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South Africa as a Movie Location

Hollywood has been quick to latch onto South Africa's potential as a location


While many people are making films about South Africa, South Africa's ideal climate and extraordinarily varied scenery mean that it is an ideal location for a huge range of movies. Increasingly South Africa is also being used as a stand-in for other countries, from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone and even comic fantasies.

1. Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda movie poster
© United Artists

In 2004, Johannesburg and the surrounding Gauteng countryside stood in for Rwanda in the harrowing true life story of hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, who protected over a thousand Tutsi refugees from the Hutu militia during the massacres. Directed by Terry George, and starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo and Joaquin Phoenix, the film collected three Oscar nominations amidst many other awards.

2. Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond
© Warner Brothers

South Africa stood in for Sierra Leona’s brutal civil war in gritty 2006 thriller, Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as South African mercenary turned smuggler, Danny Archer, and Jennifer Connelly. Directed by Edward Zwick and written by Charles Leavitt, not only was it a crackingly good thriller, but it did much to publicise the role that blood diamonds have played in conflicts across Africa. It collected many awards including 5 Oscar nominations. With much of the filming in and around Cape Town, other African locations included Kwazulu Natal, Port Edward and Mozambique.

3. Racing Stripes

Very different in feel is this charming 2005 children's tale about an abandoned zebra who is brought up amongst thoroughbreds and believes he is a racehorse. Helped by a teenage girl and the various farmyard animals he sets out to prove himself. Directed by Frederik du Chau, with voices by Frankie Muniz, David Spade and Snoop Dogg, it is a lovely feel-good family movie, parts of which were filmed in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu Natal.

4. Lord of War

A sweeping international thriller, this 2005 epic follows the chase as Interpol tracks down global arms dealer, Nicholas Cage. He reflects back over his life with Cape Town and its surrounds standing in as locations for everywhere that wasn't the US or Europe - a staggering 57 different locations from Afghanistan to the Middle East, Sierra Leone and Bolivia. Directed and written by Andrew Niccol, the film also stars Ethan Hawke and Jared Leto.

5. Dredd

Into the future and fantasy, Danny Boyle's DNA Films spent 2010 filming in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The cities are standing in for Mega-City One in the latest incarnation of 2000 AD's darkly violent Judge Dredd comic strip, in which the police act as judge, jury and executioner. Directed by Pete Travis and written by Alex Garland, the film stars Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Jason Cope and is due for release at the end of 2011. It's said to be far closer to the dark gritty reality of the comics than the earlier Sylvester Stallone movie. We'll have to wait and see.

6. Dark Tide

Also filming in 2010 for release in 2011, Dark Tide stars Hollywood sweetheart Halle Berry as a diving instructor daring to head back into the water after close encounter with a great white shark. Jaws for a new generation? Directed by John Stockwell and written by Ronnie Christensen and Amie Sorlie, it also stars Olivier Martinez and Ralph Brown. The film has been shot in Cape Town and in the seas around the Cape Peninsula.

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