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Filming locations in South Africa - film production and film tourism

South Africa as "The whole world in one country" is not only a popular destination for travelers. One of the main locations of the film industry has developed here, especially during the last decade. Unique backdrops stretch between Cape Town and Johannesburg, attracting television and filmmakers from all over the world.
Even the film studios can keep up with the standards in Hollywood and have already brought countless international actors such as Scarlett Johansson (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”), Nicolas Cage (“Dealer of Death”) or Drew Barrymore (“Ready for Vacation”) in front of the camera.

South Africa's diverse film set

The South African landscape is not only interesting for the next blockbusters, but also for the advertising and music industry. When it is winter in Europe, summer spots can be filmed in Africa with perfect lighting conditions. This is of particular benefit to the automotive industry. It is not uncommon to see the latest car models on television driving along the nine kilometer long Chapman’s Peak Drive south of Cape Town. But even for the Milka advertising, a Swiss alpine hut was quickly relocated to the Cape Town vineyards and in the music video for "Paradise" by Coldplay you follow the path of an elephant from the zoo in England through all of South Africa back to its home - the Kalahari Desert .

The German film producer Giselher Venzke is convinced that it is possible to imitate almost any country for a film production in South Africa and has already produced several films for public service broadcasters there. As the South African Art Deco capital, the coastal city of Durban often serves as the perfect imitation of New York City. Cape Town itself also delights with streets in Art Deco style and elegant Georgian and Victorian houses along Long Street. The Foreshore Freeway Bridge, which was unfinished in 1977 and was once supposed to become the Eastern Boulevard Highway, is also a popular location for action and commercials. Other popular film locations are Boulders Beach with its penguin colony, Simon's Town, the Cape of Good Hope and the Cape Peninsula in general.

South Africa in ten films


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The film produced by Clint Eastwood "Invictus" (2008) deals with the rugby world cup in South Africa in 1995 and is based on the book "The Victory of Nelson Mandela: How Enemies Become Friends". Nelson Mandela plays a major role in this story, and with his commitment he contributed to the fact that the South African rugby team "Springboks" competed at the World Cup, united the nation and ultimately even won the game. This success wrote not only sports, but above all world history and is considered a symbol of the defeated white rule after apartheid.
The former Green Point Stadium, which is now the Cape Town Stadium, served as the filming location for the rugby games. The Cape Town Stadium opens for visitors three times a day for one-hour tours, during which one is led, for example, into the changing rooms and the stadium prison. The Ferryman’s Tavern on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, where the South African rugby team meets for a beer in the film, also exists and can be visited during opening hours.

Learn more about the film on Wikipedia

Not only “Invictus” shows the life of Nelson Mandela.

Mandela - The long way to freedom

Mandela - The long way to freedom

In particular the film "The Long Walk to Freedom" (2013, original title: "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom") accompanies the stages of Mandela's imposing life from his birth to the end of apartheid in the 1990s.
The filming location in the village of Qunu, where Mandela spent his childhood, can be visited by those interested. There you can learn more about the life of the freedom fighter in the Nelson Mandela Museum. A country road in KwaZulu-Natal also served as the original location during filming and can be visited as the site of Nelson Mandela's arrest in August 1962. Other locations from the film are the areas of Sophiatown and Kliptown in the Johannesburg district of Soweto for all shots of the Soweto township settlement, in which Mandela temporarily lived, as well as other places in Johannesburg and Cape Town. A special setting is the prison on Robben Island, in which Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison. Tourists can take a tour of the prison with former inmates.

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"Tsotsi" (2005) won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2006 and tells the story of an unscrupulous gangster from Johannesburg who takes care of the baby of his murder victim. Tsotsi develops a relationship with the child and reconsiders his criminal way of life. The film is based on the book of the same name by the South African writer Athol Fugard. The actors who cast the scenes filmed in South Africa are for the most part lay people who have lived or still live in the townships. The film was shot in different parts of South Africa, mainly in Johannesburg and the surrounding area.

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The film "Zulu" (2013) is based on the French novel of the same name from 2008 by Caryl Férey. The story begins with a young woman who is found dead and mutilated. It is the daughter of a well-known rugby player who immediately starts a campaign against the police because they fail to maintain public safety. Three men are assigned to the delicate case. They represent the proportions of the population in the country on the Cape that has overcome apartheid, but not the social tensions that continue to shape class and racial relations. With the exception of Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom, only largely inexperienced South African actors were hired for the film. Most of the shooting took place in Cape Town, coastal residential areas and townships characterized by crime, drug trafficking and gang activities. B. in the Cape Flats.

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Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man (OmU)

“Searching for Sugarman” from 2012 deals with the search by two South African music fans for the musician Sixto Rodriguez, who became a star in South Africa without his knowledge. His songs from the 1970s moved South Africans in times of apartheid and became hymns of the anti-apartheid movement. At first the musician didn't notice anything about it, as his former record company didn't tell him about the success. In the end, however, thanks to the contact with music fans Stephen "Sugar" Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, he played some sold-out concerts in South Africa.
Music and film lovers can visit the filming location and world-famous record store “Mabu Vinyl” on Rheede Street in Cape Town.

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Safe House

In the 2012 thriller "Safe House" Ryan Reynolds plays a US secret agent in South Africa whose task it is to protect inmate and ex-CIA agent Tobin Frost (played by Denzel Washington) from gangsters who want to kill him at all costs before he can testify as a key witness. The secret shelter in which Frost is imprisoned is blown and an escape through South Africa begins. One of the fast-paced car chases ran through Cape Town and was filmed in Wall Street, Adderly Street and other surrounding streets and shops. There is also a scene near Arnold's Restaurant on Kloof Street. The entire film was made in South Africa.

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The hottest day

DER GEILSTE TAG - Trailer F2 German HD German

In the German tragic comedy "Der geilste Tag" (2016) with Matthias Schweighöfer and Florian David Fitz, Andi and Benno, two terminally ill young men who couldn't be more different, get to know each other in a hospice. What they have in common is that they don't want to lie around and wait for death. Instead, they set out to have the hottest day of their lives again. They steal 140,000 euros and start their road trip in a motorhome through South Africa to visit Benno's former girlfriend Mona and daughter Leni. The film was shot not only on Table Mountain in Cape Town, but also on Uvongo Beach south of Durban, in the Drakensberg region and the Royal Natal National Park, at the Augrabies Falls and in Pella. Mona's beach house featured in the film is located on Noordhoek Beach, where Andi and Benno also spend the night in the actually existing Monkey Valley Resort. Mona's wedding was filmed at the Boschendal winery near Cape Town, which can also be visited as a tourist, for example during a wine tasting or a longer stay with an overnight stay.

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Ready for vacation

Another production filmed in South Africa is "Holiday Ready" (2014, original title: "Blended") starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The comedy is about Jim and Lauren who meet in their hometown in America after their screwed up date and as a result of a series of linked events in South Africa. Since Jim bought the same vacation trip from his boss and Lauren from his ex-girlfriend, both of them, including their five children, meet in Africa and eventually have to share a room. Dislike soon turns into sympathy and two families become a blended family. The successful film was mainly shot in the luxurious and world-famous Sun City Resort with its four hotels, in particular in the Palace of the Lost City. The Sun City Resort is located next to the Pilanesberg National Park and is also a popular South African hotel complex in real life. Various entertainment venues such as casinos, man-made waterfalls, the Valley of Waves water park or golf courses appear in the film as well as in reality. It was primarily the safari scenes that were filmed in the Pilanesberg National Park. But the famous Kruger National Park also provided some animal-rich shots in the bush savannah and tropical forest.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

The science fiction action film "Avengers: Age of Ultron" from 2015 is the sequel to the film "Marvel’s The Avengers" (2012) and is about a superhero team consisting of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye, who are supposed to protect the world. Since this part of the film series should have a global reference and the superheroes also stop on their mission in South Africa, the film was shot in Johannesburg and Cape Town, among others. One of the biggest action scenes in the film with Iron Man and Hulk takes place in Johannesburg. The production team also used Cape Town Film Studios for blue screen recordings and post-production.

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District 9

District 9 - Official Trailer (HD)

"District 9" (2009) is a science fiction filmwhich unexpectedly became a huge success. A reception center for stranded aliens has been in Johannesburg for about 20 years. The conditions under which the aliens have to live are unworthy. The plan is therefore to move the camp 200 kilometers into the middle of nowhere. The leader of the operation wants to relocate without the use of force. But there is still an argument in which he comes into contact with an extraterrestrial liquid. "District 9" was shot in South Africa. The name of the film is reminiscent of District Six in Cape Town, whose population was evicted during apartheid. However, many scenes in the film are set in real locations in Johannesburg. One of the final shots shows the Ponte City Tower, for example, which until a few years ago was considered the tallest slum and most dangerous high-rise in the world. This film also relied on unknown acting debutants.

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Afghanistan, the Caribbean or South Africa?

Homeland Season 7 (2018) | Official Trailer | Claire Danes & Mandy Patinkin SHOWTIME Series

The series "Homeland" (since 2011) is about the mentally unstable CIA analyst Carrie Mathison, whose main field of work is investigations and operations against terrorism. The fourth season of the award-winning series puts the Middle East at the center of the action. The locations chosen were not Kabul or Islamabad, but Cape Town. The city itself and the surrounding area were used for various scenes in Turkey, the USA, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Artscape Theater Complex in Cape Town, for example, was used for exterior shots of the American embassy.

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Based on actual events it is "Hotel Ruanda" (2004, original title: "Hotel Rwanda") a film about the manager of the luxury hotel "Hôtel des Mille Collines" in Rwanda, who hosted numerous refugees in 1994 during the war between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. He became the lifesaver of thousands of people, but also had to fear for his own life and that of his family, as he ran out of resources and connections to influential people. The film was shot in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg, but is set in Kigali, Rwanda.

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The film "Blood Diamond" (2006) with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, deals with the trade in blood diamonds and weapons as well as corruption and the use of child soldiers. It is set against the backdrop of the gruesome civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002. The South African coast turned out to be a real treasure trove for the motifs in the film. In the lush shower jungle area around Port Edward, the filmmakers found the perfect setting for three important sets: the diamond mine, the refugee camp and Benjamin's school. Outside the Port Edward region, scenes were also filmed in Cape Town, for example at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

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Lord of War - Dealer of Death - Trailer German (HD)

In the film "Dealer of Death" (2005, original title: "Lord of War") the business of international arms dealers is depicted on a true story. The film was modeled on the bloody machinations of the arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had settled in South Africa for a long time and was caught three years after the film was released. All film scenes that take place in Africa, the Middle East, Asia or the Caribbean could be shot in South Africa, especially in Cape Town. Here, the diversity of the South African landscape again proves to be an advantage.

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Ghajini Tamil Movie - Trailer | Suriya, Asin, Nayantara | A.R. Murugadoss, Harris Jayaraj

The makers of the Indian thriller "Ghajini" (2008) used the colorful Edwardian Beach Houses in Muizenberg as a film set for filming. The film is about a man with a short-term memory disorder who wants to take revenge on the murderer, his wife.

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The producers of "The Junglebook" however, chose aerial photos of the KwaZulu-Natal area to show the “Indian” jungle from above. The film, which was released in 2016, is a new edition of the Disney film of the same name from 1967 with real-looking characters, but mainly created through computer animation.

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Black Sails: Season 4 Trailer - NYCC 2016

Also the Pirate series "Black Sails" (2014 to 2017) is an American adventure series filmed at Cape Town Film Studios and Cape Town. It tells the prehistory to the novel "Treasure Island". All exterior shots allegedly recorded in the Caribbean were shot in South Africa. The film team rented all four stages of Cape Town Film Studios for the production. For the ship and beach scenes, two special water tanks and several ship models in original size were built.

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Hollywood’s competition in South Africa - The film studios and production companies

  • Film studio: Cape Town Film Studios (website)
  • Film studio: Atlas Corporation Studios (Milpark / Johannesburg)
  • Film studio: Sasani Studios (Johannesburg, website)
  • Production company: Moonlighting Film Production Services (website)

“Black Sails” shows that many successful films and series are only shot to a small extent in the South African backdrops, but the local film studios are used for blue screen recordings, for digitization and further processing of the film material.

The production of Star Wars and Spiderman were rejected.

Probably the best known and most successful studios are Cape Town Film Studios in the Cape Town region. The idea for the studio came up as early as 2003, the opening was planned for 2004, but was postponed until the current managing director Nico Dekker took over the management together with the producer Anant Singh. In 2010 the 200 hectare area with 4 halls was put into operation. Around 40,000 jobs were created as a result. In particular, unskilled workers from the poorer areas of Cape Town were trained here. While people joked about the dream factory in the years before it opened, every square meter was fully booked in the years that followed.

The productions of Spiderman and Star Wars therefore supposedly even had to be rejected. The studio's own, rare deep water and beach pools were not only used for the shooting of “Black Sails”, but also for the recordings of the German production “Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver"(Theatrical release in Germany: March 29, 2018). In 2016 a fifth studio hall was added, which was immediately used for the production of "The Dark Tower“(2017), a film based on a series of novels by Stephen King, was fully booked. Previously, another science fiction film, the remake of the strip "Dredd“(2012), produced in the studios and filmed in South Africa. The Cape Town Studios can be visited by tourists with an appointment, but photography is prohibited there.

At home in Jollywood.

In addition to the large and famous Cape Town Film Studios, there are several smaller film studios in Johannesburg and Cape Town, such as those that opened in 2002 Atlas Studios (Milpark / Johannesburg) or those that have existed since the 1970s Sasani Studios (Johannesburg). However, these focus primarily on African television series and shows such as "Big Brother" and "The Voice" in Nigeria, South Africa and other countries. Nevertheless, the studios gave Johannesburg the nickname "Jollywood" and a certain prominence in the film scene.

In addition to the film studios, there are more than 150 production companies in the South African film industry that take care of the organization and financing of films, film material, actors and much more. Moonlighting Film Production Services are the oldest production company in South Africa and have participated in numerous successful films such as "Tomb Raider" (2018), "Honey 3" (2016), "Resident Evil" (2016), "10000 BC" (2008) and "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015).

What makes South Africa the next Hollywood?

Many advantages of filming in South Africa are obvious.

  1. There is a constant change between spring and summer without the cold European winter, which means that films and commercials can be pre-shot in the first and last months of the year.
  2. The lighting conditions are mostly terrific and
  3. the diversity of the South African landscape from the jungle, over mountains and national parks to the beach always offers a worthy backdrop.
  4. The great distance to Europe is made up for with the same time zone. As a result, European actors arrive at the location without jet lag, which in turn saves time and money.
  5. In principle, despite the often higher security requirements compared to Europe, the costs for wages, materials and taxes in South Africa are very low.
  6. Filmmakers in South Africa also enjoy considerable government support.
  7. Grants and special permits are not uncommon despite bureaucratic hurdles and lengthy decision-making processes.
  8. The elimination of trade unions also enables longer working hours and the shortage of skilled workers is compensated for by training many local technicians, logisticians, etc.
  9. Through this training and the establishment of the film studios, the local film industry in particular is strengthened.
  10. Large film studios such as Cape Town Film Studios are still considered pioneers in Africa and therefore work almost without competition.
  11. Only in Nigeria is there a film and television industry known on the continent. However, “Nollywood” mainly serves its own market with films and series that are produced quickly and cheaply.
  12. The Cape Town Film Studios shows that the technology in South Africa can keep up with the USA. Filmmakers no longer necessarily have to geographically separate pre-production and post-production and can exploit the financial advantages right up to the end.
  13. Last but not least, Cape Town in particular appeals to producers because of the atmosphere of internationality, cultural mix and creativity.

South African film festivals

If a visit to the filming locations in South Africa is not enough, you can visit numerous smaller and larger festivals throughout the year.

The Event Cape Town International Film Market & Festival takes place annually in October at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and offers film screenings as well as workshops and a market that is not only about the film industry, but also about fashion and good food. The festival is organized by the city itself to strengthen the national film industry.

Information about the festival

The ten day International Film Festival Durban takes place in July in the port city of Durban. The focus of this festival is on the African film industry, but numerous documentaries and short films from all over the world will also be shown.

Information about the festival

The Indie Karoo Festival takes place every July in the town of Prince Albert between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Films by independent cineastes, which can also be of an experimental nature, are shown here.

Information about the festival

An interesting festival is also held in Johannesburg every February. Movie lovers can check out the Jozi Film Festival Watch a colorful potpourri of film genres in different places in the city and in a total of three days. The festival focuses on South African and global filmmakers.

Information about the festival

On the one hand, there are two themed festivals South African Horror Festival in Cape Town and Johannesburg and on the other hand that Wavescape Surf Film Festival in Durban and Cape Town. The former takes place every year in October and November to coincide with Halloweeen. The latter even makes the hearts of fans of films and surf culture beat faster twice a year in July and December. It is also linked to the Durban International Film Festival and likes to see itself as a fusion of art, culture, music and film. There are also open-air film viewings on Clifton Beach to match the topic.


Other films shot in South Africa

  • As long as I breathe / Breathe (2017)
  • The Last Face (2016)
  • The Perfect Wave (2014)
  • Chronicle (2012)
  • Death Race (2008)
  • Catch a Fire (2006)
  • U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2005)
  • The Piano Player (2002)
  • A Woman Called Yesterday / Yesterday (2004)

Other series shot in South Africa

  • The Young Pope (2016)
  • Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 1 and 3
  • The Crown Season 1 and 2

TV shows filmed in South Africa

TV programs have discovered South Africa as a backdrop for themselves.

Goodbye Germany

Quite a few people dream of emigrating. Since 2006 the documentary soap "Goodbye Germany! The emigrants“Germans who make this dream come true.

The program addressed emigration to South Africa more often.

Sing my song

Already since 2014 Sing my Song - The Exchange Concert broadcast. The filming location has been on Walker Bay in the “Grootbos Private Nature Reserve” since the beginning.

Germany seeks the superstar

It was first broadcast in 2002. Almost every year the producers use new locations to make DSDS a success. In 2018 and 2020, some parts of this were filmed in South Africa.

Are You The One?

In 2020, TVNow, RTL's straming service, would like to publish another dating reality soap. In the program “Are You The One?” Twenty singles meet in South Are You The One ?. The participants were selected through psychological tests, which (allegedly) found the perfect match. The participants should find out for themselves who the person is. Only when everyone has selected their partner - as the correct (suitable) - partner will they all win EUR 200,000 together.

Since April 14, 2020, viewers can cheer every Tuesday on TVNow, and from April 6, double episodes will be broadcast on RTL from 8:15 p.m.

In contrast to the international version of "Are you the one?“The German season is not filmed in Hawaii, but in a South African luxury villa. It is located in the suburb of Constantia in Cape Town, not far from the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and looks towards Table Mountain.

The Villa Dawn has 5 bedrooms, which should show the direction of the "dome show". The couples should get closer quickly because the villa is rented to groups of up to ten people. The pool is heated, the large garden invites you to linger and the participants will know how to keep busy in the outdoor sports area. The costs per after start at 45,000 Rand, so around 2,200 Villa Dawn Southern Suburbs.

Hout Bay is around 15 minutes away, the V&A Waterfront 20 minutes and Camps Bay just under 25 minutes' drive away.

Other film festivals

  • South African Eco Film Festival (March / April; Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Eastern Cape)
  • The X-Fest (April; Cape Town, Johannesburg
  • Encounters (June; Cape Town)
  • Khayelitsha Film Festival (June; Cape Town)
  • Plett Food Film Festival (July; Plettenberg Bay)
  • KykNET Silwerskermfees (August; Cape Town / Camps Bay)
  • Sound on Screen Music Film Festival (August; Cape Town, Johannesburg)
  • Shnit International Short Film Festival (October; Cape Town)
  • Short & Sweet (all year round; Cape Town, Johannesburg)
  • Sunshine Cinema (all year round; various locations in South Africa)

Do you still know films, series or festivals that we haven't mentioned?

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Vanessa loves to write and therefore enriches the blog with exciting topics about southern Africa. She is particularly interested in intercultural cooperation and foreign cultures. In connection with this, traveling and photography / filming are her greatest passions and have already taken her to the north and west of the African continent. The south will certainly not be long in coming either!

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