English actor Idris Elba is to open a film studio in Tanzania. The plans were revealed at the 53rd World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the acclaimed actor met with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu.
The country’s Director of Presidential Communications revealed this at a press conference. She hopes the project will help East and Central Africa’s film industry. Elba, of Sierra Leone and Ghana origin, has expressed interest in collaborating with African artists. He is also a musician and has collaborated with Nigerian artists D’Banj and Phyno.
Most recently, Idris Elba released the film Beast (2022), shot entirely in South Africa. In an interview with Complex Magazine, Elba stated, “I’m African, proud African, and I get sometimes frustrated with the misrepresentation of Africa.” The film is about a father who tries to help his daughters escape a marauding lion out for revenge. Elba wanted to use the film as a springboard for more Hollywood film-making in Africa.
Furthermore, in an interview with South Africa’s SA People, he said, “I’m really keen on the development of Africa. My parents come from Africa and more than anywhere in the world, I feel like that continent deserves some real tender care and love and thought. Young Africans view me as a leader or a beacon. And I feel like I could bring something. So I’m keen to bring what I’ve learned in media and amplify it in Africa.”
Meanwhile, Kenyan Sports and Arts Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba recently revealed that Oscar Winner Leonardo DiCaprio would be shooting a film in Kenya. DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way Productions, has secured filming rights in Kakamega, Homa Bay, and Kisumu.
DiCaprio has previously filmed 2006’s Blood Diamond in Mozambique, a film about the Sierra Leone war of 1991. In addition, the critically panned erotic drama Total Eclipse (1995) also had scenes shot in Djibouti.
Possible Impact of Hollywood Filming in Africa
While DiCaprio’s company is more likely to shoot specific scenes in African locations, this is more of the norm. Plenty of films take location shots in Africa for cost-saving measures. For instance, Sex and the City 2 (2010) shot its Abu Dhabi scenes in Morocco.
However, an East African Idris Elba studio can help amplify local film. It’s as yet unknown what the scope of the project will be. But having a Golden Globe nominee backing films in Africa could help the continent become a filming hub like Belgium or New Zealand. His studio could also help African filmmaking reach a global audience.
When successful films are shot in destinations, the countries experience a boost in tourism. New Zealand experienced a tourism boon following the release of Lord of The Rings (2000). Since then, the country authority said the films have brought in tourism revenue of $621 million as of 2021.
Moreover, Hollywood’s investment in African studios has led to the creation of global superstars. In 2004, Viacom launched plans to set up a studio in South Africa. Since then, it’s led to multiple African offshoots, such as Nickelodeon Africa and BET2. In 2012, MTV Africa produced a show called Shuga which was the breakaway role of future Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. In addition, Comedy Central Africa’s Trevor Noah went on to take the late-night host mantel from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show.
However, filming in locations outside of Hollywood studios can pose a threat. Mad Max Fury Road (2015), shot in South Africa, was accused of damaging the desert in Dorob National Park. In 2015, Pirates of The Caribbean production crew allegedly dumped toxic waste off the Gold Coast creek of Australia. The Beach (2000) led to environmental damage in Maya Beach, Thailand. This led to the government shutting the beach to tourists annually for four months.
An Idris Elba studio in East Africa could bring more exposure, economic boost, and jobs for African actors. Hopefully, this will be at no cost to the local environment.
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