BBC shoots riski­est se­ries as it fol­lows Fon­goli chimp clan

Saturday Star - - METRO - KHAYA KOKO [email protected]

FOR MORE than 120 years, the Song­hai dy­nasty in West Africa was a global be­he­moth an­chored on its gold-dom­i­nated econ­omy and an ad­vanced so­cio-po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

The em­pire be­gan to crum­ble in the 16th cen­tury when King Askia’s many sons launched a mutiny against their fa­ther, whose in­flu­ence be­gan to wane the older he be­came.

In present-day West Africa, an­other bold but ageing leader is fight­ing to main­tain control of his dy­nasty amid cir­cling ri­vals pre­pared to kill and usurp their king, who needs to fight off en­e­mies while con­tend­ing with a shrink­ing and hazardous nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment caused mainly by de­bil­i­tat­ing pol­lu­tion and rapid in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion and ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

Meet David, the Fon­goli chim­panzees’ ruler, who, for three years, has been the al­pha male in a 32-chimp fam­ily – rul­ing it with as­ton­ish­ing so­cio-po­lit­i­cal nous, while en­sur­ing the group’s eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity.

This amaz­ing lead­er­ship is im­pres­sively cap­tured in the BBC’S new five-part se­ries, Dy­nas­ties, which fol­lows five of the world’s cel­e­brated but en­dan­gered crea­tures – chimps, emperor pen­guins, lions, African painted wolf and In­dian tiger – and how they sur­vive in some of Earth’s most iconic habi­tats.

Each episode fo­cuses on a fam­ily, and sto­ries are told in an an­thro­po­mor­phic for­mat, where pro­duc­ers as­cribe hu­man char­ac­ter­is­tics to the an­i­mals in cre­at­ing a grip­ping nat­u­ral his­tory thriller.

“We sort of cast these crea­tures, the ones we wanted to use,” said Michael Gun­ton, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer.

“The choice was that these were go­ing to be po­lit­i­cal sto­ries. Ev­ery episode is re­ally about fam­ily pol­i­tics, which is the ba­sis of Shake­speare, So­pra­nos and The God­fa­ther.”

For the chim­panzee episode, pro­ducer Rosie Thomas said her crew spent more than two years in Sene­gal, filmed for over 300 days car­ry­ing roughly 80kg of film kit daily in or­der to get the story.

Thomas was preg­nant for parts of the film­ing, and had to have a short ma­ter­nity leave.

“It’s a big com­mit­ment, but there are many peo­ple in­volved, and it’s about get­ting the com­mit­ment from them as well,” she said.

Se­ries pro­ducer Ru­pert Bar­ring­ton said this was prob­a­bly the riski­est the BBC has pro­duced be­cause the chan­nel and its pro­duc­ers had put all their eggs in one bas­ket to get the story.

“There are so many things that can go wrong when you have put all your re­sources into one bas­ket.

“If David had been killed in the first three weeks of film­ing, where do you go from there?

“Once you start putting your re­sources into one place, there’s not re­ally a Plan B,” Bar­ring­ton said.

The an­thro­po­mor­phic for­mat in­tro­duces many char­ac­ters to the chimps’ episode, where David has to bat­tle in­ter­nal pol­i­tics through form­ing al­liances and wag­ing war when nec­es­sary.

It is an in­tri­cate so­cio-po­lit­i­cal sys­tem which high­lights the stark sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween hu­man and an­i­mal fa­mil­ial struc­tures.

As the renowned nar­ra­tor Sir David At­ten­bor­ough so suc­cinctly put it: “The fam­ily is one of the most pow­er­ful forces in na­ture.”


DI­NOSAUR fa­nat­ics are in for a treat this week­end as the an­nual di­nosaur expo re­turns to Jo­han­nes­burg this week­end.

Life-size an­i­ma­tronic di­nosaurs will be on dis­play and, apart from a fos­sil dis­play as well as a 15-minute tour, the expo will also have ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren to en­joy.

This in­cludes dino fos­sil dig­ging and dino egg in­stant pho­tos.

The event will take place at the Ri­et­fontein City Park in Sand­ton. Tick­ets cost R100 to R120. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.friend­sofri­et­


A BOL­LY­WOOD clas­si­cal tale will be re­told this week­end in Joburg when Kuch Kuch Hap­pens will be pre­sented at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City Casino to­day and to­mor­row.

Pro­ducer, di­rec­tor and chore­og­ra­pher Shivani Kara once said that “Gaut­eng au­di­ences were starved for lo­cal pro­fes­sional Bol­ly­wood pro­duc­tions”.

Tick­ets are avail­able at Com­puticket and Gold Reef City box of­fice.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit: www. tso­go­

Sir David At­ten­bor­ough

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