The Talented Mr. Minghella

Selfish little shockwaves bouncing round my house this morning; with the untimely death of the prodigiously smart and talented Anthony Minghella, what will become of the rest of the series of No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency movies, the pilot of which shot in Gaborone last year?

No.1 is of course the film of the much loved book by Alexander McCall Smith, adapted for the screen by Minghella and that other clever Brit, Richard Curtis. It features the large, kindly, warm and thoroughly respectable protagonist, Mma Precious Ramotswe, who applies her many feminine skills (none of which involve karate, gun toting or nakedness) to become Botswana’s first female private investigator.

Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe, on location in Botswana

No. 1 is the first international film ever shot in Botswana – a bone-dry, land-locked republic with just 1.6 million inhabitants. In spite of the fact that Botswana had virtually no film industry or infrastructure, Minghella was determined to shoot The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on location. ‘The book is so much about Botswana,” he said. “In essence, it’s a poem about what’s beautiful about the country: its tranquillity, its decency, its sense of community. It’s unique.’

Seizing the unprecedented opportunity for tourism marketing, the Botswana government put up about a third of the film’s £7 million production costs on condition that a third of the cast and crew were locals. And it seems to have been a success; according to Imdb, the film’s producers have signed a 10 year lease for the area at the foot of Kgale Hill in Gaborone, where they have built the fictional shopping center where Mma Ramotswe opens her detective agency.

That alone would suggest there are serious plans to adapt McCall Smith’s other detective books in the series. Whether the sad demise of Mr. Minghella will affect this in any way, of course remains to be seen.