Film crew 'went mad to the max' in Namib

19 February 2013 - 02:15 By SCHALK MOUTON
DUNE BUGGIES: Three Mad Max movie cars on their way to the dunes outside Swakopmund in Namibia. File photo
DUNE BUGGIES: Three Mad Max movie cars on their way to the dunes outside Swakopmund in Namibia. File photo

The film crew working on the latest sequel to the cult film, Mad Max, have allegedly left an ecological mess in the Namib Desert.

Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth instalment of the series that launched Mel Gibson into Hollywood stardom, left some deep, unwanted tracks in the Namibian desert after the film production team allegedly drove through the Dorob National Park with wild abandon in 4x4s, failed to cover up their tracks, set up illegal base camps housing up to 700 to 900 people at a time, and failed to do a necessary environmental impact assessment.

According to a study by environmentalist Dr Joh Henschel drawn up for the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and leaked to The Times, bored film crew members performed stunts like "doughnuts" in their vehicles in environmentally sensitive areas. These stunts were apparently not part of filming.

Jack Horner spokesman for Warner Brothers producers of the movie denies the allegations: "We completely reject any claim of environmental mismanagement during the production of FURY ROAD. 

Working under permit within a national park area in Namibia, we were meticulously careful to ensure that every environmental activity was properly prepared for, monitored and approved by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism as well as by independent environmental experts. 

We fully support filmmaker George Miller and his entire team in their thoughtful stewardship of this important natural resource."

While shooting the film in the central Namib Desert in July to November last year, crew also allegedly disregarded highly environmentally sensitive areas, dragged heavy nets and tyres across the desert behind vehicles to cover vehicle tracks between shoots and drove off-road in areas where this is not allowed.

Henschel's report, which was first detailed by Namibian daily newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung, said these practices could cause:

Disturbance and damage to local fauna and flora;

Physical damage to surrounding environment; and

Generate dust, fumes, noise and vibration due to vehicle movements, explosions, rockfalls and presence of humans within a natural environment.

In his report, Henschel wrote that most of the problems caused by the $100-million production stemmed from the lack of an environmental impact assessment.

"By the time the film company actually decided to use the proposed Namibian location, there was, according to them, too little time left to conduct a proper [assessment].

"According to the Mad Max location managers, delays at that stage of a film project [could] result in the company withdrawing its plan to use Namibian sites," he said.

The movie, which stars Charlize Theron, is expected to premiere next year.