……BY BILLY SUTER……
AN EPIC new sci-fi series shot in Cape Town and surrounds by acclaimed director Ridley Scott, of Alien and Blade Runner fame, is now available to binge on Showmax, where it is currently the second most popular series on the streaming channel, pipped only by The Real Housewives of Durban.
Filmed locally with Film Afrika and on record as the biggest-budget show ever to film in South Africa, the series is Raised By Wolves, which received a number of nominations at the 2021 Critics Choice Super Awards.
The series focuses on two androids tasked with raising human children on a virgin planet, after Earth has been destroyed in a religious war. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.
The show is a contender for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series, Best Actor: Sci-Fi (Vikings star Travis Fimmel, who plays an atheist soldier ) and Best Actress: Sci-Fi (Amanda Collin, who plays the series matriarch).
NME wrote of Raised By Wolves: “Scott’s AI stunner is on a different planet… one of 2020’s most unmissable TV experiences”, while The Wall Street Journal wrote that “Mother (Amanda Collin)… is the most memorable female/female-like space entity since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien”
The cast includes Abubakar Salim (Jamestown, Fortitude), Niamh Algar (Pure, MotherFatherSon) and Matias Varela (Narcos, The Borgias, Assassin’s Creed). South African cast members include Clayton Evertson (Arendsvlei), Susan Danford (Still Breathing), Litha Bam (Intersexions), Garth Breytenbach (8, Troy: Fall of a City), Tristan de Beer (The Girl from St Agnes, Rage), Tanya van Graan (Die Spook van Uniondale, Zulu), Tarryn Wyngaard (DAM, The Watch, Dwaalster), Jenna Upton (Cape Town) and Anlia van Rensburg (Getroud Met Rugby), as well as Loulou Taylor and Daniel Lasker in breakthrough roles.
Stellenbosch and Lourensford Wine Estate outside Somerset West form the haunting backdrop of planet Kepler 22-b, a real planet around 620 light-years from Earth that scientists speculate could potentially support life, though we don’t yet know what its surface actually looks like.
As Scott told Forbes about Lourensford: “We found a range of mountains that were in your face for about a kilometre, and every morning this tablecloth of cloud would come in, it would just roll over them, and I went, ‘Oh my God!’ It was surreal, it was otherworldly, so half the work was done, just by the location.”
What really makes the South African landscape feel alien to foreign audiences are the quiver trees (also known as kokerboom trees).
“What I loved in the (South African) desert were the trees, which were something in the aloe/cactus family,” Scott explains. “I said, ‘I have to have those trees.’ We got permission to transplant some onto a piece of terrain less than a kilometre from the foot of this beautiful mountain range…”
The interiors of The Ark were constructed at Cape Town Film Studios, while Raised by Wolves also shot at locations like The Good Hope Centre and the old Maitland abattoir.
“Scott’s long-time collaborator Dariusz Wolski, who was also director of photography on The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, was nominated for a 2020 Camerimage Award for the series pilot, so you know our landscapes are in safe hands,” says a Showmax spokesman.
“Film Afrika line producer Cheryl Eatock confirms Raised By Wolves is the biggest-budget show ever to film in South Africa. For context, she says, season one created nearly 700 full-time equivalent jobs, 52% of which went to youth and 66% of which went to historically disadvantaged individuals.
“The series also hired 1 200 businesses, predominantly small, medium and micro enterprises. Twenty-five historically disadvantaged individuals received hands-on training, facilitated by the non-profit The SA Film Academy (Safa), an accredited training provider established and managed by the SA production service companies to ensure growth in the industry. Also, 18 Safa alumni worked as full crew members of Raised By Wolves.” The spokesman adds.
Eatock confirms Collin is already back in the country prepping for season two of the series.
“This chart-topping series beautifully weaves together Ridley’s hallmarks of sci-fi and horror while offering fans one of the most original storylines they’ve seen in some time,” says Sarah Aubrey, head of the show’s producers, HBO Max. “I can’t wait to see what’s in store for season two.”
Season two is also pioneering a more sustainable approach to filmmaking. On season one, GreenSet – a local non-profit film industry sustainability organisation, in partnership with Wrap Zero – diverted tons of organic waste from landfill to organic gardens; avoided an estimated 193 000 single-use plastic water bottles; installed a solar cell tower at Lourensford; and donated 97 tons of wood to charities for reuse.
For season two, GreenSet, in partnership with Credible Carbon, has developed a groundbreaking carbon calculator, with 63 key film-industry specific environmental indicators, to measure the carbon footprint of the production.
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