Viola Davis’ JuVee Productions Wraps ‘G20’ in Cape Town, Plans South Africa Shoot for Real-Life Refugee Drama (EXCLUSIVE)

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions, which recently wrapped the action-thriller “G20” for Amazon Studios and MRC Film in Cape Town, is planning to return to South Africa to film the true story of a young African refugee’s improbable journey to the U.S., the company’s head of film production and development, Melanie Clark, revealed this week at the Joburg Film Festival.

Developing the film with a working title of “The Refugee,” Clark said Davis and Tennon’s production banner is “actively working on [it] with some local partners and are in the process of figuring out how to shoot it” in South Africa, adding that “we do plan to shoot that here.”

The veteran production executive described the project as “the true story of a young Sierra Leonean boy who lost his mother in [the country’s civil war] and found himself alone, because no family would take him in any refugee camp. He felt for some time that his mother was still alive and was determined that he would find her,” she said.

A soccer prodigy, the boy was discovered by U.N. aid workers in a refugee camp and ultimately invited to try out for Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy. “He thought, ‘If I become visible and well-known playing my favorite sport, my mother will see me and we will find each other. And that did, in fact, happen,” Clark added.

“G20” stars Davis as an American president who must bring all her statecraft and military experience to bear to defend her family, her fellow leaders and the world when terrorists overtake the G20 Summit in Cape Town. Patricia Riggen directs, with Davis and Tennon producing for JuVee Productions, alongside Andrew Lazar of Mad Chance.

The production partly chose South Africa’s Western Cape because of the “combination of locations that were available,” according to Clark. “We could shoot certain locations that could read as Europe, because we had some European scenes,” she said. “My personal feeling is that I’m not interested in trying to mimic Europe…when we’re shooting in Africa, but for this film, it’s what we needed.”

The film marks the Oscar winner and four-time nominee Davis’ return to South Africa, where she filmed the historical action epic “The Woman King,” which tells the true story of the all-female warrior unit who protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to 19th centuries.

During a masterclass she delivered on Friday, Clark teased several projects that Davis and Tennon’s production banner is hoping to shoot in South Africa, noting that the company is determined to elevate above- and below-the-line talent from the country.

“Our focus will always be on who, locally, we believe we can be supporting. That’s intentional for us,” she said. “So you’ll see that going forward with us more and more when we are coming back here to shoot, which we intend to do often.”

Stressing her desire to “highlight the diaspora as much as I can, and to find ways to connect us across the diaspora,” she added: “For us at JuVee, it’s about being able to use some of the ‘power’ that we have in Hollywood to highlight a lot of local talent…[and] to be able to bring what we represent to the continent, and then to uplift other really talented people.

“For us, as a company that’s led by prominent Black actors, we’re clear about what our priorities will be moving forward, and we’re very intentional about who we’re hiring.”

The Joburg Film Festival runs Feb. 27 – March 3.

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