When international filmmakers choose scenes for their movies in South Africa, Mpumalanga always plays second fiddle to Gauteng and Western Cape.
That is because the province neither has a film office nor has it marketed itself to filmmakers.
But that is about to change as the Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation gears up for an aggressive marketing campaign that will sell Mpumalanga’s breathtaking scenery, wealth of wildlife and birdlife, history, culture, diverse locations and technological infrastructure to filmmakers across the world.
A film directory of services has been compiled and a fully-fledged film office, to be housed in the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (Mega), is being established.
“Cape Town and Johannesburg have been benefiting a lot just because they have everything in place,” said departmental spokesperson Sibongile Nkosi this week.
“Our directory will show film gurus exactly where they will find everything they need to do their work in the province.
“It will be distributed to international film festivals, which take place in France, the United States and India, and will be available on the internet and tourism brochures,” she said.
Mpumalanga is expecting to cash in from film permit fees, tourism, use of cultural and heritage sites and job opportunities for locals.
“A few movies have been made in our province in recent times and the film-makers did not approach us. Well, that shows that once we are organised we will make serious inroads,” Nkosi said.
Various Mpumalanga towns have been scenes for international and local films in recent times such as:
» The Ghost and the Darkness, which was shot in Badplaas in 1996 and it starred Michael Douglas, Val Kilmer and Tom Wilkinson. Badplaas was chosen to represent Kenya and Uganda on this adventure story about man-eating lions.
» Feast of the Uninvited (Standerton, 2008). This was story focusing on the lives of individuals from both sides of the Anglo-Boer War.
» Catch a Fire (Secunda, 2006), a true story of Patrick Chamusso who was wrongly accused of the unsuccessful bombing of an oil refinery in Secunda.
» Hopeville (Waterval Boven, 2009). This is a drama series, which was adapted into a feature film.
» Escape to Chimp Eden (2008 and 2009) was shot in Mbombela as a documentary series for Animal Planet cable channel.
Meanwhile, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism is planning to establish the province’s first film and video development school after legislation that allows for the setting up of a film commission is enacted by the legislature.