Organiser Stan Wolfgramm approached Cook Islands Tourism for funding when the project began last year, but was turned down.
“They said there were no benefits to tourism,” said Wolfgramm, who cites the Lord of the Rings films in New Zealand as an example of tourism being boosted by the film industry.
Wolfgramm’s company, Drum Productions, signed a memorandum of understanding with Film NZ – a company that deals with locations for the New Zealand film industry – in August last year, where it was agreed Film NZ would help to promote the Cook Islands as New Zealand’s tropical destination. Wolfgramm said this makes economic sense because people in both countries speak English and share the same currency, and the Cooks is positioned en-route to Los Angeles.
Film Raro benefits the tourism industry and promotes the Cook Islands globally, said Wolfgramm, who plans to have the six short movies screened at international film festivals.
“We look at the (tourism) marketplace, and everyone promotes palm trees and sandy beaches. The smart thing is to find something different.”
He said Film Raro gives viewers greater insight into the Cook Islands and its culture, in a medium that stands the test of time.
“The vehicle of film leaves a legacy, and when it’s an annual event you’re building something in the minds of people and creating an iconic global event.
“There’s nothing like this in the Pacific, where there’s so much participation. It’s a whole different vibe (to other film festivals).”
Wolfgramm also approached the Cook Islands government for funding for Film Raro.
He said the government was supportive in their attitude to the festival and agreed it was a great idea, and he hopes it may contribute financially in future.
Wolfgramm said Film Raro was an ambitious project that people were cautious of at first, so the teams funded it themselves this time around.
“A lot of people talk rubbish and don’t really deliver. We knew we just had to go in there and make it happen, and by showing how successful it is, hopefully it will alleviate everyone’s doubts.”
He said Film Raro will only be possible next year with the help of outside funding.
“We used all our resources this time around. We know there are funds out there that could probably go further with something like Film Raro,” he said.
“It’s about understanding the value and the potential benefits of a film festival (such as) capacity building, and it can really promote the location.”