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INSIDE AFRICA: At the Movies

Aired February 24, 2007 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Femi Oke. This is INSIDE AFRICA, your weekly look at life and news on the continent.
It's Oscar weekend, so we have a bit of a movie special for you from Capetown, South Africa. This is the set of a new thriller called "Doomsday". It's a Rogue Pictures production, it's currently in production right now. We'll see them on the set in just a little bit. But we'll also feature movies that have been made in, and made about Africa. But first, we take a look at South Africa's flourishing film industry.


OKE: It's the first week of production for "Doomsday," an action thriller horror movie set in futuristic version of the Scottish city of Glasgow. But this is not Scotland, this is South Africa, where (inaudible) at the heart of Africa's film industry.

PHILIP KEY, MOONLIGHTING FIL PROD SERVICES: Quite honestly, I think Southern Africa is most probably a filmmaking utopia, you know. We have films coming out from all over the world in many forms from, you know, documentary, the massive commercials trade, and a significant amount of major, major features.

OKE: Philip Key is managing director of Moonlighting Film Production Services, one of the oldest and largest production companies in South Africa. Moonlighting has worked on films like "Catch a Fire", "Blood Diamond", and "Racing Stripes," where amazingly Durban, South Africa doubled for Kentucky in the United States.

One of the big draws to making films in South Africa is the exchange rate. "Doomsday" has a Hollywood budget, but with around seven rand to the dollar, gets to make a bigger film. But for executive producer Peter McAleese, that's just part of the attraction of working in Capetown.

PETER MCALEESE, EXEC. PRODUCER, "DOOMSDAY": The people here are amazing. The city if fantastic, (inaudible) city in South Africa is kind of mind-blowing, when you come from Europe and you are used to making movies in Europe.

OKE (on camera): I'm trying to think the last time I was on a movie set. Do you still get a thrill when you watch things happening?

GENEVIEVE HOFMEYR,"MOONLIGHTING" FILM PROD. SERVICE: You know, I do when I look at this huge, great vehicle and think it's been made from scratch.

OKE (voice over): Genevieve Hofmeyer is the co-founder of Moonlighting. She's filmed across the continent for over a decade, and now sees a new trend in the kind of films being produced out of Africa.

HOFMEYR: Because African stories are becoming interesting to the world, it's attracting great directors, and that's really fantastic for South African talents and for South African crew and for the industry throughout Africa.

OKE: South Africa sells itself as a low-cost film destination with first-world facilities and talent. Now, the government is adding tax breaks and financial incentives to that, to get more movies which are made in South Africa.


OKE: Former Ugandan President Idi Amin is the inspiration for a powerful new movie. "The Last King of Scotland" brings to life one of Africa's most bloodiest regimes. It's a film that's won rave reviews from critics and audiences. And for the actor who played Amin, an Oscar nomination.


ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Earlier this week, Whitaker met Ugandan President Yoweri Museweni at the film's premiere in Uganda.

YOWERI MUSEWENI, UGANDAN PRESIDENT: I was pleased, because it's very well presented, and it captures the events that took place here in the fictional form.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thrilling, captivating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I enjoyed it then, I enjoyed it today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: . exercise the function of the head of government of the Republic of Uganda ..

SESAY: His name has become synonymous with bloodshed and brutality. Uganda's Idi Amin Dada seized power in 1971, and for the next eight years, unleashed a campaign of terror on his nation. He's said to be responsible for the murder of 300,000 of his fellow Ugandans. Amin has inspired tales of debauchery, egomania and cannibalism. Now, the story of the butcher of Africa is dominating the big screen in a bold thriller directed by Kevin MacDonald.

KEVIN MACDONALD, DIRECTOR, "LAST KING OF SCOTLAND": I was kind of fascinated thematically by the idea of showing the private life of a tyrant, and showing the Amin beyond the kind of clich‚ and beyond the western media image of this monster.



WHITAKER: Why didn't you say so?

SESAY: The movie, which takes its plot line from the 1998 novel by Giles Foden, is an artful blend of fact and fiction. It pivots on the relationship between Idi Amin and Nicholas Garrigan, a fictional white Scottish doctor, who travels to Uganda for a medical mission and in search of adventure. The thrill-seeking Garrigan is played by James McAvoy.

MCAVOY: He's made important in the world. He's made more than a general practitioner and a family doctor. He's elevated to a government adviser, you know? And he's like, I can't tell him that, you know?

SESAY: But Garrigan gets more than he bargained for when he becomes the dictator's personal physician and confidant. He's soon witness to the horrors of Amin's bloodthirsty regime, and ultimately finds his own life in danger.

WHITAKER: Look at this! Look at this!

SESAY: Forest Whitaker is mesmerizing in the central role as Amin, both charming and terrifying in equal measure. He moves effortlessly between the flamboyant despot's lightning-quick mood changes.

Previously known for gentle, understated performances in movies such as "The Crying Game" and "Good Morning Vietnam," here we are treated to a whole new side of the talented Whitaker.

WHITAKER: He was this mad dictator. It's the only image I had. And so, when I looked at the book and I looked at the script, I was like, wow. This is a very complicated man. I'd really like to get a chance to play it.

SESAY: First-time director Kevin MacDonald brings to life one of Africa's darkest chapters.

Here's Uganda crackling with life and sensuality, as well as a clear and ever-present danger.

WHITAKER: And I want to promise you, this will be a government of action!

SESAY: "The Last King of Scotland" has been heaped with praise by critics and audiences alike. Forest Whitaker's volcanic performance has won him an armful of awards, most recently at the BAFTA in London, where the movie also won outstanding British film of the year.

Now, all eyes are on the Oscars, and the question on everyone's lips is will Forest Whitaker be crowned best actor on the big night?

Isha Sesay, CNN, Atlanta.


OKE: While Whitaker is receiving accolades from Hollywood, not everybody is happy with his portrayal of Idi Amin. Earlier this month, we caught up with his son, Jaffar Amin, to get his reaction to the film.


JAFFAR AMIN, IDI AMIN'S SON: We feel that people are going to keep that fictitious character that is in the movie and take it as record, as something that people will start judging as the record of a person. And I feel that we're looking at it from the almost a Euro-centric point of view.

His one (inaudible) has been accused, charged, incarcerated by the media. Believe you me - and this is very strange. There's no single charge in any court in this world against the man. Isn't that strange?

WHITAKER: You have grossly offended your father!

AMIN: I'd love to meet somebody like Whitaker and say, Whitaker, let me show you the other side. How somebody could come from the lowest position, rung in the society - because the Ugandan society was a class or cast system - from the lowest, from let's say a sugar slasher in 1937, to a commanding officer in 1966, right up to the head of state. It's an amazing journey that this man - an incredible journey that this man went through.

But he dared to be independent. He sort of challenged the status quo of the world powers. He dared to be non-aligned, when in the height of the Cold War, you had to decide whether you were east or west. But here was a man who basically was categorized in the third world, you know, setup, saying no. We want true independence.

And that's what he basically wanted. And for him, it was like this was his destiny. You know, people choose their destiny, and for him, it was like struggle against injustice, fight for the truth.

We as a family feel that - or, me personally, I feel we have to be able to come out and try to explain and struggle to really give a clear picture of the man.


OKE: Second unit director Mark Wolf (ph), good to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you. Welcome to our set.

OKE: Thank you very much. Have you seen "Blood Diamond" yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I have. I've worked on it.

OKE: You'll like this next bit.


OKE: Coming up on INSIDE AFRICA, Hollywood shines a spotlight on the diamond industry.

Before we go to break, here's some classic Hollywood views of Africa.


HUMPHREY BOGART, ACTOR: Take over all Africa? Where's the reverend?

KATHARINE HEPBURN, ACTRESS: He's in there. He's dead.

BOGART: Oh. Oh, well, now, ain't that awful.



BRANDAUER: May I see you?

MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR: I'm not an engineer and I don't want to be in charge of building that bridge.

VAL KILMER, ACTOR: That's fine.

DOUGLAS: Now, I'm sure you probably hate Savo (ph) as much as I do. And (inaudible), you're not the imbecile that he says you are.



OKE: It's 20:33, and a deadly virus has wiped out the population of Scotland. The streets of Glasgow are deserted.

Welcome back. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA at the movies, on the set of a new movie called "Doomsday," currently in production here in Capetown.

Now, among the millions of people watching to see if the actor Forest Whitaker picks up an Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin will be the friends and family of the photojournalist Mohammed Amin.


OKE: The world first came to know Mohammed Amin after he took these compelling pictures of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia. His images inspired the world to take action and let to the largest charity event in the world - Live Aid.

This was not the first time Amin was on the frontline of a major story taking place in Africa. Mo, as he was better known, has criss-crossed the continent, beginning in the `60s, capturing the births of nations, coups and natural disasters.

SALIM AMIN, MOHAMMED AMIN'S SON: He had access to stories, areas and people around the continent that no other journalist had, and he basically used that in order to tell African stories and to make sure African stories were on the BBC and on CNN and on Sky and all the other channels that at that time, were not paying that much attention to the continent.

OKE: When Mo died in 1996, Africa and the world lost one of its top journalists. He was aboard the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines flight 961. Hijackers took over the plane and forced it to crash into the Indian Ocean.

Amin left behind a wife, a son and a legacy.

Salim Amin took over the reins of his father's media company. Soon after, he decided to work on a documentary about his father's life. Three years later, the result was "Mo and Me." The film chronicles Mo's life and his presence at key moments in history. It's an unflinching look at a stubborn, unforgiving, but talented man, whose success at his profession comes at a great cost to his family.

AMIN: It was a very cathartic experience for me, and I think it was great. I couldn't have bought that kind of therapy on the coach for, you know, for what we spent in making the film.

OKE: While helping his son come to terms with the memory of his absent father, the film has also earned worldwide praise and awards.

Since being released last May, "Mo and Me" has won several prestigious honors - from Los Angeles to New York, from Canada to Zanzibar. And last month, it captured India's Golden Ten award for best documentary.

And how would Mo respond to all of this?

AMIN: As Duncan, my close colleague and friend said to me, said, your dad would be pretty pissed off that you made him more famous dead than he was alive. So I think he would be - he might have - I think he would be happy that he's got the awards, that people are talking about him again, that people are actually learning, hopefully, something from his life. So I think he's smiling. Wherever he is, I think he's smiling.


OKE: "Mo and Me" was one of my favorite documentaries from last year, and I'm not the only person who seems to think so. The World Economic Forum has picked Salim Amin to be one of its young global leaders for 2007. Congratulations, Salim.

Now, the crew that you see on this film set also worked on the movie "Blood Diamond." It's up for five Oscar nominations, including best actor, best supporting actor, best film editing, sound editing and sound mixing. It could be a big Oscar night for the crew.


OKE: "Blood Diamond" is set against the backdrop of the civil war in 1990s Sierra Leone. Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou play an ex- mercenary and a fisherman whose destinies become intertwined in their quest for a rare pink diamond. The film also stars Jennifer Connolly, as an American journalist reporting on conflict diamonds, the blood diamonds in Sierra Leone.


OKE: There's nothing like a controversial Hollywood movie to get a good debate going, and that's exactly what happened with "Blood Diamond." Earlier this week, Jonathan Mann sat down with the film crew, including journalist Sorious Samura. He worked as an adviser on the film, and his documentary, "Blood on the Stone," is going to be on CNN next week.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: What is the reaction going to be? Do you think it is going to help Africa or hurt Africa? Do you think Africans are going to be angry at this image of their continent?

DJIMON HOUNSOU, ACTOR: Oh no, not at all. I think it is definitely going to help Africa. I think it is going to help Africans, and hopefully in other parts of the continent that are still somewhat at peace, I think it can be quite a great instrument to ...

MANN: Africans won't be angry to see once again their war as the backdrop for another Hollywood movie? Their failure?

HOUNSOU: Well, I don't think so personally, because that's what it is. I keep going back to it. It's reality.

SORIOUS SAMURA, FILMMAKER: I have always said that, you know, it's too Hollywood long. They had to go fast paced before they finally got to Africa, but I think it's a blessing that actually has started telling these stories.

EDWARD ZWICK, DIRECTOR, "BLOOD DIAMOND": What was most important to us, I think, is that there was Djimon and there was Leo, but there were these innocents. And it was the slaughter of the innocents caught in- between that I think was most important for us to portray.

And I think, had you changed the skin color, it could have been Grozny. Had you changed the clothes, it could have been Baghdad. And that was the idea, was to try to show what the cost was to this whole country.

MANN: The movies are "Blood Diamond" and "Blood on the Stone." Sorious Samura, Edward Zwick and Djimon Hounsou. Thank you very much for talking with us.

HOUNSOU: Well, thank you very much.

ZWICK: Thank you.

SAMURA: Thank you.


OKE: The documentary "Blood on the Stone" airs on CNN beginning next Saturday, March 3rd, at the time you see on your television.

Coming up on INSIDE AFRICA, in their footsteps. We travel with three Sudanese orphans through (inaudible) and dangers to safety in the United States. Stay with us.



BRIAN STEIDLE, JOURNALIST: In 2004, I became an unarmed military observer with the African Union in Darfur, Sudan. All I had was a camera, a pen and paper. I was totally unprepared for what I'd see.

OKE: Brian Steidle's documentary, "The Devil Came on Horseback," provides a front-row seat to what the U.S. has labeled genocide. Through his status as a military observer, he had access to places most journalists can't get to. "The Devil Came on Horseback" puts a face on the millions of victims in Darfur. The film premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.


OKE: Hello again. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA's movie special.

Orphaned by war in Sudan, they walked barefoot across the Sahara desert to safety. The winner of two 2006 Sundance film awards, "God Grew Tired of Us," follows the journey of three lost boys from Sudan to safety in the United States.


JOHN BUL DAU: It was as if God grew tired of us. That came as, you know, when our villages were attacked, women were raped, some girls were abducted, young men were killed.

I cannot go to Sudan with the war still. (inaudible). The war is still - I cannot go to Sudan.

NICOLE KIDMAN, NARRATOR, "GOD GREW TIRED OF US": The United States agreed to resettle some of the lost boys to America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are like my family now. Very painful. I love them so much.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when chance come, I cannot deny, I have to go. I have to go.

There's something called apartment. I've never heard - met - I've never seen it.

So all this for you.

We call this chips. You know, they slice it, they fry it, and then put in a bag, OK?

DAU: Anything you want in America, you can find it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are donuts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are colored sprinkles that they're decorated with. Want to try one?


DAU: And when I asked, they said, well, my mother didn't buy me that kind of sneakers, or my father didn't do me this, and that, or I've been dumped by my girlfriend or I've been dumped by my boyfriend. I said, these are not problems. They are not a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be like this.

DAU: I can't imagine how people take things for granted here, when everything is available for you. It becomes now ultimate home for us to stay, because there are no worry of being killed tomorrow. We have been searching, running around from one place to another. Finally, we have found a place.


OKE: That's all I have for INSIDE AFRICA, except to tell you that this has been Suzanna (ph), Farrah (ph), Andre (ph) and Chet (ph) co- production, with me, Femi Oke, in a supporting role.

And that's a wrap.

We leave you now with pictures from Africa's largest film festival, which opens this weekend in the capital of Burkina-Faso, Ouagadougou.



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