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Words: Lavinia Kapewasha
Namibia is Africa’s best kept (cinematic) secret. Known for being the country of wide open spaces, boasting a varied geographical landscape within our 824,292 km2 and the most sought-after Namib Desert, are reason enough to visit Namibia, but we’re also an ideal filming location. Blockbusters such as The Mummy or Mad Max: Fury Road are prime examples, however, there are lesser-known productions that have showcased Namibia’s beauty.
Here are 5 movies and TV productions you didn’t know were filmed in Namibia:
Flight of the Phoenix
Dennis Quaid and Tyrese Gibson helm this action-drama about survivors of a plane crash banding together to rebuild a plane to escape. The film is set in Mongolia, but the Namib Desert takes centre stage here. Just 20 km from Swakopmund lays the setting for the film, taking us on a journey from incredible aerial shots, dune peaks, horizons to the tense drama brewing in an inhospitable and unstable environment. Watching the plane soar across the desert compels you to make the journey to Namibia, just to take a scenic flight over the dunes, to climb the peaks and then maybe, perhaps, sandboard down.
Namibia’s complex and versatile desert is a chameleon and in this HBO war miniseries, it becomes Iraq circa 2003 during US invasion. Yes, you read that right. HBO, the mother of Game of Thrones chose Namibia to film this miniseries. It’s no surprise, our surface area is about 22% desert in different forms. The right desolate landscape to emulate Iraq is there for the picking. Beautifully depicted with smart composition showing off the horizon, the desert is a character unto its own. The heat makes the action palpitating and all under different hues of the Namibian sky.
If there ever is a setting that evokes dystopia and western, you go for Namibia. In this Western-inspired horror film, Wesley Snipes’ gunman character seeks revenge whilst trying to survive attacks from zombies. Filmed in various locations around the Namib Desert in the Erongo Region, the landscape is barren and dust-laden. Naturally blessed with frequent sandstorms, creating thriller-moments come with ease when nature does the work for you. You’re literally convinced it’s the American frontier, not Namibia.
Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 BC prehistoric drama follows a hunter who seeks to save his tribesmen and love from captors. Add in one of the oldest deserts in the world, you get an unforgettable visual experience. One can easily spot the characteristics of our desert setting the stage for the film, which fills us with tremendous pride. You cannot deny it’s a symbolic moment, the oldest sand dunes in the world, the backdrop for history. This is what you call full-circle.
From the onset, we’re transported to our seaside town of Swakopmund. The town is shown as an idyllic seaside village where the hero is trapped within its creepy utopia. Perfectly nestled between an endless desert with natural eerie fog and old German architecture, Swakopmund’s dichotomy brings the story to life. Although the town is used for covert operations in the show, it’s appeal calls you when you need those moments of solitude along the Atlantic coast.
A Space Odyssey
We are aware this is a well-known fact, but we couldn’t resist. When your country is featured in one of the best films in cinematic history, it has to be mentioned. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece follows the story of the Black Monolith, human evolution and A.I.’s ultimate supercomputer HAL 9000. The iconic “Dawn of Man” sequence was filmed at Spitzkoppe. Kubrick and team took footage and photographs, thereafter designing a set inspired by the natural geological formations of the mountains and projected the mammoth setting on a backdrop. Even with projection, the magnetism of Spitzkoppe is undeniable, transcending the projection to build a world post-Dinosaurs.
It’s evident there is so much more to explore and tap into with regards to filming in Namibia, so we’re sure to see our backyard on more screens. With our canyon, a tropical oasis in the northeastern strip, doomsday gloom along the coast, eerie extraterrestrial plains and so forth, it’s only a matter of time before the next big hit is filmed on our shores and ready for binge-watching.