'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' Puts Spotlight on Botswana

In Gaborone, Botswana, the joint production of the HBO/BBC series "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" caused a sensation, both locally and internationally. It's the story of a young woman chasing her dreams to be a detective, the first in Botswana. But it also was a catalyst to a young film industry just getting started. By Bart Childs

It's a story about a dream, about starting from scratch.

But it's about not Mma Ramotswe in the wildly popular books, film and TV series called the "No. 1 First Ladies' Detective Agency." It's about the film industry in Botswana itself explained Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the series.

"I think there are all sorts of things that one can do in this country because of the attractiveness for investment and the stability. It's a very attractive place for people to invest in," he said. "Why not films?"

The government agreed, spending $5 million to make sure the film was made here.

"We really wanted it to take place in Botswana because we saw the advantages of authenticity," said Tourism Board CEO Myra Sekjororoane.

That investment in authenticity has paid off, at least for the tourism industry in the capital, Gaborone.

"Up until recently there was no need to come here as a tourist," said tourist agent Tim Race. "In fact, it wasn't even encouraged at all. And having these books written about and set in Gaborone and having the television series produced here, that's really put Gaborone on the tourist map."

And the books and TV series have also sparked a fledgling film industry.

ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH: "It was a very good opportunity for local people to get a bit of training and the film company, the Weinstein company, was actually very careful to give full opportunities to local people to actually learn film making skills, so there were a lot of skills left behind."

ROBERT DARGIE (DIRECTOR, DARGIE ADVERTISING AGENCY): "Even the coming of Mma Rotaswe to Botswana, it was really a challenge to us to really wake up. Then, we started really seeing other companies coming to Botswana shooting other things, then we say, 'I think, we're on the right track."

JOEL REBAONE KEITUMELE (ACTOR/PRODUCER): "I was one of the extras in 'No. 1 Ladies' Detective.' To me, I've picked up my CV, I've picked up my profile. It has opened up the doors for us, because now we see people engaging us in their productions, because they trust the energy here."

Development is evident across Gaborone. And on the former set, memories of a big time Hollywood production linger, reminding the young industry of the challenges ahead.

ROBERT DARGIE: "We are not there yet, but we really think we can come up to that."

TIM RACE: "We have Hollywood, we have Bollywood and we now have Kgalewood, which is the center of the Botswana film industry... In someone's dreams."

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