Copyright 2002 The Namibian

[ April 17th 2002 ]

Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie had a great time in Namibia, says Lloyd Phillips, producer of the international feature film Beyond Borders. In an exclusive interview with The Namibian before the film crew left the country at the weekend, Phillips said Jolie felt very comfortable in Namibia "as people respected her space completely".

He said Jolie and her two co-stars, Clive Owen and Noah Emmerich, enjoyed their five weeks in Namibia and felt very connected to the country. "It would have been nice if we could've stayed longer," he said. The stars, as well as overseas crew members, used their off days to see more of Namibia. "They also had a lot of interaction with the people of Swakopmund," Phillips said.

Although Jolie was rarely seen in public, many of the crew members and extras who worked with her or interacted with her on the movie set commented on how open and accessible she was. She was not fussy about the food she ate, she made a point of greeting people on the set and played with the extras' children between shoots.

Jolie also made a special effort to thank all the people she worked with during the last week of filming. Among others, she organised a dinner on the beach at Mile 4 for the most featured group of extras and their assistants last week. According to Phillips, she also bought about 2 000 pizzas for everybody on the set, and on Friday every extra received a Beyond Borders T-shirt from her as a farewell gift.

The producer of the international feature film had only compliments to hand out after his five-week experience in Namibia. Phillips told The Namibian that the filming of the Namibian part of the movie was "excellent as anticipated. It was trouble-free, except for some strange rainy weather in the first week."

Phillips was instrumental in bringing the movie to Namibia because of his positive experience when making Running Free at the Roessing mountain about four years ago. The producer, who was born in South Africa and lived there for five years, said he had a special place in his heart for Africa, especially Namibia. "It is a very user-friendly place with a fantastic vibe. It is very safe and everyone from Government downwards was very co-operative. I'd like to come back and shoot a third movie in Namibia," he said.

Phillips said despite all the stress of making a movie, he feels very relaxed in Namibia. "It will be very sad to leave ..." Commenting on the Namibians he worked with, Phillips was very positive. "The people here are remarkable. Every person I've been in contact with, work-related or not, whether black or white, were incredibly polite, very open, friendly and hard working." He remarked that people always looked him in the eye and knew how to have fun too.

On the almost 2 000 extras, he said it was very rare to find extras as enthusiastic in the last week of shooting as they were on the first day as it is often boring work. But, he said, the commitment and enthusiasm of the Namibian extras did not waver at all. He described the Namibians on the crew as very professional and loyal. "Word of this will end up in Hollywood," he said.

Phillips' advice to Namibians who want to gain more experience and better positions is to keep on working on movies. He said many of the Namibians who worked on Running Free were re-hired this time because "we knew they were very good". One Namibian has been asked to join the crew in Thailand where the last part of the movie is being shot.

On allegations by some Namibian crew members that they were not given an opportunity to gain more experience on the set, he said: "We do not have a responsibility to train Namibians, but to make a movie. If along the way you can give training, it is fantastic. I am very keen to work with local people, but not all producers are." He said people should remember their main purpose is to make a good movie. "Other movies are starting to look at Namibia because we are here. If you bring a big star like Angelina Jolie here and she has a good experience, it will count a lot."

He said other stars would call Jolie to ask her about her experience in Namibia. "Putting Namibia on the map depends on the experience and how professional everyone was." He said Namibia had many positive factors going for it. It was a safe location with efficient services, spectacular landscapes and good Government co-operation. "I will not go to a country where the government is not interested," he said.

While he thinks the country is under-exploited as a movie location, he warned that costs are a key factor and people should not put up their rates too high despite the exchange rate. "There is a price to pay for shipping equipment to Namibia, which can get costly," he noted. The cast and crew will be shooting the last part of 'Beyond Borders' in Thailand over the next four weeks.

Phillips said a release date had not yet been finalised but it would be around the end of the year or early next year in America. Production company, Moonlighting, will be in the country for another two weeks for the wrap, which includes dismantling the set and cleaning up the area.

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