Chimp Empire, a docuseries showcasing the world’s largest chimpanzee society ever discovered navigating complex social politics, family dynamics and dangerous territory disputes in the Ngogo sector, Kibale National Park has debuted at Number one in the Netflix “family friendly” category in the US market.
The film, directed by Oscar winner James Reed who bagged the co-director trophy for My Octopus Teacher (filmed in South Africa), is narrated by two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and was shot in Uganda in 2021 over a period of 18 months. It debuted on Netflix last Wednesday, 19th April 2023 in time for Earth Day.
According to Jennifer Neiva, the Director of product innovation at Netflix at the time of product launch, the family-friendly category, commonly tagged as Top 10 kids’ shows content that is suitable for the Under 12 age group, although it targets joint family entertainment.
Films that do well in family-friendly categories are often adopted in tourism promotion campaigns targeting family holiday trips, for the simple reason that they are meant to be enjoyed by families. An example is the UK’s Paddington and Paddington 2 leveraged by the United Kingdom’s tourism agency Visit Britain.
Chimp Empire presents an opportunity for Uganda to remind the world that it is the primate capital of the World. As a marketing asset, Uganda’s tourism industry can easily adapt the film into promotional campaigns, as yet another marketing gem freely handed to us as a nation through compelling storytelling, top quality production and distributed on a global platform by notable voices in global entertainment.
A survey by Netflix and South African Tourism Board in 2021 found that Netflix content made in South Africa is likely to influence viewers 3.1 times more to travel to South Africa through cultural affinity. The survey highlighted that My Octopus Teacher viewers were more likely to visit South Africa for its nature and wildlife and as intimated earlier James Creed is also the helm man of the Chimp Empire.
It’s not too late for Uganda to creatively rope in destination promotion through strategic marketing interventions especially spearheaded by the tourism sector. Examples of this include partnering with producers on digital and social media campaigns, and special screenings in key source markets like the US, Asia and China.
The unreleased behind-the-scenes footage can be broadcast with key cast discussion panels, and our National Carrier, Uganda Airlines could consider picking a branding leaf from Air New Zealand, which, during New Zealand’s “Home of Middle Earth” campaign, branded its Aircraft with images from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”. Surely, having some of our planes branded with Chimp Empire imagery wouldn’t be too much to ask? And while at it, why not host Oscar winner Mahershala Ali to a press tour launching the Chimp Empire trail or itinerary in Kibaale?
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” boosting sales within the tourism sector and the local film scene.
While some might argue that not much of the local crew or cast was employed or credited in the production of Chimp Empire, our position as a country, in this case, is to adopt it as an exceptional film, marketing partner destinations by joint promotion of the docuseries.
This is a unique credential that attracts more film investment and will make a mark on Netflix’s strategy. If Netflix has not considered Uganda in its top investment destination radar in Africa, it may need to take another look.
A toast to the entire team of Chimp Empire for its contribution to Uganda’s economy through compelling storytelling of unique attractions. The ball is squarely in the court of our Marketing agencies and patriots to get to work, and a timely opportunity for the fulfilment of the Presidential pledge of proactive government support to position Uganda as a film hub.
By Joshua Sentongo, Strategist, Film Producer and Policy Lobbyist.