Thu Dec 08 06:02:22 SAST 2016

Ah, but your land is beautiful

NASHIRA DAVIDS | 2010-08-22 23:16:23.00 Comments

South Africa is up for an Emmy Award on Saturday - even if it is just because of our breathtaking scenery and our ability to look like the US did hundreds of years ago.

Jenny Ash, one of the writers of a highly acclaimed documentary series America: The Story of Us has been nominated for a gold statuette.

In an exclusive interview with The Times, Ash said she was indebted to South Africa, where the entire series was shot.

"South Africa is a stunningly beautiful place - it can look like just about anywhere in the world.

"The South African crew were inconceivably creative and flexible. I loved it there," she said from Los Angeles, where she will attend the glitzy award ceremony.

Ash, who is from London, used a local production company and actors to bring her episode in the series, titled Division, to life. It deals with slavery and the run-up to the American Civil War.

"It is quite an ironic place to make a film about slavery, given South Africa's history," she said.

The documentary also covers US independence, industry, the Great Depression and how the country exploded into a super power.

Last week, the series' executive producer, Jane Root, told Variety magazine that though many establishing scenes were filmed in America, everything else was filmed in South Africa.

"We wanted to recreate the America of 400 years ago, so we needed something not built-up, with plains, prairies and scrubland. It would have been hard to film America's past in America's present," said Root.

"If we'd shot in the US, we would have had to travel across 20 states, whereas South Africa offered us landscapes [that looked] like how America used to look, all within an hour of Cape Town."

The documentary, for the History channel, aired in April and made history with more than 5.7million people reportedly tuning in.

President Barack Obama made a guest appearance to introduce the documentary.

Ash's episode was also nominated for outstanding picture editing, cinematography and sound engineering in the non-fiction category.

The director of photography was South African-born Dirk Nel.

Ash is now working on her first feature film. It is about Bob Marley and the year he spent in London.

As for walking the red carpet on Saturday, Ash said she was hoping for the best.

"I am very excited about it," she said. "It is nice that there are four of us nominated [from the series]."

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