Magazine article Variety

S. Africa Locations Becoming More Than Just Stand-Ins

Magazine article Variety

S. Africa Locations Becoming More Than Just Stand-Ins

Article excerpt

When the sound of gunshots rattled the calm in the Cape Flats district of Cape Town on a recent weekday afternoon, nobody panicked. Some residents were too busy snapping cellphone pictures of Orlando Bloom. Others waved from their windows and balconies, hoping to catch the eye of Forest Whitaker, who flashed them a thumbs-up.

The shots - which were blanks - might have been commonplace in this notoriously rough township. But the sight of two film stars was anything but.

As production wrapped in December on "Zulu" - an adaptation of the crime thriller by the French novelist Caryl Ferey - hopes were high that this latest star sighting in Cape Town wouldn't be the last.

One year after the release of Universal's "Safe House" and Fox's "Chronicle," both lensed in South Africa, Pathe Intl. is gambling on this country's rising location status with two big co-productions of its own. "Zulu," produced by Eskwad with Pathe, M6 Films, and South Africa's Lobster Tree, marks the French company's first venture into the territory. It sets the stage for the longawaited Nelson Mandela biopic "Long Walk to Freedom," which Pathe will be releasing with Anant Singh's Videovision later this year.

The latest films are part of a noticeable trend. After years of serving as a scenic stand-in for other countries, South Africa is enjoying its own turn in the spotlight. Lobster Tree's Eric Loeb says more and more producers are looking to mine the country's rich cultural heritage for new stories to tell.

"The more you dig, the more you find," he says.

On the surface, "Zulu" is a modern-day crime thriller about a drug-trafficking syndicate in Cape Town. Whitaker plays a police chief who narrowly escaped death as a child in the apartheid era, when his family was caught in the crossfire between rival liberation movements. Bloom's character is a freewheeling cop estranged from his ex-wife and son who is equally tormented by the past. …

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