Saturday, April 21, 2007

Movie-making à l'africaine

Not even Hollywood is immune to the African corruption bug, nor, apparently is its Sexiest Man.

The LA Times recently ran this article talking about cost overruns for that silly explod-a-thon, Sahara. As one could imagine for a movie that cost nearly $200 million dollars while only pulling in half that in its box office run, producers broke the bank—but not in the way you'd imagine:

"Courtesy payments," "gratuities" and "local bribes" totaling $237,386 were passed out on locations in Morocco to expedite filming. A $40,688 payment to stop a river improvement project and $23,250 for "Political/Mayoral support" may have run afoul of U.S. law, experts say."
The former payment was made to delay construction of government sewage system that would have interrupted filming. Imagine that ministerial conversation:

Poor Local Civil Servant: "These people would like to be able to flush their toilets, sir."

Corrupt Moroccan Fat Cat: "No time for that, my good man, we're making movies!"

The corruption on Sahara ran as thick as its famed sands:
"Cold cash came in handy. ...16 "gratuity" or "courtesy" payments were made throughout Morocco. Six of the expenditures were "local bribes" in the amount of...$7,559."
Morocco has earned a favorable reputation among Hollywood producers in recent years as a haven of cheap labor and corrupt officials: Kingdom of Heaven, Babel, and Black Hawk Down, among others, were all filmed here.

Never mind the possible legal ramficiations of bribes, which
constitute buying business advantages, a violation of U.S. law, listen to the Hollywood spin:

"It's a bad choice of words in a document, but it's a perfectly normal and cost-efficient way of getting a film made in a place like Morocco," said David A. Davis of FMV Opinions Inc., a Century City financial advisory firm. "
You've heard it here first: Corruption and graft—perfectly acceptable vices "in a place like Morocco" if the end result is motion picture magic; and, especially if the magician is that dreamy Matthew McConaughey.

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