Ancestral land belonging to the Khoi-San of South Africa was valued at $14 million dollars by Desert Star Studios, a movie studio interested in turning the very rural (and very poor area) of Pella, Northern Cape, South Africa into a bustling Hollywood style lot featuring film sets, production offices, stunt tracks, workshops, a luxury resort, golf course, and a private landing strip. According to Rudolf Markgraaff CEO of Charis Productions, the deal would have created 18,000 jobs and generated another $14 million in revenue for the local population over the next decade. Apparently the biggest problem came from how the deal was orchestrated:
The Rev. Cyril Smith, whose cathedral would have been made into a Mexican village film set, says the consortium miscalculated the level of opposition and the legal status of the land. “They should have consulted the residents first but they didn’t, which made them very angry,” he says. “The government, as trustees, aren’t allowed to sell this land without their consent, so the film studios will not happen.”
“Residents want to be involved in the process from the start and be consulted…There’s a saying that ‘land is the currency of Africa’ and people who have fought hard to get it back from colonial times are loathe to give it up.”
Desert Star Studios, a joint venture between the African film companies Film Afrika and Charis Productions and US film groups Promenade and Camel Eye Productions was surprised by the protests. Rudolf Markgraaff commented…
“We had hundreds of meetings with local people, the Northern Cape provisional government, and local council but there’s been misinformation and a lack of political will. We thought we did have a deal…We had letters of support from the [African National Congress] Youth League, the ANC Women’s League, and another group begging us to make it happen.”
“This area is desperately poor with 70 percent unemployment, high rates of AIDS, and limited facilities like hospitals and schools…You only have to look at Quarzazate in Morocco to see the potential. There was nothing there before they built production facilities – now they’ve produced 42 films in the past 10 years attracting investment of $1.2 billion.”
Still, despite their disappointment, Desert Star Studios have respected the land owner’s wishes and instead made a similar deal across the border in the neighboring country of Namibia.
Read the full article at the CSMonitor