Written by on Aug 11, 2010. Posted in Production News

Africa United shoots in South Africa, Burundi and Rwanda

New feature film Africa United is set across southern Africa and has been filmed in South Africa, Burundi and Rwanda. Directed by Debs Gardner-Paterson, the film tells the story of three young Rwandan street kids who decide to head to South Africa for the World Cup when they get lost in the Congo.

Shot under the terms of the formal UK-South Africa co-production treaty, the project was restricted to shooting in the UK, South Africa and Rwanda. The UK wasn’t used as a shoot location but Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and the Congo had to be doubled.

Jackie Sheppard, a Producer with Footprint Films, said: “Our Production Designer, Mike Gunn, and Costume Designer Pierre Vienings did an amazing job of re-creating the look and feel of the different countries in the locations we chose. It was important to us that even if we couldn’t shoot in the actual location, we made the film look as authentic as possible as we were keen to avoid the homogenization of Africa.”

The Limpopo region of South Africa, north of Johannesburg, doubled for some of the Zimbabwe-set scenes as the terrain is dryer and the vegetation is more reflective of Zimbabwe as a country. Meanwhile, the region of KwaZulu-Natal in eastern South Africa offers more tropical conditions and so was an appropriate double for the Congo, Tanzania and Zambia. Street dressings were applied and extras kitted out in appropriate clothing in locations that were doubling for other countries.

Cheryl Eatock, the film’s Production Manager with Out of Africa Entertainment, said: “Being green was a big priority for the production as well given that we were filming around seven different World Heritage sites. We got the help of the locals and needed to respect the local tribal chiefs too. We laid temporary tracks in some locations to help transport equipment while minimising our environmental impact.”

Despite the restrictions of the filming co-production agreement, the project also got special permission to film in Burundi. The UK Film Council and the National Film and Video Foundation in South Africa made the allowance when the production made its case for the importance of a Burundi shoot. Burundi doesn’t have the same filmmaking infrastructure that’s available in South Africa, but the biggest issues were in finding suitable catering and toilet facilities.

The production received financial support from organisations including the Rwanda Film Commission. Sheppard said: “Whilst we were filming at the Kigali Football Stadium we had a visit from an official, who was chased away by our Third AD as he felt he was getting in the way. I had to point out that our visitor was the Minister of Sport and Culture and had come to offer words of encouragement and was entitled to walk across the pitch, as it was his pitch!”

Eatock concluded: “South Africa offers a lot of versatile landscapes and can be used to cheat for many different countries.”

Africa United will be released in cinemas from October 22nd 2010.

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