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article imageFilm Industry Discovers Lure Of The Cape

By Ralf E. Krueger     Jun 9, 2001 in Business
JOHANNESBURG (dpa) - What Cannes is to France, Cape Town wants to become for South African cinema. The conditions are not bad: both cities have not only a Mediterranean flair in common, but also a film industry.
While each year Hollywood's stars flock to the French Cote d'Azur for the annual Cannes film festival, Cape Town must still make do with a more modest existence.
All the same, however, the film industry in Cape Town is becoming an important economic pillar, with its annual business of 7.7 billion rand (one billion dollars). Above all, Cape Town has become a favourite setting for foreign film teams making all kinds of movies.
"The city's film industry, once just a small niche, has just recently made its breakthrough in the international film scene and has become one of the fastest- and strongest-growing industries of South Africa," said Malcolm Calderwood, head of the local film promotion office.
Around 300 film commercials and five films made for TV - including four from Germany - were made in Cape Town last year. The city is luring filmmakers with favourable framework conditions and brilliant skies at a time when Europe is buried under ice and snow.
Local production costs are 30 to 40 per cent of those in Europe or the United States, while the landscape in many places looks European.
Not only are advertising companies making use of this setting - one example being the new film commercial for the German car Audi - but also Hollywood.
For example, the film "Second Skin" featuring Peter Fonda and Natasha Henstridge is being shot in Cape Town, although the story takes place in California. And in the film "Styx", Cape Town plays the role of Los Angeles.
In 1998, the city on the cape served as the San Francisco and Chicago settings for the films "Diamond Girls" and "Hard to Forget".
The Cape Town film promotion office issued around 1,300 permits for film and photography shootings last year. This equates to a total of 850 days of shooting.
"Given the 980 days of shooting in San Francisco, 280 in Philadelphia and 290 in Seattle in the same year, this compares quite favourably," Calderwood said.
And the trend is continuing. In the first three months of this year, the office provided permits for 710 film shootings. The newspaper "The Star" recently estimated that the film branch now makes up about one-quarter of the local industry.
Advantages are seen not only in the high purchasing power of foreign film teams as they enjoy the current weakness of the rand, but also the high technical standards provided in Cape Town.
However, the city still needs some catching up to do as a film festival venue. The "Cannes of Africa" does not take place in Cape Town, but rather in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou.
The FESPACO which takes place there every two years is and remains the undisputed most important film festival in Africa. South Africa so far has had very little to offer to pose a challenge.
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