THE OBENSON REPORT

Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Jill Scott (In A Fat Suit) And Idris Elba Star In 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency'

This might be old news, but I haven't seen it posted around much, and I'm just now learning about it, so I thought I'd share just incase.

The television program is called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and stars Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe, who owns the titular Botswana-based agency. It made history as the first major production to be filmed in Botswana, the landlocked nation in Southern Africa.

The Botswana government reportedly provided five million dollars of funding for the project which has some powerhouse names behind it, like The Weinstein brothers, who are signed on as producers of the series, and directed by the late British director, Anthony Minghella.

A 2-hour pilot was produced in 2007 of a story that is based on a set of novels by the same name, written by Rhodesian-born author, Alexander McCall Smith (who's white, by the way).

Minghella purchased rights to the novels in 2004, after being introduced to them, and apparently fell in love with the story of this young lady, Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott's character), who, with her natural inquisitiveness and intuition, decides to put her talents to use by becoming her country's first ever female detective, using the little wealth left by her dead husband.

The 2-hour pilot premiered on March 23rd, 2008, Easter Sunday, on Britain's most popular TV channel, BBC One, to tremendous audience response, inspiring the Weinsteins to convince HBO to pick up 13 episodes based on the series of novels, for American viewers.

Also starring are Anika Noni Rose, who has acted on just about every stage - theatre (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Terrence Howard and others), Television (Third Watch, 100 Centre Street), and film (Dreamgirls, notably).

Idris Elba costars as well. I think we all know who he is.

From all I've read about the program, those who've seen it have had nothing but good things to say about it. However, I can't help but feel like Jill Scott's character is simply another contemporary rendition of the "mammy" stereotype. One article I read from March, on the UK Guardian website made me cringe a little. In the article, Jill Scott is interviewed, and she talks about how the creators of the show, asked her to get bigger in size to play the lead role. The article is appropriately titled, " Gimme those cheesy rolls: Soul singer Jill Scott tells Elizabeth Day how she ate up the part of Mma Ramotswe in the TV version of The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." I'm sure you can infer from the title alone the contents of the article. In it, Jill Scott says, she put on 30lbs for the role by eating AT LEAST 2 or 3 Philly cheesesteaks a week, and despite that heart-attack inducing diet, the producers of the show wanted her even more plump, so they added padding to her hips, ass, arms and the boobs!

OK! Just how big does this detective have to be? Doesn't that in some way hinder her ability to solve cases? Keep in mind, of course, that this was a series of novels written by a white Rhodesian-born author.

I should mention that there are some good things one can say about the development of a project like this, so I don't want to seem like I'm already dismissing it before actually seeing it. For example, given that it's shot entirely on location, in Botswana's capital city, Gaborone, a lot of local talent was used in the production. In fact, I read that the majority of the crew were native to the country. Also, this lays the foundations for future film productions, as government officials hope to generate a local film industry.

If anyone - I suppose those of you in the UK - saw the March 2008 BBC-One airing of the program, do share your thoughts. I'm definitely curious, and I'll certainly tune in to watch it when HBO finally decides to air the 2-hour pilot, followed by the 13 episodes they ordered. According to Variety, The Weinsteins and HBO aim to launch The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by the first quarter of next year. The show is expected to go back into production on the remaining 13 segments by August this year, with shooting probably taking place in London and Botswana. No word on who the director is going to be for the 13 episodes, although there may be more than one, as is often the case with TV serials.

I couldn't find any useful video clips on YouTube, which was a surprise. But you can learn more about the series at the BBC website HERE. There were 3 video clips listed there, but I couldn't get any of them to play. Someone else might have better luck.

4 comments:

  1. albertine said...
     

    Um wow! Interesting.

    I've heard about the novels but just in passing. I had no idea who created them and I didn't know about the adaptation.

    This I will have to see for myself. I'm off to see what I can dig up about it.

  2. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...
     

    I've read one of the novels - the first. It was hugely popular in the UK about 10 years ago, as were its subsequent follow-ups.

    It was alright. Quite simplistic but pleasant enough - though not quite enough for me to pick up any other in the series. Being so simplistic, it made for an easy read and also gave a happy face to black Africa that many people seemed to feel very comfortable with – supine, benign and almost childlike in enthusiasm – all traits, no doubt, which helped drive its success and popularity.

    I think its simplicity might stem from the fact that it was written by a 'Rhodesian' rather than a Botswanian or maybe even a Zimbabwean. OK, I'm being a little facetious here, but most people who still describe themselves as 'Rhodesian' despite the fact that Rhodesia hasn't existed since 1980 (it's now Zimbabwe) tend to be older white people. I’m not sure if this is how the author of the series of novels, Alexander McCall Smith, describes himself but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard him described as Rhodesian. It's almost akin to an older white person insisting on referring to black people as negro or coloured, even as they describe themselves as being a friend to the negro/coloured people, without realising just how patronising they come across.

    African authors such as Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiongo, to name just two, tend to imbue their characters with more complexity and thus provide for a richer reading experience, in my opinion.

    I didn't get to see the pilot on BBC1 though I read glowing things about it in mainstream press. Doesn’t surprise me that there’ll be a TV series, for pretty much the same reasons, the books were so similar – it’s simplistically happy, supine, benign, imagery.

  3. Anonymous said...
     

    When White folks or Jews in behind the scenes of a black show watch out for stereotypes to come out.

  4. Anonymous said...
     

    When white folks or Jews are behind a black movie or TV show,watch every kind of stereotype to come out.If somebody say something that a white person or a Jew don't like,boy they get mad but when it's us on the other mad as hell,they blow it off like it's ok,I'm sorry I got black friends you know.

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