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2004-12-10 00:33:57

Film Festival To Increase Tourist Offering

Tonight's international premiere of the highly anticipated Ocean's Twelve will kick off the first Bahamas International Film Festival and add yet another offering to the count.

Tonight's international premiere of the highly anticipated Ocean's Twelve will kick off the first Bahamas International Film Festival and add yet another offering to the country's tourism product.

Offering a range of over 75 films, the first annual film festival will broaden the genre of local film offering, allowing local audiences to view films they ordinarily would not see, event organizers said.

"There's a lot of different people here that would really like to see art house films and they really don't have an opportunity to do that," Jon Fitzgerald, BIFF consultant, told The Guardian in an interview Wednesday.

The film offering selected for the four-day event was whittled down from international and local submissions of over 500. Close to 40 per cent of the submissions received from The Bahamas made the cut into the event.

The brainchild of Leslie Vanderpool, executive director of BIFF, the festival will feature an international competition, a Caribbean sidebar, documentaries and short filMsAnd while in its first year there is not a huge expectation for a large revenue windfall from this year's event, Ms Vanderpool predicted that like the Cannes and Sundance film festivals, as BIFF grows, it will allow The Bahamas to tap into niche tourist markets bringing even more visitors to the islands.

According to Mr. Fitzgerald, who has worked as festival director to the Slam Dance Festival and the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, it takes at least three years before a festival of BIFFs size begins to take off and gain notoriety in the film world.

In the first year, he predicted that the bulk of the attention would be coming from industry professionals and international media houses. "It does take time to build awareness to the festival community," he said. "I think what this festival should hope to become is a major destination on the festival circuit because it's a beautiful place to be."

Already the festival has garnered the attention and sponsorship of the Ministry of Tourism and local tourism giant Kerzner International. BIFF is also being promoted throughout the United States through international partners like Dell Computers, Federal Express and US Airways.

In addition to the varied film offerings, the festival will also provide educational seminars for aspiring filmmakers. The seminars will be held at Adastra Gardens and will feature an impressive panel of actors, producers, directors and writers. Among the topics to be covered are film financing, screenwriting and the art of collaboration.

BIFF films will be screened at Galleria 6, Atlantis Theatre and the Atlantis Royal Deck.

The film festival will also showcase three films by maverick producer and director, Roger Corman: Little Shop of Horrors, Crazy Mama, and Battle Beyond the Stars.

Talking to The Guardian just hours before the historical event, Ms Vanderpool expressed confidence that the festival would be very well received by the Bahamian public whom she described as voracious consumers of filMs She also saw the event as a once in a lifetime opportunity for aspiring film professionals to rub shoulders with members of the international film community.

"It's about celebrating film, celebrating culture, celebrating people," she said.

By MARTELLA MATTHEWS, Guardian Business Reporter,

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