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Once upon a time I developed a film script for a film short. It was based on an ancient African civilisation. All was going well until I had to make the tricky decision of whether I should use an African language in the dialogue or English.
If I used the vernacular language with English subtitles then I would probably get points for authenticity. But few people like reading, and a lot of meaning is lost in translation anyway.
If I used English only, then this would wash away any sort of realism of the product. The question would be what kind of English would these ancient Africans speak? European or American? No Africans spoke English before white settlers got to the continent.
These questions are part of what real directors, not just ambitious short-film writers face. With more old civilisation shows coming to TV, you can tell that their success rests on their authenticity.
Look at Spartacus and Game of Thrones. Both productions did very well on TV worldwide because a lot of time was spent in refining the details.
Although they speak in English, the pronunciation is structured in such a way that you can almost imagine the old characters portrayed speaking like that.
There is an immense amount of effort put into the architecture, the fashion, the vehicles, the weapons and everything else a normal community can use. This is probably to entice us at every turn of the story in every frame shot, and the truth is that in most cases it works.
Perhaps this is why we have yet another offering, Camelot, which is set in 5th century in Britain. We see a free Britain which has not been under Roman rule for a number of decades.
However, the death of the king brings instability to the previously calm English territory. The king’s bastard son, Arthur, is ordained king by the local sorcerer, Merlin. The two stay in the royal castle, Camelot, where they attempt to broker some sort of peace in the chaos.
That’s enough for the teaser, but it is important to note that this series is loosely related to the reign of King Arthur.
However, a lot of spice was put in the story to make it more enticing to the modern-day sophisticated viewer. So there will be a number of casual sex scenes and bloody sword fights, which all create the ambience of what it might have been like to live in the 5th century. Unlike other shows like Game Of Thrones, which are hardcore, Camelot comes with a hint of comedy just to lighten things up in an otherwise dark drama.
The interesting thing is although the story is based on old characters, you can draw parallels between their way of life and ours.
• Camelot airs on FOX (DStv channel 125 and TopTV channel 180) at 10pm.