It’s been reported that the Creative Workers Union of South Africa (CWUSA) is braying about the casting of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson as ANC MP, convicted kidnapper and Mother-of-the-Nation, Winnie Madikizela Mandela in a movie about her turbulent life. As part of their mobilisation, CWUSA is demanding the reinstatement of work permits for international producers working in South Africa and a moratorium on all international film and music productions in the country. Well why don’t we all just kiss goodbye to the billions of rands of direct foreign investment that international production brings into SA each year….

It’s very very simple: big names such as Jennifer Hudson help to get investors to fund the production of a film because they know she has some power to attract audience to the cinemas so that they can make their money back. Her presence further helps the marketing once the film is made, and ensures the media coverage that further drives box office takings and return on investment. Without her name (or someone – probably American, since it’s their money after all – of similar ilk), the film won’t get made, and the millions of rands potentially injected into the economy during the production just won’t get spent. It’s not called the Film Business for nothing.

Again, no one is saying that South Africa doesn’t have actors that could pull off this role. We have. Given Ms. Hudson’s somewhat sketchy acting chops, we really, really have. (And Ms. Pheto wouldn’t butcher the accent either, which is always something of a bonus….) What we don’t have however are actors who are influential enough to get this movie fully financed – and in the film business that’s a very different requirement altogether.

Given that the international experience of CWUSA CEO Mabuso “Kid” Sithole is limited to such meaty parts as “Head Chef” and “Bad Dude Leader” (granted, he acted a character with a name once, in 1994), the ignorance of CWUSA’s position is not perhaps surprising. Sadly, I’m also not surprised by such an overwhelming sense of entitlement. After all, no-one’s stopping CWUSA or indeed anyone in South Africa from making their own damn Winnie movie.

Film Industry