Film Festival Tourism: Bahamas, December 2012

Johnny Depp and Leslie Vanderpool

For upper income groups, cultural tourism has developed over the last decade into a significant part of their leisure activities over the last decades. The consumption of soft cultural products such as visual representations and film has become an integral part of their life. Film festival tourism, a relatively recent phenomenon has emerged as a significant niche market. If film festivals meet specific conditions, they have a growing appeal for cultural tourists and film professionals. They also provide obvious economic benefits to the area where they are being held.

Among these conditions are quality programs, small size of the festival, interaction with film makers, attractive festival location, upscale hotel accommodations and restaurants, and other cultural attractions.  Few festivals meet all of these criteria including, to name but a few, those at Newport, Samona, Telluride, San Miguel de Allende, Hamptons and the Bahamas. Like other film festivals in the Caribbean the Bahamas International Film Festival has an ‘exotic’ location. It is an ideal cultural tourist destination and has become more attractive for this group given its intimacy, programs, travel and lodging arrangements, quality of participants, and celebrities. Most appealing is the new Island Hopping component starting this year. The main program is scheduled from December 6-9 at the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island and other island venues presenting more than 50 productions. It will continue with the inaugural Best of the Fest Eleuthera selection from December 10-14 in Harbour Island and Governor’s Harbour respectively.

BIFF’s Best of Fest, will run over five days, showcasing a diverse range of films covering international and regional productions. Like the schedule on Paradise Island and Nassau, the Best of the Fest program will include a number of educational seminars and forums introducing the audience to the past, present and future of cinema. Highlights of the festival are the Opening and Closing Night Film and Island Receptions.

The Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF) was launched by Leslie Vanderpool in 2004 as a non-profit organization to bring international films to the Bahamas, create a cine-literate arts community, and attract local and foreign audiences. The festival has grown since and drawn celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Alan Arkin, Sir Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, Roger Corman, Sophie Okonedo, Naomie Harris, Zoe Kravitz, and numerous others.     Among the confirmed celebrities for this year are to date Anika Poitier and Sal Masakela, with others on the guest list.  The festival was identified last June by Hillary Clinton as contributing through its program to the fight against discrimination. It has also been frequently featured in the US and foreign press.

Among films selected for the 2012 BIFF program are A.L.F.  (Jerome Lescure, France,   Apartment in Athens (Ruggero Dipaola, Italy), Between Friends (M. Omari Jackson, Trinidad & Tobago), Jackson (Karen Arthur & Thomas Neuwirth , Bahamas / USA), Dead Man’s Burden (Jared Moshe, USA),  and Meherjaan (Rubaiyat Hossain, Bangladesh),
Several of the festival’s numerous partners provide discounts to festival participants. They include, but are not restricted to Bahamas Air for flights from Florida, Breezes Bahamas resort on Nassau with special promotional rates, Coral Sands Resort on Harbour Island offering a 40% reduction on room rates, and Pine Apple Fields resort on Governor’s harbor, Eleuthera with a 20 % saving.  Rather than specific festival deals Atlantis Paradise Island offers numerous packages customized to meet the specific needs of visitors. Atlantis’ support for the festival reflects the recognition that its programs benefit local  filmmakers but also attract the world to come to the Bahamas. Atlantis is the host of the Opening Night Film, The Quartet, directed by Dustin offmanand the Closing Night Film The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair and offers rooms for film directors as well as other services. Other partners on Nassau include Sheraton and Coldwell Bankers / Lightbourn Reality. Booking procedures and additional information are listed on the travel information page of the festival’s website www.bintlfilmfest.com

If purchased before November 5 an individual all access pass costs $250 allowing participation in all screenings, seminars, receptions and other events. After that date there is a $500 charge.  Guests from out of town with the all access festival pass can participate in the screenings and events in Harbour Island and Governor’s Harbour but should refer to this article on filmfestivaltraveler.com. For additional information please consult the festival’s website.

Claus Mueller

filmexchange@gmail.com

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