Oct. 25, 2005 The Virgin Islands will be making its inaugural bid on the international film scene in less than a month with a four-day USVI International Film Festival event scheduled from Nov. 17 to Nov. 20 on St. Croix.
The event has been widely advertised in the mainland film industry press, but not one word had come out of the local Tourism Department, until the Source repeatedly questioned Ed LaBorde, Tourism Film Promotion Office director. The Source also asked Tourism Commissioner Pam Richards about the festival last week. She said she had been off-island, and to contact LaBorde.
Two weeks ago, the Source learned of the festival from an associate in California who had seen an ad in The Hollywood Reporter.
Sebastian Benjamin, V.I. account executive at J. Walter Thompson, the Tourism Department's advertising agency, said last week that, in addition to the Hollywood Reporter, ads have been placed in high-end industry publications Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Film Journal International and Production Update, "among others." Benjamin did not reply to requests for his media budget, but ads in these publications command big bucks. One full page ad in the Hollywood Reporter daily with the non-profit rate is $8,932.50. A half-page ad is $7,110 with the discount. The V.I. ran both a full and a half page ad at least once in the publication.
After a brief mention of the event by Tourism Commissioner Pam Richards in a July 2004 Senate budget hearing, no further information was released locally that the Source was made aware of.
Gathering information has been a spotty process. LaBorde faxed the Source an undated release that had been produced by Tourism's public relations firm about a week ago which raised more questions than it answered. It did not contain specific information about the localation of the festival, nor the locations of the screenings. The release said there would be 50 movies. It stated, "Movie screenings will take place under the stars at spectacular beaches and St. Croix historical sites."
Over the phone, LaBorde said he couldn't name the movies, but that he would send the titles "as soon" as he had them. He sent the names of the seven movies last Friday.
The Carambola Beach Resort is the official host hotel for the festival. The location was announced in a release issued last weekend by Katie Rogers of Booth & Associates, Tourism's public relations firm.
Carambola general manager Shannon Burdge said Tuesday morning that he is looking forward to the event. He said a block of reservation has been reserved for the festival participants, and he is receiving other reservations as well.
"It will be a very good thing for the island," he said. "We welcome the opportunity, and hope to help in any way we can."
Though midnight movie screenings at the hotel are announced in the recent release, Burdge said he knew of no such screenings.
According to the release, a welcome reception at the hotel, midnight film screenings, a comedy show, and a Nov. 20 filmmakers' awards ceremony and brunch at the Carambola are planned.
The seven of the 50 films to be entered which LaBorde forwarded are: A Killing in Choctaw The Power of Forgiveness, directed by Chike C. Nwoffiah, USA; Squirrel Man, a 20- minute short directed by Jeffery Lynn Shepherd, USA; Rosevelt's America, directed by Roger Weisber and Tod Lending, USA; Just for Kicks, directed by Lisa Leone and Thibaut de Longeville, USA; Bullet Boy, directed by Saul Dibb, London; Butterfly, directed by Yan Mak, Hong Kong. The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess, directed by Bruce McDonald, Canada, which is billed as a "media satire."
Also on the agenda is what's billed as "an Evening with Boris Kudjoe," and appearances by "celebrity guests." The guests have not yet been announced. Kudjoe is a young Austrian movie actor who has appeared in the TV Showtime series Soul Food, and movies including Brown Sugar.
Nov. 17 – Welcome reception at Carambola.
Nov. 18 – Festival Opener
Movie screenings at Diamond Cinemas.
Opening night celebration at Island Center.
Midnight move screenings at Carambola.
Nov. 19 Main Feature
Movie screenings at Diamond Cinemas.
"An Evening with Boris Kudjoe."
Late-night comedy show at Island Center.
Midnight movie screenings at Carambola.
— Nov. 20 Closing events
Film makers awards ceremony and brunch at Carambola.
Beach Jam at Carambola.
Rogers has been in touch with the Source, but as of last Friday she said she had no more details. She said more details would be announced "soon."
According to the release, "a special competition [will be] judged by local film and television industry leaders." Asked by the Source who these judges will be, LaBorde said "the judges want to remain anonymous."
The release states details are available on the event's website www.filmusvi.com, however the Web site offers no specific information on the festival, it says only "Event schedule and details coming soon."
LaBorde didn't return calls Monday or Tuesday. He and Richards are attending the Caribbean Tourism Conference at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort.
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