JOHANNESBURG Oct 16 South Africa is luring a
rising number of Hollywood producers and directors keen to shoot
in the country and may have its first home-grown box-office
success in three decades this year with a film based on icon
Aware of the industry's potential contribution to economic
growth, the government offers rebates which, coupled with a
weaker rand, make it cheaper for foreigners to shoot here than
more established peer locations like Australia.
The last globally successful South African film was "The
Gods Must Be Crazy", a comedy about a bushman from the Kalahari
with no knowledge of the outside world, which wowed audiences in
Thanks to Mandela, the country may be about to emerge as
more than just a hot location for others to make their films but
as a producer in its own right.
Four years after the release of US film director Clint
Eastwood's acclaimed "Invictus" in 2009, which chronicled how
Mandela inspired the national rugby team to World Cup victory,
the biographical "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom" will hit movie
screens in November.
The film chronicles Mandela's decades-long fight against
oppressive white minority rule, for which he was jailed for 27
years, and was shot at the Cape Town Film Studios, the first
custom-built Hollywood-style film complex of its kind in Africa.
Set in South Africa's tourism capital, the studio offers
easy access to a wide array of locations including sandy
beaches, modern cities, forest and plains, vineyards, savannah,
waterfalls, safari and desert.
Since opening in 2010, it has been the location for high
profile movies and TV series which have made hefty profits,
including 20th Century Fox's "Chronicle" which is set in Seattle
in the U.S. but was shot primarily in Cape Town.
The film cost slightly more than $10 million to make but
grossed nearly $130 million in cinema ticket sales.
Figures from South Africa's trade and industry department
show that in its first 2-1/2 years of existence, productions
that used the studio employed 29,000 thousand people and
directly invested 1.4 billion rand ($141 million).
This translated to an economic impact factor of 3, meaning
for every rand spent on production, another 3 rand was spent in
"This industry is definitely a key driver to growth because
the international films coming into the country working with our
local crews and local production teams are injecting enormous
amounts of money into the country," Cape Town Film Studios CEO
Nico Dekker told Reuters.
Other products of the studio include the $208 million
grossing U.S. thriller "Safe House" in 2012, which starred
Hollywood A-listers Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, and new
TV drama series "Black Sails" which debuts next year.
This steady output has helped spur South Africa's film
industry by 84 percent over the last six years, placing it 50
out of the 99 major sectors of Africa's biggest economy.
South Africa also churns out a steady stream of local films
similar to the "Nollywood" productions out of Nigeria.
But while a handful of these have won global accolades, like
the 2004 HIV/AIDS drama "Yesterday" and "Tsotsi", which won the
2005 Academy Award for best foreign language film, the majority
have only enjoyed success with local niche audiences.
In its 2012/13 annual report, the National Film And Video
Foundation (NFVF) says the industry grew 14 percent last year
alone, contributing 3.5 billion rand to gross domestic product
and creating more than 25,000 full time jobs.
At the launch of a new industrial policy framework earlier
this year, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies singled out
the film industry as a rising source of growth, particularly as
the mainstream mining and manufacturing sectors struggle.
With that in mind, South Africa has set up eight
co-production treaties with other countries, the latest being
with Ireland and New Zealand last year.
"Joint productions between South Africa and other countries
continue to be important vectors in boosting the status of South
Africa as a filming destination and contributor of production
skills and facilities," NFVF chairperson Mmabatho Ramagoshi said
in this year's annual report.
Under the arrangements, 10 feature films and two television
series were shot in South Africa over the past year at a budget
of nearly 800 million rand, with foreign partners contributing
more than half.
Outside the government backed deals, the trade and industry
department is also luring more private sector investors with a
20 percent rebate on production costs for foreign film makers
working with a budget of 12 million rand and more.
That, coupled with an 18 percent depreciation in the rand
this year, has given South Africa the edge as a bargain priced
location for film makers keen to keep costs contained.
"Other countries are offering even more (facilities) than we
have, if you look at the States, South America, Europe,
Australia. They all have big existing industries, but what
attracts people to us is value for money," said Dekker.
"If they spend 10 rand, the value of the film on the screen
is often double what they spend ... that's why they come all the
way to us." ($1 = 9.9583 South African rand)
(Editing by David Dolan and Ron Askew)