The 284 Excellence Film Competition held at U.P.’s Cineplex recognised the hard work of six creative teams who represented Virgin Islands culture. Emmanuel Phillips, director of the fantasy short film “Three Little Wishes,” took the top title. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

“Wow, it was like a real movie!” one viewer exclaimed after viewing what became the winning short film shown at the 284 Excellence Film Competition at U.P.’s Cineplex.

The feat is even more impressive considering the creator said it was made after only two days of shooting and three days of editing. His film and the five others that made it to the finals were publicly released this week, available at the BVI Film page on YouTube.

Director Emmanuel Phillips, who is based in St. Thomas, offered a fanciful take on family and hope with his short film “Three Little Wishes,” which won the award for Best Film, among other accolades, at the Nov. 19 screening.

“I think the Virgin Islands has a lot of hidden gems, and if we start to take some of these ideas and turn them into something appealing to a larger audience, it will be easy to start to envision ourselves in those settings,” Mr. Phillips said of his fantasy film.

He added that he wanted to experiment with the fantasy genre in part because it doesn’t get much attention in the current Virgin Islands film scene.

“One of the reasons why fantasy is a little difficult to do for film festivals, especially in a shorter time frame, is that you usually have to include visual effects,” he said.

With a combination of imaginative costuming, practical effects, and a few special effects to get mystical items to float mid-air, Mr. Phillips created a story that unequivocally earned the loudest applause for the Fan Favourite award during the Nov. 19 showing at the cineplex.

Guests at the 284 Excellence Film Competition are treated to live music before the screening at U.P.’s Cineplex. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

The story intertwined humour and tragedy as it followed the journey of three young boys who encounter a wish dragon on one of their frequent visits to the dock at West End on Tortola. Mr. Phillips’ young nephews stole the show that evening, garnering some of the biggest laughs of all six projects entered this year with their energetic delivery and comedic timing.

While working with the youngsters may have been a challenge, Mr. Phillips said the memorable experience was well worth it. Fellow stars Mayte’ah Phillips and Ashwan-Taedo Phillips earned awards for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively.

This film festival follows the one held in recognition of the BVI Film Commission’s 30th anniversary last year.

A variety of other genres were also featured in the competition, which was part of Culture and Tourism Month.

Three projects ventured into documentary film: “Crack of Dawn” by Camroy Peters; “A Slice of BVI Culture” by Dean “Sportsman” Greenaway and Mia Lennard; and “Dear Home, I’ll Miss You” by Melany Payano.

Mr. Peters won the First Runner-Up prize for his depiction of the legacy of fishing in the VI. His film was a celebration of the generations of anglers who venture out in the early morning to bring in the catch that feeds the community.

Opening with one-on-one interviews with recognisable figures like Elmore Stoutt, Sam Davies, Jordan Romney and more, the film explored how fishermen have had to adapt to the demands and challenges of modern-day fishing.

Director Emmanuel Phillips celebrates his film festival wins with his family. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Mr. Peters also won Best Editing, Best Screenplay, and Best Short Documentary. He said he was overjoyed and particularly surprised to win for editing.

“I loved all the other documentary submissions,” he added. “I knew when I submitted mine I was going to try to make an impact, and I’m happy that it did.”

‘Slice’ of culture

The duo depicting “A Slice of BVI Culture” cut to various aspects of traditions passed through generations of Virgin Islanders.

The documentary also featured the anglers who have brought in fish, conch, whelks and other ocean fare. But it expanded its view to celebrate the culinary and arts aspects of VI culture as well. Ms. Lennard edited the video captured by Mr. Greenaway.

Mr. Greenaway said he enjoyed taking on the creative project, which he said he couldn’t have done without the expertise of his editor.

Camroy Peters, left centre, accepts his awards for his film “Crack of Dawn.” (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

The scenes in the film were interspersed with shots of Ms Payano sitting atop a hill and journaling an ode to the territory.

Laughs and thrills

The two other entries focused on opposite ends of fiction: thriller and comedy.

Director Naudia Turnbull had viewers contemplating the intricate relationship between dreams and waking ambitions with her film “Surreal.” Her film won Second Runner-Up and Best Cinematography.

Last year, Ms. Turnbull won the Fan Favourite award for her animated film “Add Essence,” and this year she also unofficially offered an animated short for attendees’ viewing pleasure.

The tale follows a budding geologist entranced by a rare stone she discovered at The Baths on Virgin Gorda.

Ms. Turnbull said she hopes to continue exploring animation, potentially turning the short into a series. Mr. Phillips said she hopes to soon have an opportunity to work with fellow VI artists including Ms. Turnbull.

Director Naudia Turnbull had viewers contemplating the intricate relationship between dreams and waking ambitions with her film “Surreal.” Her film won Second Runner-Up and Best Cinematography. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Dwayne Vanterpool ended his film “Dove’s Little Secret” on a cliff-hanger with similar plans to expand his comedy-drama into a series. His cast’s physical comedy earned laughs from the crowd, particularly when a shoe went haphazardly flying into the air mid-scuffle between two of the lead actresses.

Board members said planning is already under way for an even bigger film festival next year.