Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Botswana on Screen: Filming Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Prepared for the screen by Anthony Minghella and Richard Curtis

As I am all about Alexander McCall Smith this week, I also decided to watch episodes of the first season of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, as represented onscreen. (it's now available on DVD) I've found that it is quite different from the books in many ways: new characters added who didn't appear in the stories, a slightly different tone to the storytelling, settings changed around a bit, and of course characters look and act in a way that strangely enough does not mirror what I had imagined! I'm not too fond of a couple of character 'types' that have been added in, and it does have a few flaws. Still, I have been enjoying it. This week especially, a week in which every day has been cold and grey, I have enjoyed watching a beautiful setting full of sunshine and cheer.

Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are well cast, and Rra Matekoni is perfect. The episodes have been written using various cases from the books, not necessarily in the same order or with the same concurrent actions -- for example, by halfway through Season 1, Mma Ramotswe and Rra Matekoni are not engaged as yet, not even likely to be at this point. And there is no mention of any adopted children; I suppose for dramatic action in a film there need to be fewer complications than in a novel which has much more time to introduce you to the characters. I have seen some reviews which call this production twee or shallow, but I don't agree with that assessment. I think anyone who has enjoyed the books will probably enjoy these as well, even with the differences I've mentioned. There are enough similarities to make it all seem familiar, and seeing the landscape of Botswana and some of its people is very engaging. It's beautiful to watch and listen to, and I still have half of the first season to watch!

Here are a couple of clips to intrigue you, the first a short trailer which I hope will intrigue you:

And here is Alexander McCall Smith himself talking about filming his books:


  1. I haven't read the books--not my cup of tea--but I really like the show. I look forward tot he next series.

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