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Growing African film and African-American talent

September 24th, 2007 Posted in Business, Film/Television, General, Travel

No. 1 Ladies� Detective Agency production stillIn the years I’ve been lending my expertise to the growth of the African film industry I have gotten a chance to understand the complexities that exist behind the scenes. As a moviegoer, I’ve always detested the role Africa plays in film. Working behind the scenes, I have come to understand what drives the movie studios to continue to make these kinds of films. In trying to change the final product (movies), the studios’ bottom lines (financial rewards) plays a major part. Simply put, movie studios are have to see the possibilities of a financial reward in producing Africa-related films the “right way”. While I cannot say it’s an easy task, I am always inspired by the small changes I continue to see. In my opinion, one of the ways which will change the process of making African films for Western audiences is to tie the African film industry to the strong African-American film community. While the film industry at large struggles to make a return on the production costs, with blockbusters not making the numbers they used to, the African-American film community has a great opportunity to align with the African film community and continue to grow professionally and financially. But creativity and authenticity is the real key. One of the first of what is sure to be a slew of African-American/African film projects looks to be the film adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s bestselling book “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”.

The NY Times gives some background about the efforts to make “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” in Botswana. With a primarily African-American and African cast including Jill Scott, Idris Elba, and Anika Noni Rose, the film is an example of the African stories which can finance African growth, and breath new life into the American film industry while allowing African-American filmmakers to share in the possible successes.

…in the end the government of Botswana sealed the deal to make “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” on location and not in a Johannesburg back lot, contributing $5 million to finance it. In return Botswana received not only the economic benefits of housing and servicing a major film but also hands-on training in moviemaking that officials hope will sow the seeds of a film industry. Botswana is also counting on a tourism benefit from the film: the Kgale Hill set that includes Mma Ramotswe’s (the lead character) office is being preserved and will become part of a “Ladies’ Detective Agency” tour for those drawn to Botswana by Mr. Smith’s stories.

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