Kwazulu-Natal locations in and around Mtunzini and near Eshowe have been used in recent weeks for the US remake of an acclaimed miniseries that ranks as one of the most-watched on television. The 1977 success, Roots, a story of slavery centred on one man and his descendants over 200 years, won nine of its 37 Emmy Award nominations. By Billy Suter
The remake, with a cast including Laurence Fishburne, Anna Paquin, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anika Noni Rose and Forest Whitaker, is scheduled to premiere in the US early next year.
Phillip Noyce, whose directing credits include Clear and Present Danger with Harrison Ford, and Salt with Angelina Jolie, is among the remake's directors.
Having visited South Africa to shoot The Giver (with Meryl Streep), Mary and Martha (starring Hilary Swank) and Catch a Fire (featuring Tim Robbins), Noyce spent three weeks rehearsing and one week filming for Roots in KZN last month.
Mtunzini's Umlalazi River and the Dlinza Forest near Eshowe were used for filming.
The KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission was excited about prospects likely to result from the Film Afrika production team and local location scout Neville Botha securing the locations for the Roots project.
"This production bears testament to the fact that KZN is a globally competitive, diverse and sustainable choice film destination," said a spokesman.
Based on the 1976 Alex Haley novel, Roots centres on a man from Gambia, Kunta Kinte, who is sold into slavery in the late 18th century, and generations of his descendants.
"KwaZulu-Natal's amazing locations will double for scripted areas in Gambia and along the Kambay Bolongo River, where Kinte is taken prisoner, transported down the river and put on to a ship to be sent to America," said the spokesman.
Roots will star Malachi Kirby, 26, as Kinte, according to the Internet Movie Data Base.
LeVar Burton, who portrayed the young Kinte in the original series, is among the producers of the remake.