28 February 2013

Namibia: Mad Max Given Clean Bill of Health

THE Namibia Film Commission (NFC) has absolved the production team of the film 'Mad Max: Fury Road' of any environmental wrongdoing.

The film crew concluded its shoot in the Dorob National Park last year.

The NFC said at a media briefing in Swakopmund yesterday that the production did not violate any law in Namibia.

The all-clear comes in the wake of allegations of destruction that was caused to the Dorob National Park during the film shoot last year.

The NFC hauled the print and electronic media over the coals yesterday for their negative reporting of the damage caused to the park by the film crew.

Most of the media reports made reference to an extensive draft report by environmental specialist Dr Joh Henschel, who investigated the flaws in the process of environmental management and rehabilitation during and after filming.

Several copies of the report made it to the relevant authorities but when challenged about the relevance of its content, the NFC said "it was just a draft still".

The report resulted in many questions being asked about the process followed in granting permits for the production; formulating an environmental impact assessment (EIA); and the overall supervision and law enforcement by environmental authorities during the film production.

The Henschel report pointed out that the permission to shoot the film was not granted by the authorised person at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. It also suggested that no EIA was done on which the approval for the filming was based and that the producers of the movie were not held accountable for allegedly failing to observe the park's regulations. It also said that the movie was shot without effective 'policing' by the ministry's officers.

Although Henschel's report was consultative, serious questions were asked resulting in accusations by environmentalists and lobby groups that foreign companies were not taking Namibian conservation laws seriously, while Namibian authorities treated them with kid gloves.

"Articles accusing the government of administrative confusion, neglect, non-compliance with constitutional laws pertaining to conservation and the inability to protect the environment from ourselves must be taken to task. We will not tolerate any untruths intended to damage the country's good reputation," the NFC statement said.

According to film commissioner Obed Emvula, the NFC investigated the media allegations with the film industry, relevant ministries, the Namibia Coast Conservation and Management Project (Nacoma) and the Swakopmund municipality and "according to the ministry, no laws were broken".

According to the statement, the NFC issued a film permit to the producers of Mad Max in October 2011, which was forwarded to the ministry, who in turn approved it according to legislation "in place at the time".

According to the NFC, the environmental clearance was issued after a detailed filming plan with location and rehabilitation plans were provided in terms of the environmental management plan.

"Mad Max has to our satisfaction accepted our governance over them and has faced up to their responsibilities within Namibia, and they have open-handedly done so," the Film Commission said. "It is therefore shocking to read about the so-called 'horrific destruction of a part of the Dorob in the process of filming'."

According to the NFC the rehabilitation process took place during filming and after and that the process is scheduled to be finalised by the end of March. Site visits were done to various filming locations, and following this the NFC "gave Mad Max a clean bill".

The statement said the NFC has no misgivings about issuing the film permit and will continue an open-door policy for "law-abiding films such as Mad Max".

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