Saturday, March 13, 2004
Disney filmmaking ripoff? "Basil Williams, 50, an occasional resident of St Vincent who runs a social welfare charity in London, owns a chunk of Wallilabou Bay where much of the film was shot. He said he was approached by First Mate Productions Inc, a company he had never heard of, in 2002, who explained that they were filming a 'small project' on the island. They asked if he would be willing to rent his 3.5-acre part of the bay to them for six months. Williams explained he had a holiday cottage on his land which he rented to English people for £250 a week. He claimed the company agreed to cover this cost, even though his cottage would not be needed. But when filming started, it was used by a member of the crew.

'At first they wanted to pay me £40 a week,' he recalled. 'When they asked the price I charge for the cottage they thought I meant 250 East Caribbean dollars, of which there are five to the pound. They even used the phone in the cottage - my 80-year-old mother Keturia, who lives in St Vincent, had to chase them afterwards to pay the phone bill.

'I had no idea that Disney was involved in this,' he continued. 'I thought this was a project to benefit the island. When I found out a big Hollywood studio was involved, I realised I had been ripped off. But by then the contract had been signed.'

Gwyneth Edwards, whose land was used by the film company to park a trailer, is also unhappy with Disney. She said the £1,500 she was paid had to be spent on repairing boundary poles. 'It seems to me that Disney don't care about the people on the island,' she said.

Patricia Barnett, director of Tourism Concern, said this is not the first time that filming in 'paradise island' locations has generated controversy. The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, which was filmed on the island of Phi Phi in Thailand, was criticised for relandscaping the beach, removing natural vegetation and installing palm trees which fulfilled Western perceptions of how a paradise island should appear. 'Like the Thai government, the government of St Vincent saw a good opportunity in having filming on the island but local people are often the last people to be consulted,' she said."

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