Fiji Set To Be Hub For Indian Film Production

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Bureaucracy creating hurdles for filmmakers

By Natalie Tencic

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, December 25, 2014) – Fiji could be transformed into a Bollywood production hub after a six-film deal was struck by a Nadi production house and a Bollywood film studio.

Bollywood films are wildly popular in Fiji, partly due to its large ethnic Indian minority.

About 40 per cent of Fijians are of Indian descent.

Stardom Entertainment and Promotions director Mohammed Khan has established a partnership with India's Once More Studios, which he hopes will bring the world's biggest film industry to Fiji for the long haul.

He says he has six productions in the pipeline with a view for many more.

"Through our partnership with Once More Studios, we can do a lot, we can bring a lot more movies," he said.

"We've got some major productions coming up soon, big banner movies."

Though Bollywood films have been produced in Fiji before, Mr Khan says this deal will establish a long-running partnership between Bollywood and Fiji.

West Indian producer-director Jaykishan Patel is making his next three films in Fiji.

He said he had always dreamed of filming in the island nation.

"One of my childhood dreams was to visit Fiji, and Fiji is the perfect location for our script and story," Mr Patel said.

Shooting on Mr Patel's film Desi Dhamal - Pagal Panti began this week.

He was also planning a horror movie and a romantic comedy in Fiji.

Bollywood is the world's biggest film industry, producing hundreds of films per year shot across the globe.

"Bollywood industry is going like anything nowadays and more than 300 movies are made in Bollywood [per year], with more than 1,000 movies made in India," Mr Patel said.

He said Fiji's huge Indian population made it a natural fit for Hindu directors.

"Indian population is there in Fiji so that is also one of the good points that many filmmakers, and I think many talents from Fiji, extras and crew members will get chance to work in lots of movies," he said.

The deal is set give a huge boost to the local industry. Mr Khan said Fijians will make up 70 per cent of the cast and crew.

"Actually we want to utilise [locals] as much as possible, we want utilise our Fiji people who have talents in these things," he said.

"We are also planning to open an acting school here soon, so later on we'll have our own photographers, assistant directors and stuff."

Bureaucracy creating hurdles for filmmakers

Mr Khan said he has been greatly supported by government film industry body Film Fiji.

"The government has been very supportive of what I'm doing, and they know, they commend my work," he said.

But Mr Khan said some of his producers had complained about the project approval process.

"There are some hurdles in the government, for example when these people lodged their application for rebate pre-approval, they had to submit a lot of stuff," he said.

"To promote Fiji, the Fiji government should do something to fast-track this application."

Film Fiji provides rebates and other tax incentives for foreign filmmakers, but these come with many requirements and conditions.

Mr Khan said the process was taking too long, and said it may deter foreign filmmakers when they should be encouraged.

"I gave them a lot of incentive, I had to promote Fiji, to get them to Fiji to shoot," he said.

"So [the government] needs to change some legislation in Fiji as well to promote Bollywood movies."

But Fiji Film CEO Dallas Foon said Mr Khan had still not provided sufficient documentation to approve the projects, and had announced some of the productions prematurely.

"It is generally ethical for AV agents to not make announcements about productions until they have received approval to proceed to production," he said in an email.

He believed it was in many ways easier for foreign films to get approved, as long as they met the requirements.

"Any approved production for Fiji has to meet certain criteria and the documentation submitted has to provide sufficient credible detail to support the application," he said.

"These requirements are actually not anymore different from most other film commissions, in fact it is much easier in most respects.

"In Mohammed's case, he is a first time audio visual agent and his applications still had basic detail pending before we could start evaluating. We are still awaiting this information (eg. a budget in Fiji dollars, etc)."

Mr Patel said the approval process was standard procedure around the world so he did not think it would deter filmmakers.

"No, I don't have any problem, there's a legal procedure that's required," he said.

"It takes a bit of time but it takes in everything. I don't think there's an issue with the rebate scheme."

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