African Fixer

Cinema Madagascar – Unchartered Territory

October 18, 2023

Madagascar is an island situated in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world, having developed much in isolation, with a limited film industry since its independence from France in 1960. The island nation is mostly known for its unique wildlife and rich biodiversity. Madagascar is home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species including the lemurs of Ankarafantsika National Park, several species of chameleon and its baobab trees.

Madagascar has a varied landscape including national parks, tropical rainforests, tropical dry forests, thorn forests, deserts, xeric shrublands, white sand beaches, tropical islands, coral reefs, volcanic regions, mountains, and limestone formations. The country is also a great filming location for agricultural film locations including rice-growing valleys, banana, coffee, cacao, and vanilla plantations.The country is divided into the following six provinces: Antananarivo, centrally located in the country; Antsiranana, the northern province; Fianarantsoa, a southeastern province; Mahajanga, located in the northwest; Toamasina, the eastern province; and Toliara, in the south. Madagascar is a much sought after location for documentary films and has hosted film productions such as Naked and Afraid (2014), Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (2014), and Life (2009).

Regions of Madagascar


Antananarivo includes the regions of Analamanga, Bongolava, Itasy, and Vakinankaratra.

Locally, Antananarivo is known as Tana. The capital is Antananarivo and is the largest city in Madagascar. Interesting film locations worth nothing are the ruins of the Rova Palace Complex, and the Ambohimanga traditional fortified royal settlement. Ambohimanga in Malagasy means blue hill and is a place of extreme importance for the Malagasy, the history of Madagascar and the Malagasy monarchy. This site brings about a strong sense of national identity and is viewed as a holy place which is regularly visited by pilgrims from all parts of the country. Other sites in Antananarivo are Andafiavaratra Palace, Ambohitsorohitra Palace, Analakely Market, and the French colonial architecture of the old Haute-Ville district.


The northern province of Antsiranana includes the regions of Diana and Sava. Locations in Antsiranana are Tsingy de Ankarana, Masoala National Park and Amber Mountain National Park which is known for its indigenous flora and fauna, water falls and crater lakes. This province also includes the paradise Mozambique channel islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Tanikely. Nosy Be is home to the forests of Lokobe Reserve which is a haven for chameleons, geckos and frogs. The capital, Hell-Ville, stands out with its French colonial buildings while Lemuria Land is home to a variety of lemurs, and reptiles. The park also has a 19th-century distillery which is still used to extract essential oils from the native ylang-ylang tree. Nosy Tanikely is known for its coral beaches.


The province of Fianarantsoa includes the regions of Atsimo-Atsinanana, Amoron’i Mania, Ihorombe, Haute Matsiatra, and Vatovavy-Fitovinany. Locations in this southeastern province are Ranomafana National Park, Midongy Du Sud, Isalo National Park, Andringitra National Park, Kirindy Mitea National Park and the Sapphire Mines of Ilakaka, once the sapphire capital of the world supplying nearly 50% of all the sapphires in the world. Ilakaka has now however fallen on hard times as all easily-mined sapphire fields have been picked clean.


Mahajanga includes the regions of Betsiboka, Boeny, Melaky and Sofia.

Filming locations in this region include Tsingy de Bemaraha and Ankarafantsika National Park which consists of a tapestry of dense and dry forests, and lakes which are the last refuge for many flagship species.


Toamasina, in the east, includes the regions of Alaotra-Mangoro, Analanjirofo and Atsinanana.

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Other filming locations in this region include the paradise island of Ile Sainte Marie, also known as Nosy Boraha. The island is still preserved from mass tourism, and a true haven of peace. It is an idyllic setting made up of heavenly beaches and fishing villages.


The regions of Androy, Atsimo-Andrefana, Anosy, and Menabe are located in the southern province of Toliara. The city of Morondava, situated on the southern west coast of the island is considered to be the main gateway to the Avenue of Baobabs, where massive baobab trees tower over the landscape, and Ifaty fishing villages are found in this province.

Filming Permits and Visas

In order to film in Madagascar, a National Film Permit is required. The permit can be quite costly, but is necessary to clear equipment through customs and to film in the country. An African film fixer can assist with the application process and once all the documentation is submitted, a permit may even be processed the same day. When filming in national parks, additional fees are required. When using drones, permits are required and take about 1-2 weeks to obtain. Permits are obtained by filing for one through Madagascar Civil Aviation. Madagascar generally has very little bureaucracy and therefore even larger productions requiring exclusive use of property can be quickly set up.

When visiting Madagascar a visa is required. Foreign film crews are required to have authorisation from the Madagascan Ministry of Information, Culture and Communication. Visas can either be obtained on arrival, or from the closest Malagasy embassy.

Talent and Equipment for Filming

Due to the fact that Madagascar has little to no filming infrastructure, Locations, local talent and support crew are inexpensive. All key filming crew and equipment must be brought into Madagascar from abroad as though basic film cameras, grips and lighting gear are available locally other equipment are not available.

Madagascar has a very small pool of local directors, videographers and stills photographers and for that reason specialized crew must also be brought in from abroad. In Madagascar, art department services and set construction are also very basic, as well as studios and backlots and this must be taken into consideration when planning on filming in the country. All post production also needs to be done abroad.

Transport & Accommodation in Madagascar

Getting to Madagascar is quite easy as there are several international airlines servicing Madagascar. The road infrastructure on the island is poor and taking a local flight may be more efficient. Safe and reliable 4WD transportation can however be arranged for more remote locations. Madagascar is a rather safe country to travel to and around. Malaria is however a real danger, and it is advisable to take prophylaxis before, during, and after a trip to Madagascar.

Malagasy Culture

Culturally, Madagascar is quite diverse. Madagascans are a mix of Malayo-Indonesian, African and Arab ancestry. When filming in Madagascar, all other talent looks need to be brought in from abroad. The official languages of Madagascar are French and Malagasy. Most films are shown in the capital in the french language, but outside of Antananarivo, there are a number of dialects spoken. Christianity is the predominant religion in Madagascar, but a significant minority still practices traditional faiths as well and it is also important to be aware that Madagascar does have a wide range of taboos that vary by region. Being informed about the taboos of each region is important, for example ancient temples and palaces, sacred lakes, even whole villages can sometimes have their own taboos as a result of old myths or religious beliefs.

Madagascar has a rich landscape with very unique flora and fauna. It is a beautiful backdrop for a variety of film productions including nature documentaries. The country, despite its poorly developed filming infrastructure, is welcoming and relatively easy to navigate in terms of the logistics around filming. Despite having to bring much of the equipment and expertise from abroad for a good quality production, Madagascar is certainly a filming location not to be missed.

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