Thursday, March 26, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Precious. An overwrought, saccharine-sweet word, the name Precious fits the “traditionally built” African woman Mma Ramotswe, the main character in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Perfectly.

Last night, my friend Kelly and I got to see a preview of the new HBO film series based on the Alexander McCall Smith book series at the Angelica theatre in Dallas. The series premiers on Sunday, March 29 with the two-hour movie, and six one-hour episodes follow. 

About half of the crowd stayed for the Q&A with Producer Amy J. Moore , pictured here, who described the nine-year-saga to bring her dream to the cinema. I don't go anywhere without a camera:)

Amy said, “I dream big.”

 Seeing the beloved story come to life through characters on a big screen, as one among a packed-house audience comprised of fans of the book series, I sensed immediate approval.

“Your reactions are fantastic,” Amy said afterwards. “I worried about how Americans would react or relate to Africa,” and she went on to say that she felt the themes in these novels “are very universal.” 

I agree. Elegant storytelling with no heavy-handedness, author McCall Smith created a world enviable for its simplicity. 

When asked about the job of Producer, Amy said, “A real Producer brings material, talent or money” to the endeavor, which in this case she brought the material to British Director Anthony Minghella who also helped write the screenplay. Minghella died on the morning of the British premiere, and Producer Sydney Pollack died two months later, two sorrows that hint at the difficulties she personally experienced in addition to 12-hour days, 6-days a week—“rigorous”—during filming on location in Botswana.

“In Botswana, there are smart people but no film base,” she said. “We asked for a table and we’d get 3 chairs,” something that demonstrates the resourcefulness of the people of Africa. One thing she hopes to share through the film is the spirit of the African people who even though much of life is “laborious,” they are “a people with so little who are joyous.” 

Amy told a story on herself.  She went up to a group of young people and asked, “Where’s the bathroom?”

These youths looked at her, one spoke, “In our culture we greet each other first.”

That encounter describes what Alexander McCall Smith captured in these books, like a "fable," she called it. Amy noted from page 225 in the African edition, page 234 in the American edition and I found on page 232 in the British edition of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, book one in the series, Mr. JLB Matekoni’s reflection on the character Mma Ramotswe:

He looked at her in the darkness, at this woman who was everything to him—mother, Africa, wisdom, understanding, good things to eat, pumpkins, chicken, the smell of sweet cattle breath, the white sky across the endless, endless bush, and the giraffe that cried, giving its tears for women to daub on their baskets; O Botswana, my country, my place.

Amy Moore said, “If someone can depict that, get that so right—the rest of the world needs to know that. We don’t get that anywhere.”

Don’t you think that’s Precious?


San said...

In our culture we greet each other first?! I LOVE that! That is soooo Africa! I am thrilled to know about this! And ohmygoodness the photos you have taken of great writers of late!

Carol said...

Thought of you when she said that. So much to learn from people in other cultures.