Political squabble swamps Tahiti fest

Plug pulled just one week before kickoff

ROME — The first Tahiti Film Festival, due to start Saturday, has been canned.

Fest founder and producer Pascale Fortunat, head of the L.A.-based special events and marketing company Passions Prods., is accusing the French Polynesian government of ordering customs to block delivery of tech equipment and withdrawing support, though Vice President Jacqui Drollet vigorously denies his office is involved.

In an official statement, Fortunat declared “internal political challenges have materialized, of no practical consequence to the festival, which surface as exploitation of our company.”

Fest organizers are hinting at a clash between embattled President Oscar Temaru and Culture Minister Tauhiti Nena and the mayor of Bora Bora, Gaston Tang-Song; latter two are strong supporters of the fest.

France had to call in riot police to quell tensions in the capital Papeete in early November when Temaru found it impossible to disperse protesters calling for his resignation.

On Tuesday Fortunat announced her company was suing the French Polynesian government for $1 million- $2 million, though lost sponsorship investments are thought to exceed $2.5 million.

The plug was pulled just one week before kickoff, with everything in place, including major backing from the Tahitian Tourist Board, Air Tahiti, Veuve Clicquot as well as government co-sponsorship.

Ticket sales were reported to be brisk, and the fest’s glossy magazine, brimming with high-end ads, was set for distribution.

Jury lineup included Pierce Brosnan, Bob Rafelson, Natasha Henstridge and Bai Ling.

Fest’s purview was romance in the movies, with 11 features in competition including “The Promise” (Chen Kaige), “Partition” (Vic Sarin) and “Lovelorn” (Yavuz Turgul).

Screenings were to be held in the evenings on an island in the Bora Bora Lagoon, with prizes handed out on Dec. 8.

Passions Prods., which launched the Tahiti fest at a gala party at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is negotiating for other dates.

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