Indie Shop's Indie Film Touts Caymans


Cayman Went tells the story of Josh Anders, star of a fictional TV series called Diver Down, who flies to Cayman Brac at the behest of a mogul who wants to build an oceanfront resort there, but needs some choice land owned by recalcitrant islanders. The mogul knows the series (and the actor) are popular in the Caymans, and tries to use that to win over the locals.

The actor, played by Michael Lombardi, has some early success, but runs into a roadblock with Rodgers Bowman, a sixtysomething eccentric whose parcel of land sits within the proposed development. Anders works hard to win him over, but in the process grows to appreciate the old-timer's love for the island, and ultimately becomes aligned with islanders rather than his boss.

The lead character's transformation from smug, self-centered actor to island enthusiast is triggered in part by the natural beauty of Cayman Brac, a relatively small, underdeveloped island of about 1,500 residents. In one scene, Anders scuba dives with a woman who is a wildlife expert and encounters a school of yellowtail snapper, a coral reef and a giant stingray. Thus, the island itself acts as a main character in the movie and one that is pivotal to Anders' change of heart.

Ritterhoff and Sheehan "both started to see the priority of the story" rather than the marketing angle, according to the director. "You could go and shoot a pretty movie and, at the end of the day, it's like, who cares?" said Sheehan. "We don't want to make a 90-minute infomercial for the Cayman Islands. Jim is the owner of an ad agency and he's the first person to say that."

One outside investor, bond trader Bob Eick, sees Cayman Went as a "feel-good" film in the vein of Flipper and Swiss Family Robinson that could fit either on the big screen or on a family-oriented cable network. Eick, who also invested in the 1999 indie breakout hit The Blair Witch Project, believes Cayman Went is highly marketable as a message movie that can appeal equally to 10-year-olds and 50-year-olds.

As a tourism vehicle, Ketchell hopes the film can do for this small set of Caribbean islands what Sideways did for the Santa Barbara wine region of California or what Field of Dreams did for Iowa. That said, Hurricane Paloma, a Category 4 storm, badly damaged Cayman Brac in early November and has dampened such enthusiasm. Ritterhoff has offered to screen the film on Grand Cayman to raise money for rebuilding.

"As a film, we want to do what we can," Ritterhoff said last week. "The tricky part is managing the messaging."