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#"/Online Online Coverage of the 2007 Bermuda International Film Festival


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Native Son Earl Cameron Honored At Festival

 

Saturday, March 17-----Actor Earl Cameron, a Bermuda native son who found fame as the "English Sidney Poitier" in several trailblazing English films of in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is being honored at the Bermuda International Film Festival. This evening, A Conversation With Earl Cameron will feature the distinguished actor, who will discuss his career and the changing role for black talents in the film industry.

From the moment he first appeared on screen, as a young Jamaican in POOL OF LONDON (directed by Basil Dearden in 1951), Earl Cameron brought a breath of fresh air to the British film industry's stuffy depictions of race relations. Often cast as a sensitive outsider, Cameron gave his characters a moral authority that often surpassed the films' compromised liberal agendas. Born in Bermuda in 1917, Cameron first arrived in Britain on the eve of the Second World War, working in the Merchant Navy. In 1942, he talked his way into a part in a West End production and eventually learned his craft in the post-war London theater. His big break in films came in 1950 when he was cast in the part of Johnny in POOL OF LONDON. Made in the wake of Ealing's hugely successful THE BLUE LAMP (1950, also directed by Dearden), the film was a diamond-heist caper, but was also one of the first British films to deal with a mixed-race romance.

But despite great reviews, Cameron's success didn't lead to stardom and he found little work without a studio contract. Filling his time with bit parts and cameos, the actor's struggle reveals the lack of opportunity for black actors during the 1950s. It wasn't until 1955's SIMBA (directed by Brian Desmond Hurst) that Cameron appeared in another major part in a drama about the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, opposite Dirk Bogarde. This success led to parts on television and in film, culminating in the landmark British race dramas SAPPHIRE (1959, Basil Dearden) and FLAME IN THE STREETS (1961, Roy Ward Baker). In his way, Cameron was a kind of "English Sidney Poitier" by being cast as sympathetic, intelligent characters who are the moral center of the action around them.

In the 1960s, Cameron was cast in supporting roles in several large scale productions, including GUNS AT BATASI (1964) and in the James Bond film THUNDERBALL (1965). He actually starred opposite his friend Sidney Poitier in A WARM DECEMBER (1972), and had strong roles in several political films including THE MESSAGE (1976) and CUBA (1979). By the 1980s, Cameron retired, moving to the Solomon Islands as a member of the Baha'i community. He resumed his career in the 1990s, and appeared in the past few years in such films as REVELATION (2002), the Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn thriller THE INTERPRETER (2005, directed by Sydney Pollack) and in this year's Oscar-nominated THE QUEEN, as the official portrait painter who appears with Helen Mirren in the opening scenes of the film. Among the actor's many accolades over his long career include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council in 1999 and a retrospective by the prestigious National Film Theatre in London in 2002.

The Bermuda International Film Festival will be presenting a retrospective of Cameron's most influential films during the next week, reminding audiences and visiting professionals of his seminal role in the development of a more mature film portrayal of black actors on the silver screen. “We are delighted that we will be welcoming Mr. Cameron home on the occasion of the Festival's tenth anniversary", Festival Deputy Director Duncan Hall stated.  “Having a ‘son of the soil’ as one of our featured guests will be one of the highlights of the festival week.”

Sandy Mandelberger, Bermuda FF Online Dailies Editor

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Online Coverage of the 2007 Bermuda International Film Festival

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