African Fixer

Eswatini: Africa’s Most Scenic Film Location

November 24, 2023

Eswatini, previously known as Swaziland, is a favorite film location for many types of film, documentary and television production. Renamed by King Mswati III in 2018, on the occasion of the country’s 50th anniversary of independence that coincided with his 50th birthday, this small country is renowned for its rich cultural heritage.

It is one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies, and its incredible heritage has been drawing film and television producers ever since the 1979 debacle of ‘King Solomon’s Treasure.’

From An Obscure Film With No Script To Hollywood

In 1979, a British-Canadian film production, King Solomon’s Treasure, chose Swaziland as the filming location. Intended as a remake for television of ‘King Solomon’s Mine’, the film producers began shooting without a plausible script. Thinking that the Ngwenya Mine in the north of the country would provide an exciting set for the climax of the story, they hired local talent to trek across the country in pursuit of dinosaur puppets that were supposed to lead them to the fabled treasure.

In a 1987 interview, actor Richard Grant Esterhuysen explained why the film production was a complete flop.

          “Although Ngwenya Mine is considered the world’s oldest mine, the Lion Cavern is now all that remains of it. More money for the film production would have helped the local crew develop a plausible script. Instead, we were given little to do except trek across the country for the first half of the film. By the time we got to the mine, we had forgotten what we were actually there for.”

To its credit, the film gave Swazi-born Richard Grant ( as he is now known) the opportunity to produce his own film, ‘Withnail and I’, and catapulted him into the mainstream. By the time he was cast in ‘Star Wars: Rise of The Skywalker’ in 2019, he was already a Hollywood star and proudly waving the Eswatini flag.

His fame, as well as his support of the arts and culture in Eswatini, have led many film and television producers to believe that ‘Raiders of The Lost Ark’ was a remake of King Solomon’s Treasure. However, Richard Grant explains that the confusion arose only because the film producers who made Raiders of The Lost Ark copied the map room scene from King Solomon’s Treasure. What the film did do for Eswatini production companies was showcase the country’s scenic film locations.

The World’s Oldest Mountain

The Makhonjwa Mountains, also known as the Barberton Greenstone Belt, is the oldest mountain range in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It offers visitors  luxury lodges and its most famous attraction is the mythical, sacred Mantjolo Pool, where locals believe their ancestors rest.

A well-known legend is often recounted about the dam drying up whenever Europenas tried to introduce fish farming, and even today, few people dare to get too close to the water’s edge.

Besides the scenic mountain locations, Eswatini also offers a number of important wildlife experiences for film and television producers.The Hlane Royal National Park is famous for the annual Royal Hunt, called Butimba. The park protects the endangered black rhinoceros, and is one of the few places in the world where you can find both the black and white rhino. It also boasts the largest population of nesting vultures in Africa.

The Mbuluzi Game Reserve has a wide variety of bird life, giraffes, zebras and kudu. In the northern region of Hhohho, Lomomba is the legislative capital of the country and the seat of the Royal Family. The Royal Kraal, Parliament Building and National Museum offer undiscovered cultural treasures, and the king holds audiences with the public at the Embo State Palace prior to the famous Reed Festival.

The executive capital and largest city, Mbabane, is located in the Mdzombi Mountains. Nearby filming locations include the Malolotja Nature Reserve and Phophonyane Falls Nature Reserve. Here you will find the Sibebe Rock, the second largest monolith in the world after Australia’s Uluru.

Fim Equipment Supplies, Film Crew and Talent Scouting

Although Eswatini has no film equipment suppliers or local film crews, it is almost completely surrounded by South Africa and is only a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg. The roads are in good condition, even if you are traveling from the north-eastern border with Mozambique and there are regular flights between Mbabane and most neighboring countries.

African Fixer will procure all the film equipment supplies, film crew and talent scouting you need for your production, so that you can relax and enjoy the immersive cultural experience of filming Africa’s smallest, yet most scenic gem.

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