Long Walk: backing South Africa’s film industry


2 December 2013

The government’s investment in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the film adaption of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, was an important part of its plan to build a world-class film industry in South Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement on Friday.

The film, which tells the story of Mandela’s life from childhood to his inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president, was released to critical acclaim in South Africa last week.

The DTI invested R60-million in the film as part of a highly competitive rebate system. “As far as the DTI is concerned, it has been money well spent,” the department said.

Rob Davies, South Africa’s minister of trade and industry, said the movie rebate system had attracted a stream of movie makers to the country over the past few years.

“During the current administration’s term of office, the DTI has quadrupled the support it provides to the film industry in the country, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is as a big landmark for the South African film industry,” Davies said. “I think it will end up with a few Oscar nominations – and, perhaps, even win an Oscar or two.”


Job creation


The production has created 12 000 local jobs. “And the beauty of this job-creation exercise was that all these jobs were transferred from highly skilled international practitioners to local people,” Sidwell Medupe, the department’s spokesman, said. “Wherever possible, goods and services were procured from broad-based black economic empowered companies.”

The DTI’s film incentive programme is “one the best programmes of the department in terms of the co-operative relationship that we have been able to build with local and foreign producers as well as the results that we have been able to achieve in relation to our government’s objectives”, Medupe said.

The DTI has approved 71 film productions under the rebate system in 2012/13. Besides Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, there have been a number of other significant successes, such as Safe House, starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds.


Box office success


Other DTI-backed movies recently filmed in South Africa include the $125-million Mad Max – Fury Road, Chronicle, Dredd, and Mary and Martha, a TV drama starring Hilary Swank. These movies follow on Blood Diamond, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, and Invictus, the film about Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup, starring Matt Damon as Springbok captain Francois Pienaar.

The “tremendous performance of the animated feature Zambezia made us proud at the box office”, Medupe added.

According to the DTI’s film and TV production incentive unit, more than R500-million had been invested in 50 local films in just over a decade.

These include Tsotsi, which won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2005. Other critically acclaimed movies made in South Africa include Hotel Rwanda, Red Dust and Country of My Skull.

SAinfo reporter and Department of Trade and Industry