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Bolivian jungle film to lure tourists

AAP logoAAP 25/09/2016

An Israeli man who survived for 21 days in the Bolivian Amazon in 1981 says he expects an upcoming film about his ordeal to create a tourist "tsunami" in the remote region.

The movie, titled Jungle and currently in post-production, is based on Yossi Ghinsberg's book of the same name about his harrowing experience and will star British actor Daniel Radcliffe.

"My book had a big impact on this part of the world. There was a wave of tourism" in Rurrenabaque, a small town in the northern Amazon province of Beni, and the nearby Madidi National Park, he told EFE.

"My thinking now is that with the film there's going to be a tsunami, not just a wave," Ghinsberg added.

The Israeli arrived in Bolivia this week to talk about his near-death misadventure and pay a visit to Rurrenabaque and Madidi to hear local residents express concerns about what they say will be the adverse impact of a hydroelectric dam in the Bala Gorge.

That gorge is located near the Tuichi River, where Ghinsberg's raft flipped over 35 years ago and led to his being lost in the jungle for three terrifying weeks.

Ghinsberg's book, which has been translated into 15 languages, has inspired thousands of mostly Israeli tourists to acquaint themselves with the breathtaking beauty of that part of Bolivia.

The author and explorer said he was proud that the Harry Potter star had been chosen to portray him in the film, which is due out next year, and confident that the finished product would be "really lovely" because of the actor's dedication to his role.

Opposition and ruling party lawmakers in Beni this week slammed a 2014 policy requiring Israeli tourists to obtain visas to travel to Bolivia, saying it had caused the inhabitants of Rurrenabaque and Madidi great economic hardship.

The measure, which leftist President Evo Morales' administration instituted in August 2014 in retaliation for Israel's deadly airstrikes in Gaza, has caused tourist flows to Rurrenabaque to dwindle from 20,000 visitors per year to less than 3,000, said opposition senator Yerko Nunez, a former mayor of that town.

Ghinsberg said he did not want to take sides in the political dispute but noted that many local residents were feeling the impact of the visa requirement.

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