The results of groundbreaking research on Diaspora tourism and the significant economic power it wields have been made into a documentary that had its world premier screening last week at the opening night of the sixth annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival at Harbourfront Centre.
Forward Home sheds light on the conclusions of a two-year project by economist Dr. Keith Nurse and other University of the West Indies professors who studied four Caribbean countries and overseas communities in which there are large concentrations of nationals from those countries.
The links were Guyana and Toronto, Jamaica and London, the Dominican Republic and New York and Suriname and The Netherland Antilles.
The research project title was Strategic Opportunities in Caribbean Migration.
“We now have empirical data to back up what we have always known anecdotally and that is Diaspora tourism is a significant component of Caribbean tourism,” said England-born and Trinidad & Tobago-raised Nurse who is the 40-minute documentary executive producer. “In addition to looking at the impact of the Diaspora community on tourism in the region and the brain drain, we also looked at how people have been utilizing the movement of Caribbean professionals to advance the transfer of knowledge and the growth of intellectual property as a provision of services.
“In effect, the purpose of the research was to look at the relationship between global cities and Caribbean economies. What we found was that the Diaspora tourism economy is multi-faceted in that people come for educational, medical, festival and heritage events and not just leisure. The Diaspora tourism is not a monolithic construct and it also links into other key sectors like telecommunications, travel, shipping, media and a range of other key sectors which we found were critical for the development of economies in the Caribbean.
“Coming out of the research, we are trying to emphasize that there are investments that entrepreneurs are engaged in both in the Diaspora and back home to facilitate this trade and what we need to be doing is strategically looking at how we can expand this trade.”
The Ottawa-based International Development Research Centre funded the research project and collaborated with the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Law, Policy and Services at the UWI Cave Hill campus in Barbados to commission the film.
The findings of the study will also appear in the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal.
“We are gratified by the relationship we have had with Canada in this process and it is for that reason that we are here to launch the documentary,” said Nurse who is the Shridath Ramphal Centre director and chair of Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution (CWTD) that aims to match content with buyers.
Nurse, who graduated with his first degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1986, said there is a plethora of Caribbean stories and a burgeoning regional audiovisual sector.
“It’s however one thing to tell a story and quite another to actually produce the content,” he said. “That’s why this distributing mechanism is essential in that it will help to get that content monetized and into the market spaces. That is what we have been missing…We need to create more market-ready content. There is a traditional notion that if you produce good content, the market will come to it.
“We are flipping the framework and saying let’s figure out what is the market first and then we could go ahead and create content that can be directed at that particular market. Most of the regional filmmakers are floundering largely because their product is not formatted in the right way for the specific market. The broadcast, academic and mobile markets all have very targeted requirements and so if you produce first without understanding what the market needs are, your product will most likely not get picked up.”
CWTD produced the Toronto Film Showcase & Market Access program that runs alongside the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which ends on Saturday. The event showcases the creativity of Caribbean filmmakers at a major film festival and connects them with industry specialists, potential partners, funders and business strategists in an intensive three-day training program.