Bo Boudart's award-winning film on Bahamian conservation is being distributed to all the country's schools. "Islands of Life" tells the story of the pioneering conservation steps by the Bahamas 50 years ago and education efforts today.
By Peter Hulm, a CEC member based in Switzerland and the Bahamas
The 61-minute documentary “Islands of Life” on the history and current state of Bahamas conservation is designed to encourage the young and adults on its 700 islands to support protection for ecosystems and species at risk.
Among those interviewed is former IUCN Councillor Lynn Holowesko, a past president of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), and oceanographer Sylvia Earle.
The film by the California-based moviemaker tries to be a model of how to combine education and conservation themes without preaching or condescension.
Its mix of spectacular wildlife filming and on-the-spot testimony by many of the people involved in Bahamas conservation ensures that it never drags. It manages to depict the challenges without being alarmist. Luckily, it can build on a history that made the Bahamas one of the world's leaders in conservation.
Three years in filming, the cooperative effort with BNT earned "Islands of Life" an Independent Spirit Award at the Fort Launderdale International Film Festival. The country's main bank is paying for the distribution to all schools.
Wildlife film-maker Boudart announced the bank's backing for distribution to all Bahamas schools at the Grand Bahama premiere. It is also to be screened on the major islands.
It starts with the first landing by Columbus in the Western hemisphere -- in the Bahamas in 1492. This was his 'discovery of America' or was it the Indies? In any case the explorer described the Bahamas as so beautiful "no-one would want to leave."
The film goes on to record how all the original inhabitants were enslaved and exported to other islands in the Caribbean, leaving the Bahamas uninhabited for a century and a half. Slaveholders and their slaves then repossessed the islands in the late 18th century.
The core of the film depicts the visionary steps taken by Bahamian authorities in the 1950s. As tourism boomed thanks to an enterprising Minister of Tourism, wealthy foreigners began buying up islands for their private use.
The Government then set up BNT as an NGO and gave it responsibility for environmental management of both marine and land natural resources across the Bahamas.
The Bahamas was thus one of the first -- if not the first -- countries to bring marine and terrestrial ecosystems together in its conservation programme.
Today BNT manages 1 million acres (over 4000 sq km) of parks, including the world's third largest coral reef. This is almost a third of the estimated 13,878 sq km in the Bahamas Commonwealth.
The film features the efforts to get all Bahamians to support steps to study, educate and protect flamingos, turtles, parrots, conch, lobster, crab, grouper, and other wildlife. It does not gloss over the difficulties of convincing cash-poor people who make their living from use of the natural resources to adopt sustainable management and protection practices that put a brake on their activities.
The documentary tells in detail the story of the comeback of the West Indian flamingo, whose nesting sites have been restored, on an island that is a major salt production site.
BNT staff, the Nature Conservancy, Andros Conservancy and Trust, and Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation all helped Boudart, a long-time environmental film-maker, in making the documentary.
Its final section features on conservation efforts by young Bahamians and the pioneering Island School on Eleuthra that offers conservation education to international students.