Wednesday, September 23, 2020

McCall Smith’s movie should accurately reflect Botswana’s traditions

The last few weeks have seen a rise in a general mood of national excitement over announcements that Hollywood film producers have agreed to shoot a movie in Botswana.

The movie, with a lead character Mma Ramotswe, is based on Alexander McCall Smith’s series, “The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.”

The books have proved very popular worldwide.

As a result, the books have done a lot to market Botswana abroad, where the country has been trying with limited success to reach out.

The books are a generally feel good story on Botswana.

With feel good stories rare to come by these days, especially from Africa, Batswana have every reason to be proud not just of the books but also of the coming movie.

To put the cherry on top, we have since learnt that government has had to seduce the producers by up to $ 5 million (close to Pula 30 million.) to get them to agree to come here.

Now, that is a lot of money.
Government, we understand, thinks this is a worthy investment.

The people at the Ministry of Tourism think that shooting the movie in our backyard will help kick start Botswana’s tourism potential.

The tourism in Botswana is still largely unexplored.

So, it is all in order for our government to grab whatever opportunity that may present itself to help achieve this potentially lucrative sector.

Kick starting Botswana’s tourism potential by using the world acclaimed movie industry appears a well thought idea because the industry is a multi billion dollar industry.

It has always been Botswana’s policy to attract high-end tourists.

What better way to do it than target the wealthy Hollywood stars?

Even though we have our own reservations on the expected returns being worth the investment, our take, at least for now, is that the government be given the benefit of the doubt.

But by virtue of the $ 5 million injected into the project by government, the nation has literally purchased a stake into the operations.

It is, therefore, in order to expect that the movie will be truly reflective of Botswana’s culture.

We hope that the producers have carried out research that would assist them to accurately articulate Botswana in their setting.

It is our hope that our culture, our code of dress, our nomenclature, our architecture, our mannerisms, our art, our civilization, our aptitude and history will be accurately reflected in the movie.

If the movie fails to reflect our traditions, then to Batswana it will be looked at as a flop, however talented the producers.

If the movie fails to clearly capture Batswana’s sense of culture and nationhood, then it would also make it difficult for government to justify the return on investments.

If the movie fails to articulate Batswana’s customs and values, then it would become just another production that could have been shot in Beverley Hills.

In short, a failure by producers to understand Botswana’s basic moral code could easily render the whole project a failure.

We hope the producers will be awake to those expectations, especially so early in their work.

$5 million may not be a lot of money to the American producers and actors, but it certainly is to Batswana.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.