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Jan 28, 2003

Film festival kicks off on Thursday

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It may not be as glamorous as Cannes or as intellectual as Sundance, but in a couple days time the Princess Cinema will trade in its Swarzenegger, Van Damme and Stallone for a genre of movies that could hardly be called blockbusters. It’s all in the name of…we’ll we’re not really sure, but News 5′s Jacqueline Woods assures us that you can still bring popcorn.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Secrets of the Shell, a story of seduction, obsession and betrayal, officially opens Belize’s first international film festival Thursday night. The movie, which was shot and edited in Trinidad and Tobago, is the first of thirteen foreign films that will be shown at the Princess movie theatres.

Emory King, Belize Film Commissioner

“Well we are hoping that everything works out. The logistics are fine, we are going to get the films, the people are going to come from outside. The big problem and perhaps it is not a problem, the worry is whether we will sell enough tickets to fill up the movie theatres thirteen times.”

A film festival not only provides moviegoers an opportunity to watch a wide variety of award winning films, but it is a forum where film makers gather to market their product and share their craft.

Suzette Zayden, Festival Director

“The primary goal of the Belize Film International Festival is to expose Belizeans here to cultures abroad. The problem is that it’s far easier to travel to Belize than for Belizeans to travel outside of Belize. So not many of us get the opportunity to see how other people live, to see how they talk, to realize that the world is really the same everywhere we go. That there are people who love, who hate, who cry, who laugh and who have the same ideas. It does not matter if you are in Belize or you are a Russian or French, the human emotions are the same.”

The committee hopes that Belizeans interested in filmmaking will grasp the opportunities presented through workshops at the festival. To date, no local Belize film has yet been made even though the country has hosted a number of major productions.

Twenty-three years ago, Larry Dewaay was the first feature film producer to work in Belize. That movie, The Dogs of War, remains a local legend.

Larry Dewaay, Producer, Dogs of War

“I’ve always loved here. I’ve been back seventeen, eighteen times to take my friends to the best swimming and fishing spots in the world.”

Dewaay fell so much in love with the country that he has taken up residence with an eye to retire. Today, the sixty-year-old former filmmaker is not in the best of health, but is determined to help Belizeans at the festival pursue the career that he has loved all his life.

Larry Dewaay

“I just wish, they’d done it before, but I think it is wonderful. And with my foreign friends, if you are going to have a Belize film festival in 2004, lets start working right now to get more Americans involved, Americans and British.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What are the benefits of a film festival?”

Larry Dewaay

“Exposure to the country, to the people, because you have both. You have great people, a great country, and its just looking at what is going on within the country.”

Most of the films that will be shown are award winners. Festival Director, Suzette Zayden says the films were carefully chosen and should attract a strong Belizean audience.

Suzette Zayden

“Actually we went out of our way to ask for films that had won awards because we weren’t going to risk our necks that much. We’re trying to expose the Belizean audience, but neither are we going out to look for art films either. We are trying to stick as close as possible to what they like which is comedy and drama.”

The festival seminars, which will be conducted by foreign filmmakers, include discussions ranging from why movies are important, to how films should be made in the Caribbean. Belize Film Commissioner, Emory King says he has been impressed with the number of interests expressed by Belizeans about the film industry.

Emory King

“Dozens of people have called up to say they have a script or part of a script or how do they market it, they don’t know what to do with it. And this film festival is just going to encourage more of that kind of thing.”

The First Belize International Film Festival gets underway with an invitation only opening ceremony at the Princess Hotel on Thursday night. Jacqueline Woods reporting for News 5.

Main sponsors of the Belize Film Festival are the Government of Belize and B.T.L. Today the telecom company presented its cheque for twenty thousand dollars.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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