Nov. 21, 2005 – Although others expressed concern that little was done locally to publicize the event, Ed LaBorde, Tourism Film Promotion Office director, called the USVI International Film Festival this weekend a success.
LaBorde said the first-ever St. Croix Film Festival set the stage for opportunities yet to come. Before the closing ceremonies Sunday, he talked about how the festival could grow. He said visits from those who work in the film industry and from film fans would increase as word spread about the quality of the festival and what a great place St. Croix was.
And, he added, there was another bonus to the festival.
"The people who make the decisions about where a film is produced will be reminded what a great place St. Croix is," LaBorde said.
He said that advertisements placed by the Department of Tourism in industry trade publications have already sparked calls to his office about matters concerning filming in St. Croix.
"This is a billion-dollar industry," LaBorde said. "We have got to get involved."
The Festival presented 36 films in two days at the Diamond Theaters on St. Croix. Attendance was relatively low, but critiques and attendees praised the films. (See "Film Festival Brings Quality Screenings to St. Croix".) LaBorde said planning for the festival began about a year ago after Pam Richards, commissioner of the Department of Tourism, suggested it. He began screening films for the festival in June. He had to stop taking entries because there were more movies than he could possibly watch.
Festival organizers presented awards Sunday at Carambola to films in three categories – shorts, documentaries, and feature films.
Christine Powers, who was at Carambola Sunday, said, "I wish I would have heard about it earlier. I love films. I would have gone."
D. Padraic Hennessy, who works in independent film production and is a resident of St. Croix, attended the awards ceremony. However, he said he heard about the film screenings too late to attend any.
Thierry Daher, producer of the film Just for Kicks (which won best overall film at the Festival), said the idea of a St. Croix film festival is a "great idea." However, he too thought it should have been promoted more locally. (See "V.I. International Film Festival is Well-Kept Secret at Home".)
"I have friends on St. Thomas and they never even heard about it until Friday," he said. "They made it over Saturday to see a couple films."
Just for Kicks was about the history of sneakers. Daher said it was a truly international film. He was born in France. One of the co-directors was from Africa and the other from New York.
Donovan Lambert, from New York, who produced two films screened at the Festival, was completely upbeat.
"I loved being down here. It was a great experience," he said.
When asked if he would return, he said, "As long as you will let me in."
Both his films were short dramas I Will was about a dying man arranging a reunion of old friends. Up Hill was the story of how friendship is tested during the arranging of a business deal.
In Time, winner of the best short film, told of a Nigerian coming to grips with her life in America while remembering the traditions of her ancestors. The best feature film was Cruel But Necessary. This was a story of a woman documenting her life after discovering her husband's infidelities.
In her remarks at the ceremony, Richards emphasized the importance of the Virgin Islands getting more involved in this "economically rewarding arena." She thanked her staff for their work in making the festival a success.
"You can go home and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow when you get up, we start planning next year's festival," she said.
The media was not invited to the awards ceremony and the Source was the only local media present.
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