Academy. She has been on the juries of festivals around the world including the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Cartagena Film Festival (FICCI), and the Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival, among others. In addition, she has mentored filmmakers at the Ex-Oriente Film Workshop in Vienna, the Sheffield DocuFest and for many years at the National Alliance of Latino Independent Producers’ (NALIP) Academy. She sits on the Board of Directors of Cinema Tropical, a resource for Latino independent filmmakers and on the Advisory Board of the Center for Social Media at American University.  She is the recipient of numerous awards including the New York Women in Film and Television’s Loreen Arbus Changemaker Award, the Athena Award and Hot Doc’s 2013 Doc Mogul Award, given to those who "over the course of their career has made an essential contribution to the creative vitality of the documentary industry, both in his or her country or abroad."  



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