Event Planning and Cultural Authenticity: Lessons from TV

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching Zen, the BBC mini series airing on PBS' Masterpiece Theater. As always, British actor Rufus Sewell delivers an outstanding performance. Despite, his English and Australian heritage he plays European characters convincingly (e.g. Will Ladislaw in Middlemarch). I totally buy Rufus as Detective Aurelio Zen. BBC wisely cast Italian actresses as his mother and love interest. Rufus' look, the Armani suits and dark glasses help create a believable Italian character who has, clearly, spent a lot of time in England. After this, Zen breaks down. Most of the male actors and bit players also have British accents. Suspension of disbelief can only go so far. BBC could have made the series more authentic by surrounding Rufus with Italian actors.

I was curious to know how someone from Italy would react so I consulted Julius Solaris of Event Manager Blog.

It sounds very English to me. The GodfatherII is one of the few examples where the Italian is well mastered specially with De Niro talking in Italian and not with a stereotypical accent.

He also felt that Brando was believable. He indicated that he had heard some of his Italian friends in England discussing "that series in which most of the 'Italians' have British accents." We discussed the fact that Rome isn't filled with men in Armani suits wearing dark glasses and driving Ferraris.

Producers use the stereotype most of the time as otherwise masses won't get it because they won't know what it is about.

Authenticity is equally important in event planning. For special events, event planners would be wise to tap into local multi-cultural resources. For overseas incentive travel, companies should make a point of selecting incentive travel planners who are thoroughly familiar with the destination. It is equally important to:

  • select hotels and resorts that reflect the region
  • build into the itinerary excursions and corporate events that give insight into the local history and culture

To travel halfway across the world and never taste the local cuisine, visit historical sites or hear the local music is a wasted opportunity.

Why would event planners continue to settle for "fake" when the authentic experiences are available?

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