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15 Things To Look Out For During the #FocusFriday Screening of The Constant Gardener

Focus Features 08.31.2017
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Every Friday we're screening another classic Focus Feature live on Facebook, as part of #FocusFridays. Not only does it give us a chance to celebrate our fifteen-year history but it allows for everyone to revisit some of the very best movies in the catalogue for free. Whether or not you're watching the movie for the first time or have every line of dialogue memorized, here are fifteen things to look out for in this week's movie, the elegant thriller The Constant Gardener.

1. You can't exactly see this while watching but the fact is too delicious to ignore: Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o served as a production runner on the Kenyan set.

2. The sequence where Justin Quayle [Ralph Fiennes] meets Tessa [Rachel Weisz] was filmed at the Tate Modern, Britain's national gallery of international modern art and permanent home to works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Robert Delaunay.

3. With its shaky camerawork and naturalistic performances, The Constant Gardener feels sometimes like a documentary and it was a documentary that partially informed director Fernando Merielles' approach to the material. Dying for Drugs, a documentary by Brian Woods and Michael Simkin, aired on Channel 4 in the UK and detailed how pharmaceutical companies operate in developing countries.

4. If the POV shots of Quayle seem innately personal, that's because they are. Fiennes actually operated the camera for those shots and received a credit as "Justin Quayle POV Camera."

5. This was Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles first English-language film. He would later go on to direct Blindness, starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo [released internationally by Focus]. More recently he was one of the creative directors for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics.

6. It was Meirelles who lobbied for the movie to be filmed in Kenya, where the book is set. While the government had banned the book, government officials were kind to the filmmakers, with producer Simon Channing Williams saying of the Kenyan government, "There was a real willingness and commitment to enable us to film there."

7. While shooting in the Kiambu market, Meirelles noticed school children who were behind a barricade that had blocked off part of the street while they were filming. He asked them if they wanted to be extras in the movie. (This sequence ended up having to be cut, unlike a lot of the improvised sequences, because of the dust cloud kicked up by their feet.)

8. It's easy to marvel at Weisz's Oscar-winning performance but while you're watching, consider this: Eva Green was originally cast in the role but had to drop out due to other commitments. After Green dropped out Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, and Kate Winslet were amongst the actresses who auditioned for the part. Clearly everyone knew what a meaty role it really was.

9. Look closely at the baseball cap worn by the late, great Pete Postlethwaite as Doctor Marcus Lorbeer. The yellow equal sign is the logo for the Human Rights Campaign, a non-profit organization that lobbies for equal rights for the LGBT community. More recently the group had a fairly prominent vocal supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. 

10. The play that Tessa watches in the marketplace is Huruma, performed by the Kizingo Arts Troupe but perhaps more interestingly directed by Nick Reding, who plays the character Crick in the film. 

11. More realism and attention-to-detail: the Kiambu Police Chief's office was used for the sequence where Quayle is taken in for questioning. What's more is that Ben Parker, a real-life U.N. worker in Kenya, plays the detective who arrives at the scene.

12. In a climactic Lake Magadi stands in for the even more remote Lake Turkana. Magadi is known for resembling the surface of the moon.   

13. The movie wasn't wholly shot in Kenya, though. Towards the end of the movie you get a glimpse of the KDH headquarters (the nefarious pharmaceutical giant behind the Dypraxa drug). This is actually a Royal Mint building in Winnipeg. From Kenya to Canada, The Constant Gardener was a true international production. 

14. Since you're waiting for the last thing to look out for (it's in the credits), consider for a moment how the production gave back to Kenya: the production crew constructed a play area and soccer field, reinforced the roof of a badly damaged church, and built a bridge across a wide sewer, which enabled emergency vehicles to access residents that lived on the other side. Additionally they installed a 10,000-litre tank next to the bridge to provide fresh water for the residents. How great is that?    

15. The closing credits contain bits of texts that were found in the dedication and afterward of John le Carré's original novel. The first credit says: "This film is dedicated to Yvette Pierpaoli and all other aid workers who lived and died giving a damn." Pierpaoli was a French humanitarian who lived in Cambodia and was killed in Albania assisting refugees from Kosovo. [She was involved in a terrible auto accident that claimed the lives of three others.] The text continues [over la Carré's name]: "Nobody in this story, and no outfit or corporation, thank God, is based upon an actual person or outfit in the real world, but I can tell you this, as my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard."

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