Shooting – exploitation or compensation?

| April 13, 2011

I was reading this morning about the filming of Denzel Washington’s new film The Safe House, also starring Ryan Reynolds. The film is shot on loaction in one of the informal settlements in Cape Town,  South Africa. The site for the shoot is in some of the the most notorious areas where gang warefare and poverty is the order of the day.

Residents of the township of  Bonteheuwel woke on on Tuesday morning to the sound of gunshots running through the neighbourhood – many residents described their reaction as “normal” – they hid under beds and other furniture – trying to keep the children calm – but were fearful, as it was not uncommon to have stray bullets fly into homes as the gangs battle it out. Many residents from surrounding areas such as Langa and Athlone said they weren’t informed about the film shoot and heard gunshots between 2.30 and 4.30am, and were really upset about it as it generally indicated an uprising in the violence in the area. The fears of the residents are valid as recently there had been an increase in gang related violence and a woman had been shot in the last week by a stray bullet.

Many folk felt that out of sorts and called the police only to be informed about the film being shot, to which many residents declared they had not been informed.

The location manager defended their actions by saying that people in the immediate area were informed and that folk had received a monetary compensation for the inconvenience. He is quoted: “We employed 70 movie extras – being paid R300 per day – and about 20 day guards and 25 night guards – being paid R150 per day.”

I would like to point out that the exchange rate for the US $ to the South African Rand is 1:6.7 , so when they say $300 rand that translates to $44 US. Makes you wonder why they would go all the way to South Africa to film – and at first I thought the location was chosen because the story is based in South Africa – but in fact the story line is set in South  America and is about a US Intelligence agent (Reynolds) guarding a prisoner (Washington), when their Safe House is compromised.

I am thinking about the residents who live there, most of whom who would never be able to afford going to see the movie – and the accolades stars such as Washington and Reynolds receive for the films they make – not to mention the money. And if the people and countries used as a means to an end is worth it? I am a HUGE Denzel Washington fan, and am perturbed by this piece of news as it is quite literally too close to home for me.