It was almost 4-years-ago that legendary Bollywood filmmaker Yash Chopra’s statue was unveiled in Kurssaal Garden in the central Swiss town of Interlaken, canton Bern, as a tribute to his remarkable contribution in popularising the Alpine nation among Indian tourists. A few years before that, when Chopra was still alive, the government of Interlaken had awarded him the honorary title of “Ambassador of Interlaken” in 2011, and Jungfrau Railways named a train after him. In addition, the five-star Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa in Interlaken named a suite after Chopra!
Yash Chopra made romance blossom amidst snow-clad Alps, grassy fields, and exotic flowers, making Indians fell in love with Switzerland again and again. He created a magic in the pristine Alpine panorama, and Darr, Lamhe, Chandni, and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (DDLJ) are beautiful testimonies of the signature style of the king of romance. However, Bollywood has always been fascinated with foreign locations, and one can easily recall the cinematic magic of films like Love in Tokyo (1966) directed by Pramod Chakravorty and An evening in Paris (1967) directed by Shakti Samanta. These films were shot when outdoor locations were a rare sight in Hindi cinema.
Over the years, not only Bollywood started exploring various exotic destinations for shooting, but Indian tourists also developed a knack for travel. A country crazy for films, also becoming crazier for travel. Though, several travel shows and tv channels in India have caught the attention of travellers looking for new destinations to explore, but there are no dedicated tourism film festivals in the country.
Francisco Dias, Director of Art & Tur International Tourism Film Festival, Portugal’s oldest tourism film festival, feels that a tourism film festival can provide a major boost to not only tourism directly but also help in developing an ecosystem benefiting all. He had launched the festival more than a decade ago, when anybody would be remotely interested in organizing something like a tourism film festival.
“Way back in 2007, it was difficult to make any one understand and believe in the idea of a film festival around tourism, as it was no one’s focus area. Today, we have our festival being organised in various municipalities in Portugal and a dedicated audience comprising of filmmakers, producers, govt. officials, tourists enthusiastically participating every year. There has been a tremendous change,” says Dias, who is also a Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria and Vice President of Centro Portugal Film Commission.
In India, for a week-long academic trip, Dias is of the view that ‘Film festivals are a medium and not a destination and tourism films makes you develop a stronger and deeper relationship with a place, its people, culture and cuisine.” He further shared how he has been creating an ecosystem of tourism film festivals and more such festivals will be happening in Spain, Brazil, Japan and South Africa.
Similar thoughts are also echoed by Dr. Ali Afshar from Iran, who is also passionate about the power of tourism films and was on his maiden visit to India. An architect by profession and Assistant Professor at Eqbal Lahoori Institute of Higher Education in Tehran, Afshar has been conducting workshops on ‘Architecture and Cinema’. Taking forward his philosophy of ‘happiness’ in urbanism, he is now working on a film project called “Happy Island”. Sharing more about it, he says, “It will be a short film focussing on island Kish, which is located off the southern coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf and has tremendous tourism potential.”
“The short film will not only focus on island Kish as a tourism hotspot but also on the issue of responsible and sustainable tourism, a zero-waste island and nature friendly spaces,” he adds.
For film buffs and travel enthusiasts there could be nothing more exciting than a tourism film festival, which could introduce them to new destinations, cuisines and cultures, and give them another opportunity to create memories for lifetime.