KINGSTON – Jamaica’s history with Film Festivals dates back to 1999 when Island Girl Productions, lead by Sheryl Lee Ralph developed, conceptualized and executed the Jamerican Film Festival. This event was always hosted in Montego and from the early days had partnership from the Jamaica Tourist Board and JAMPRO.
For at least five decades, film festivals have become popular worldwide establishing a decent reputation for professionals in the film industry, but generating varying interest from curious tourists and locals who are keen on learning more of a city’s/country’s culture.
One of the earliest film festivals though is the Venice Film Festival in Italy which began in 1932 and is the longest running festival. It is held in the last quarter each year http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/
The benefits to Venice are enormous and only this year two hotels in the vicinity of where the Festival is held is seeking US$380 million to renovate two of its earliest properties in the city for the 2015 renewal. It was reported that actor, Errol Flynn and Winston Churchill stayed at the Excelsior, one of the properties listed and that the very first festival was held on its terrace 82 years ago. That information is on the Festival’s website and is promoted as such.
The other massive Festivals are Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and Berlin. Berlin has been reported to have the biggest crowd and by that has been declared the largest. A study has indicated that there are 3,000 active film festivals worldwide – all of which have been held in the last 24 months.
BENEFITS TO A CITY
Sundance, held in Park City, Utah reported that the Sundance Institute brings US$86.4 million – figures from a University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The Festival is believed to have supported 1,434 jobs and generated US$65.1 million of media exposure. Over 45,000 people were in attendance and the report shows that more than 65 per cent of that number traveled from outside of Utah.
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) began back in 1976 – same year Montreal hosted the Summer Olympic Games; it is now in the top five festivals and is reporting earnings of up to US$189 million for the 10-day festival and has attracted an additional 150,000 visitors to the city. TIFF can be seen at http://www.tiff.net
This year the Equalizer and No Good Deed with Denzel Washington and Idris Elba respectively were just two of the feature films screened at TIFF
OPPORTUNITIES FOR KINGSTON
Kingston has 2,000 rooms in hotels along with some additional ones in villas and homes. While not too hard to fill, the energy and focus on the entertainment capital of the Caribbean can be enhanced by adding another product for the city. Already packed with numerous cultural activities to include live music, night clubs, great restaurants, sports, theatre, beach parties, hiking, running/jogging/walking for that grouping and the historical sites to include Devon House, Bob Marley Museum, Trench Town and Port Royal – A film festival is all Kingston needs to make the city complete.
Reggae Month, Kingstoon, Kingston on the Edge; Jamaica International Film Festival, Kingston City Run and the numerous 5Ks are good for the product package of the season. And we will not forget the number of famous churches in the city. If you consider the Hellshire and Fort Clarence experiences urban enough, then a trip there is also part of the mix. Three top-rated sport bars connected to icons – Courtney Walsh, Chris Gayle and Usain Bolt are strategically positioned in the city.
The use and display of cultural spaces in the city will have to be managed in an efficient way and what exists now with the varying access to use of those spaces will have to be streamlined. Kingston deserves a Film Festival and should be supported by the businesses and people in Kingston and the wider Jamaica.
While the city clamours for a Film Festival what is also necessary is films, documentaries and TV series to be shown from the local industry along with regional and international inputs. Jamaica has largely been a location for filming, but with intermittent development of film products over the last few decades, the industry requires input from investors to support the creation of scripts worthy for screen to be shown at the Jamaica Film Festival.
A call for film will be announced in a few weeks and from there it is “The Show must Go on” approach. The Film Commission has sought the advice of industry folks at home and abroad and the idea is generally accepted; but like with all so-called intangible outputs, the financial support/investment/partnership seems slow in coming.
Jamaica’s brand has largely been seen as connected to the sand, sea, sun phenomena and with all those options created in a few destinations, the competitive advantage must emerge. The cultural capital of Jamaica is underestimated by its own and somehow the packaging and development have been less than impressive. The investors in the society can break away from the norm and partner with the creators to produce at least one feature film a year, a few documentaries and other stories in the screen and/or TV formats.
The opportunity looms and with just under 250 days to go – Kingston has the opportunity to light up the space and be the focus on this region and the world. Also on that time (summer) the track and field team will be in Beijing; the netball team will go for Gold in the World Championship and Rio will be in full sight. That is a lot to promote and throw in a film or few – that’s ideal.
Let’s make this happen and support the “Script to Screen” for 2015 – Jamaica Film Festival, Kingston, July 7 – 11 in 2015.
Lights! Camera! Action!