I'm sitting here watching the 2010 film Fair Game . . . within the first 15 minutes, one of the main characters travels to Niger. Except, it's NOT Niger! It can't be. The cows are too fat, and the goats are too furry. The taxis are black and the license plates on the cars are not long and skinny. The gendarmes don't have the right camo uniforms. The architecture of the city is wrong. There are too many airplanes at the airport. There are cafés on the street. The city is loaded with tall apartment buildings and palm trees. The dirt is a light golden color, not rust. And there is not a single red Kasea motorcycle to be found.
Niger's only on the screen a few minutes . . . but it's longer than the scenes shot in Kuala Lumpur. And those are accurate city shots. The director also filmed in Cairo, Baghdad, New York, and DC. All of which are recognizable cities.
I guess that's the key, huh? Be a recognizable place in order to get accurate depiction. When the director, Doug Liman, shot The Bourne Identity, he refused to film in Canada, saying, 'Well, just because they speak French in Canada doesn't mean it looks anything like Paris.'
Maybe I've become a bit cynical . . . but just because it feels like Africa, doesn't mean it's Niger.
You can't just throw a bunch of Africans in vibrantly colored but clearly dirty cloth with big bowls on their heads on a sidewalk next to a herd of cows crossing a busy street of honking cars and call it 'Niger.' I mean, where are the Tuaregs, or the camels, or the Fulani, or the kids selling airtel phone cards at the red lights?
What does it matter?? You ask. And to be honest, I'm not sure why it bothers me. Maybe because this country gets very little publicity as it is . . . so when it is 'recognized' by an industry as influential as Hollywood, it would be nice if they took the time to get it right.
So, Mr. Liman, if you do make it to Niger with your camera, please be sure to stop by in Galmi for a cup of tea. (Let's consider that an open invitation to any of you who happen to make it out here!)