Vancouver to host Bollywood awards, film workers insulted
Published Tuesday, January 22, 2013 8:54AM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 22, 2013 8:16PM PST
A star-studded Bollywood awards ceremony expected to attract hundreds of millions of viewers will be hosted in Vancouver this spring, Premier Christy Clark announced Tuesday, while some local film workers say government isn’t doing enough for industry in B.C.
The inaugural Times of India Film Awards honouring Bollywood’s top talent will be held at BC Place Stadium on April 6, with the province's taxpayers on the hook to the tune of $11 to $12 million.
The event, which will be preceded by a day of Indian film screenings at various cinemas, will feature performances by Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Anuska Sharma and others.
Clark revealed the plans surrounded by handful of Bollywood heavyweights, and justified the price tag as a means of promoting B.C. as a potential trade partner and tourism destination in South Asia.
As part of the hosting agreement, the massive Times of India media group has agreed to profile the province on its various platforms.
“They reach over 90 million people every single day, most of them in India, and that kind of exposure can garner tremendous opportunity for people in our province,” Clark said.
“We are building a deep and enduring friendship between our two countries.”
Meanwhile some B.C. film workers said they were disappointed with the announcement and are questioning Clark’s decision to spend millions of dollars on Bollywood while film continues to struggle at home.
“To be totally honest it feels like a slap in the face,” said Peter Mitchell, President of Vancouver Film Studios.
“I don’t think we should be here celebrating a film and television industry in another country when we’re having such a difficult time right here in B.C. with competition that is really taking away our market share.”
The film industry claims up to 90 per cent of its on-set workers are unemployed, while the government refutes that.
Workers in B.C. are pushing for tax incentives similar to the ones the Ontario film industry rolled out several years ago. The province saw $1.3-billion in production activity in 2011, according to the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
Clark has confirmed no new incentives are in the works, while Opposition leader Adrian Dix won’t make any guarantees if he’s voted into power this spring.
A number of related events will be held around the Lower Mainland in the days leading up to the ceremony. The government has also committed to spending an additional $1.5 million on other events, including the B.C.-India Global Business Forum.
The government is estimating the deal will produce economic gains of between $13-$18 million for B.C. The Vancouver Board of Trade also lauded the move as an appeal to what is expected to become the third-largest economy in the world within the next 40 years.
Others have questioned whether a the plan is politically motivated, noting the recent struggles of Metro Vancouver’s local film industry and the timing of the event, which is set to take place just weeks before the 2013 provincial election.
“To do a one time, one-off project six days before the election begins, people are cynical,” said NDP arts critic Spencer Chandra-Herbert.
“They’re questioning, ‘is this more about Christy Clark getting reelected than about long-term investments and building trade relationships with India?’”
Jordan Bateman, B.C. spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said bringing the ceremony to Vancouver is nothing more than a ploy to attract South Asian voters.
“The real truth about this decision is it’s money ahead of an election reaching out to an important ethnic subculture in our major communities and some swing ridings, trying to get them out to vote.”
As part of its deal with the Times of India, at least one Bollywood production will be shot in B.C., the government said.
B.C. had reportedly been after a different event, the International Indian Film Academy Awards, but the bid failed.
That event was held in Toronto in 2011, wooing 40,000 visitors to the city and reportedly attracting 700 million viewers.
Bollywood is a multi-billion dollar film industry that produces thousands of movies every year.
With reports from CTV British Columbia's Scott Roberts and Lisa Rossington