The biggest movie of the year is Jurassic World. It is the story of thousands of tourists flocking to a once exotic and isolated island to catch a glimpse of creatures long-dead … and shop and dine in luxury. The lesson is, if you build it, they will come.
Which brings us to Anthropologist Pegi Vail, who is currently the Associate Director at NYU’s Center for Media, Culture and History. Her academic research focuses on “the political economy of tourism in the developing world” and she has a book on the way from Duke University Press titled “Right of Passage.”
She has also delivered the documentary Gringo Trails, which worked the festival circuit throughout 2014, had a small arthouse theatrical break and now heads to DVD — courtesy of Icarus Films — on Nov. 17.
For the record, the ARR for Gringo Trails is 438 days and the limited run box office tally was $7,538 (arthouse exposure to generated media interest and reviews).
Vail has gone to various once-exotic locations — from Mali to Bolivia; Thailand to Bhutan — and demonstrates how backpacking adventurers (way off the beaten path) leads to ever-growing numbers of backpackers (driven by social media) and how the locals begin to adapt to their needs (food, drink, lodging, supplies, etc.) and soon hoards of tourists follow. Everything changes.
An isolated beach in Thailand transforms into a New Year’s Eve party beach with over 50,000 drunken revelers. There’s always a need for more — even with the fictional Jurassic Park and the need for ever-bigger dinosaurs to keep the tourists flocking in. You can almost hear Joni Michell’s Big Yellow Taxi refrain, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” in documentary filmmaker Pegi Vail’s insightful work.
Bonus features include deleted scenes and extended interview sessions with experienced travel writers.