Bermuda company produces award-winning documentary
A feature-length documentary made by a Bermuda-based production company and funded entirely by local backers has won international acclaim in an impressive debut on the world film festival circuit.
The Price of Cheap was produced by Wishing Step Pictures, which has offices in Hamilton and in Toronto, Canada.
Shot in Tamil Nadu, India, the film tells the stories of modern slaves hidden in fashion supply chains. It follows activists on raids to rescue children from unsafe factories and the survivors trying to rebuild their lives.
Made in association with Toronto’s White Pine Pictures, The Price of Cheap won Best Documentary Feature at the Uruvatti Film Festival in Tamil Nadu.
It was also named Best Social Documentary Film at the Nawada International Film Festival in India, and earned an Award of Merit Special Mention from the Impact Docs Awards.
The Price of Cheap has been named a finalist at four festivals — Close: Up Edinburgh Docufest, Chagrin Documentary Film Festival in Ohio, Human-Environment Care Film Festival in Canada and Rameshwaram International Film Festival in India — and has been chosen as an official selection at seven other events.
The film is about 40 per cent of the way through its festival run.
Kim Carter, a long-time Bermuda resident, and Zabi Yaqeen are partners and directors of Wishing Step and also co-producers of the film.
The award-winning Canadian film and television director/producer Peter Raymont of White Pine is an executive producer.
Wishing Step was formed to make films and stage campaigns as a force for social change. Mr Carter and Mr Yaqeen are also behind Muuvment, a Bermuda-based social impact platform.
The Price of Cheap was selected to screen at the Bermuda International Film Festival in March last year but the event was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Mr Carter said: “When BIFF resumes, we hope to show the film locally.”
He added: “The film would not have been possible without our wonderful group of investors, who are all Bermudian. We just can’t thank them enough for their support and belief in the project.
“We have also received support from a variety of people both in Bermuda and abroad. There are always hard times when making any film, especially in the middle of a pandemic, and I would love to give a quick shout-out to some of the people who stuck by us through thick and thin.
“A special thanks to Niklas Traub; Kim Perdikou; Alan Gilbertson; actor, director and activist Robin Wright; Barry Stevens, our very talented director; and all the folks at Muuvment and White Pine Pictures. They have all been loyal supporters from the beginning of this journey to the very end.”
The film-making partners have been pleased with the way the film has been received.
Mr Carter said: “One of the things I found encouraging was to win an award from our very first screening in India. Of course we had no idea how the film would be received in the area where it was shot, so it was very heartening to get an award from Uruvatti.”
Mr Yaqeen said: “For me, what is most heartening in terms of the reception the film has received is the reaction of organisations with deep expertise in this subject matter — Fashion Revolution and AntiSlavery.org from the UK.
“They reviewed the film and thought it was very accurate, and a well-rounded portrayal of the challenges faced by vulnerable workers in those supply chains and the plight of individuals caught in modern slavery in the fashion industry.”
He added: “Our motivation is not just to raise awareness. We want people to participate in campaigns and take action to address the problem. People can do something once they are made aware and educate themselves about an issue. You have to empower people if you want them to do something about issues.
“We are disconnected with audiences right now. There is no chance to interact with them, we don’t get feedback from them. We miss the energy and enthusiasm of an audience.
“We look forward to getting back to meeting people in person and galvanising everybody to do something about the issue and getting involved in a campaign issue.
“We want people to make more responsible choices when they buy fashion products.”
Mr Yaqeen and Mr Carter said that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the business of film, as many festivals are now being held as virtual events.
Mr Yaqeen said: “The pandemic has thrown the whole world of film distribution upside down. Traditionally a lot of film festivals also have a film market associated with it where distributors and buyers of films go to look at films, meet the film-makers and buy content. Examples are Hot Docs in Toronto and IDFA in Amsterdam. A lot of people are together, and the focus is on acquiring content.”
Mr Carter added: “At Hot Docs, select film-makers get a 15-minute slot, five minutes to talk about their film, five minutes to show their sizzle reel and five minutes for a Q and A.
“All this is in front of a panel which is mainly made up of broadcasters, and all the spectators who are allowed to attend the forum watch with interest.
“That is a very rich 15 minutes for film-makers. They get feedback from broadcasters and sometimes those broadcasters will make a commitment with them on the spot to take the conversation further. That type of atmosphere is impossible to duplicate virtually.”
Mr Yaqeen added: “Virtual film festivals do their best under the circumstances but are not able to replicate what happens at physical festivals. When a buyer or distributor is working from home, they are concentrating on their work life but also on their home life — and perhaps watching the film on a laptop or ipad.
“Nobody has really cracked that problem of generating the same type of business activity and buzz in a virtual space.
“The festival circuit, particularly documentary festivals, are important to build a film’s pedigree to get broadcaster and buyer interest. Festivals generate reviews, there is an audience response, and having the film-maker there helps that as they can sit on panels and do interviews.
“Distribution is a lot about relationships but those relationships don’t mean as much when you’re not there in person meeting people. Magic happens when you are at those festivals.”
Mr Carter added: “We have had that experience several times. We met our executive producer, Peter Raymont, at a random meeting and forged a long-term relationship with him. We were seated next to him and had a conversation that eventually turned into a meaningful collaboration.”
Wishing Step secured a distributor for the film, Montreal-based Filmoption International, at Hot Docs in pre-Covid times.
Other windows for the film, Mr Carter said, include streaming services, educational and corporate distribution, the Muuvment platform and conferences.
Mr Carter said: “Documentary film-makers have made a lot of money showing their films at conferences. Modern slavery is not going away, so when conferences return we will target them as a source of revenue for this project.”