Monday, August 23, 2004

Affirmative stunts for SA

South Africa's growing film industry spurs affirmative action stunt training

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Thembaletu Tuytu flies through the air with arms flailing, then lands flat on his back with a thud. He leaps off the mats smiling, to quick applause from his classmates.

"I was scared, but now I'm getting it," says the 22-year-old from Cape Town's tough Khayelitsha township, before heading off for another practice run at his new career: African stuntman.

South Africa, over the last two years, has become a favored new location for shooting feature films. Last year Cape Town alone hosted 37, most of them foreign productions. Just this week, filming is beginning on "Lord of War," a major U.S. production starring Nicolas Cage as an international arms dealer.

But black stuntmen remain in short supply in post-apartheid South Africa, a country where white stunt actors capable of bungee jumping off a bridge, disarming a knife-wielding attacker or being lit on fire outnumber blacks 7-1. At times, desperate directors have had to resort to dressing white stunt performers in wigs and makeup to make a scene work.

That, however, has begun to change with the launch of the Dimensional Stunt School, Africa's first affirmative action stunt training program.

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