SA kills the Cape Town film hype

2014-12-28 15:00

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Plug pulled on Hollywood movie starring Stewart of Twilight fame after funding row with government

A Hollywood movie featuring top-grossing star Kristen Stewart playing a prostitute will no longer be filmed in Cape Town after a funding altercation between film makers and the South African government.

The Big Shoe was supposed to have been filmed around the Mother City in October with Stewart as the female lead called Delphi, a foot model and sex worker who helps to inspire a creatively stifled shoe designer.

London-based film finance company Bankside Films said The Big Shoe “is a daring and comedic romance about an unusual, creatively stifled shoe designer, Nate, and his new-found muse, Delphi, who helps inspire him to resume his brilliant designs”.

There was much hype after foreign and local newspapers reported on Stewart’s latest movie project in South Africa. US director Steven Shainberg even visited Cape Town to cast local actors and to scout for film locations.

The film was due to be released next year. But not any more. The plug has been pulled and local film makers are now blaming the department of arts and culture.

An official letter from former arts and culture minister Paul Mashatile to the film’s producers, dated March 3 2014, shows that R32?million had been approved to finance The Big Shoe as part of a broader partnership called the SA Film Fund.

“This venture is a great event in the history of South Africa’s film sector. We are very proud to be launching this project with Hollywood and to work hand in hand,” wrote Mashatile. “I will be sending a high-powered delegation to Los Angeles in the coming weeks to meet with you.”

But two months later, Mashatile was replaced by Nathi Mthethwa as minister of arts and culture. Since then, the film makers have only received R4?million and they claim their queries into the matter remain unanswered.

“They did not even take one email to answer me, and I sent a lot,” said the project’s local co-producer, Anton Ernst.

He said he was “heartbroken” as the production had a significant transformation component with several trainees from previously disadvantaged backgrounds on board.

A detailed document submitted to the arts and culture department details how scores of trainees would have been given the opportunity to work on the film in disciplines including make-up, rigging, cinematography and screenwriting.

“I am still being contacted by the trainees wanting work and they still believe in the programme,” said Ernst.

“Mr Mashatile saw the vision of what the SA Film Fund could achieve and, not being a politician, and just a film maker, I am saddened to see what politics did to something with amazing potential.”

Ernst also produced the action flick Momentum, filmed in Cape Town in June with a star cast including sexy French-Ukrainian Bond girl Olga Kurylenko.

The movie also became tangled in controversy after the local film crew went on strike because they were not being paid.

At the time, Ernst also cited cash flow problems due to slow payouts by the department of arts and culture.

Mthethwa’s private secretary, Lesego Mathabathe, and the department’s media liaison officer, Sandile Memela, did not respond to emailed questions and calls.

A security guard answered the phone at the department’s office. He said they were on leave and would only be available for comment after January 5.

Meanwhile, Stewart (24) is certainly not plagued by cash flow problems. Best known for playing Bella Swan in the popular Twilight film series, Stewart was the highest-paid actress in the world in 2012, with total earnings of just under R4?billion, according to Forbes Magazine.

Stewart famously split from her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson after cheating on him with Snow White & The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders.

On Wednesday, she was photographed by the Daily Mail doing last-minute Christmas shopping with a friend in Los Angeles.

The starlet has a busy 2015 ahead of her, with projects including Still Alice.

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