25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
The Filming Of The Mosquito Coast Movie In San Pedro
Twenty five years something really exciting happened in San Pedro. It was the Mosquito Coast. Today people talk about Mosquito Coast though knowing very little about it. Well, see if you can discover exactly what it is.
In 1986 San Pedro was chosen to be the site for the filming of the hurricane scene for the movie Mosquito Coast. The particular site chosen for the shooting was Holliday Lands just south of Victoria House, about 3 miles south of San Pedro Town. Belize was selected for the filming of this movie after considering Jamaica, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil and West Africa. The actual filming of the movie began on mainland Belize on February 3 1985 at various places including Gracie Rock, the mouth of Sibun River and the Manatee River. The filming of the hurricane flood scenes commenced on April 2 in San Pedro.
This film had the star participation of Harrison Ford, who by the way, caused quite a sensation when in San Pedro due to his stellar participation in Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Helen Mirren and Andre Gregory also played featured roles in the movie Mosquito Coast as well as River Phoenix.
During the exercise, over 100 Belizeans (mostly San Pedranos) were employed in constructing several projects which included a canal leading to the beach, a pier, an elevated water reservoir to name a few. Stuart Krohn, of Great Belize Productions and Production Manager for the film reported that between 3 to 4 million dollars was spent in Belize and that for the filming of the flood scene or hurricane scene, as everyone called it, one million dollars was spent in San Pedro. To give you an idea of how this money was spent about fifty men were employed to dig the canal using shovels and dories and were paid 15 dollars an hour, all of them earning over one hundred dollars per day. The rest of the crew worked as carpenters earning a bit more. The carpenters built a 40,000-gallon water tank on stilts that was designed to release 20 thousand pounds of water per minute to simulate a tidal wave.
One commentator humorously said, “An epidemic has swept through San Pedro; it is known as The Mosquito Coast Fever.” The symptoms of this epidemic are as follows: “You can’t get a taxi in San Pedro…you can’t get a boat…you can’t get a single worker because everyone wants to work for high wages. “ Indeed workers were earning a week’s wages in one day and taxi drivers were earning $250.00 per day due to the long working hours.
A few cynics commented that they were not interested but to tell the truth, San Pedranos were immensely interested and for good reasons. Before the filming and during rehearsals of the equipment, San Pedranos flocked to the site including the local media, the Coconut Wireless. The day of the actual shooting had arrived; hundreds of people lined the beach and on the specially constructed pier. The sun reached its desired spot in the sky and Harrison Ford entered the water in what was to have been the eye of the hurricane. Helen Mirren, the mother and her children entered the makeshift boat. What had appeared to be mass confusion was not. Everyone knew what they had to do and did it well. Harrison Ford again entered the water and soon the director hollered; “It’s a wrap!” Everyone applauded and there were smiles everywhere. What took many days to construct and many thousands of dollars to create will be but a brief minute or two in the movie, The Mosquito coast. Yes what took so much money and effort had a lasting effect on the people of San Pedro. They all got to have a taste of Hollywood. And here is the rest of the story. The owner of Holiday Lands donated that piece of land to the Lions of San Pedro with the intent of converting it into a park. And that is the Mosquito Coast Beach Park that you know today.