Bert Kirchner, president of the Motion Picture Association of Antigua and Barbuda, smiles broadly as he talks about how the first Antigua film festival (November 8-13) came to life. “We didn’t just want any film festival, we wanted to create a tsunami,” he said.
“I wanted to notch it up because I have this vision of how Antigua could become a film platform in the Caribbean which would go beyond the border of Antigua and not only hit the region, but hopefully the international film community. So we started to strategize about what we could do for the long goal and we came up with the film festival.”
He decided to invite big movie stars. “It would make everybody look our way, but we needed guidelines,” he said. The Motion Picture Association of Antigua and Barbuda contacted Caribbean Film Corner (CFC), a UK-based company consisting of three men from the Caribbean who grew up in London and made it their aim to bring Caribbean film content to the world through film festivals.
“I don’t know how they did it, but this year they even became part of the Cannes film festival,” Kirchner explained. “They were excited about our plans and came on board. They will be providing a lot of the film content at our festival.”
A good line-up of celebrities was key, and the office in London provided contacts. Calvin Samuel, a good friend of Kirchner’s, also had tremendous connections and supplied them with a huge pool of celebs. Among them are Bill Duke, Quinton Aaron, Verne Troyer, Mykelti Williamson, and producer Gary Michael. They are still hoping to get a confirmation on Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Kevin Dillon, and Ron Perlman.
Kirchner explained that this was only part one of the phase. The next was to bring in sponsors for the event and get the blessing of the government, which also stepped on board as a sponsor with the promise to fly in all the celebrities. “They were excited because a festival this spectacular is great marketing for Antigua and Barbuda,” Kirchner said.
The association has raked in over $200,000 in sponsorship, and is hoping to bring in some more. “I really want to give all my sponsors heads up, as without them this dream would have never come true,” Kirchner said. “It is great to see that in times like these, people can still see the bigger picture of what is happening right here.”
The film festival, themed “The door into the future,” starts on November 8 and runs until the 13. Additionally, November is reserved for the premiere at Deluxe cinemas of Nauto, a film by Antigua’s movie producer Carlos Falconi.
On November 8 and 9, seminars are being held at Townhouse Furnishing’s offices by professionals in the industry. The classes, which begin at 10 am and run until 4:30 pm, will teach 20 people about cameras and lighting, film make-up, acting, film production, sound, and music and scriptwriting. Sessions are free to the public on a first-come first-served base. You can sign up at Vision Center at Redcliffe Street, via the website www.antiguafilmfestival.com or by calling Kirchner at 464-6044.
November 10 is reserved for school children. One hundred and fifty students ages 15 and up will participate in a similar workshop, with hopefully an added bonus of celebrities sighting. “The goal is to give these students hope for the future and to entice them to work in one of the professions the film industry offers,” Kirchner said. “We want to give them a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The red carpet gala event at the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel on November 11 is for invitees only. It promises to be first class, with a cocktail party, screenings of several movie trailers, and entertainment by Jamaica’s Jah Cure. Government officials, sponsors, and big names in the film industry have been invited.
Saturday and Sunday are assigned to movies at Deluxe cinemas, from 10 am until midnight. A press conference at Galley Bay with the stars will lead into a master show, with the staff from Caribbean Film Corners interviewing the celebs on the programme as well. “It will be used for broadcast purposes and a marketing tool,”
Kirchner said, noting that he hopes the filming of Dark Girls 2 here in Antigua after the festival will be another opportunity to give Antigua exposure. Dark Girls is a documentary with Bill Duke about black women who talk about problems they experience because of their complexion.
Kirchner has said the film festival is just the start. He hopes to secure more funds to have workshops like these for Antigua’s youngsters and the public at large on a regular basis. He has also touched base with the American University of Antigua (AUA), as they are looking into adding a performing arts section in the future.