Film: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (series)
Cast includes: Jill Scott (Why did I Get Married?), Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), Lucian Msamati (The International)
Director: Anthony Minghella (The English Patient)
Genre: Light drama/mystery/Africa (2008), based on a series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith
In brief: Botswana is the setting for this unique series, based on novels by African-born author Alexander McCall Smith. We meet up with the main character, Precious Ramotswe, just after her father has died. As an only child, she has just inherited her father’s 180 cows. And there are quite a few men who think they can take advantage of this helpless woman with the “traditional figure” and a herd of cows. But Mma Ramotswe [pronounced like one word: ma-da-MOOTS-way] surprises everyone when she sells the cows and takes off for the big city… well, OK… not such a big city. But the outskirts of Gaborone look like the fast lane, compared to Mma Ramotswe’s hometown.
She’s got a plan… to use her natural skills of memory, intuition and deductive thinking to open a detective agency. All her life, she’s been the one that everyone comes to when they’re stumped by the mysteries of life. So Mma Ramotswe heads off in her old Datson truck, which is missing the “D” on the logo, so it looks like an “ATSON.” Thanks to car trouble, she meets JLB Matekoni, the mechanic who can fix anything. Almost every problem she encounters introduces her to someone who will become a new friend. When she finds a former post office building, she has a home for her new business venture… complete with a flock of chickens on the veranda. Her new friends help her put up the sign… “The Ladies’ Detective Agency.” And when someone adds “No 1,” the sign is done, and it’s time to find clients and cases.
Although the stories are fictional and fanciful, the spirit of No 1 Ladies’ feels real enough to transport us to one of the most special countries in Africa. It’s a place that’s refreshingly gentle, where propriety and personal relationships are all important. Yet these films give us a lot to think about. While many of the issues and particulars are purely African, there are familiar notes in these stories… there are many aspects of life in Botswana that aren’t so different from life in the US a few generations ago. The stories are just wonderful, which is probably why director Anthony Minghella was so attracted to this project. The production is so authentic that I’m still having a hard time believing Jill Scott, who plays the lead, is a Philadelphia girl and hip-hop artist. Anyone who’s ever thought Africa would be an interesting place to visit will love No 1 Ladies’. Anyone who longs for a time when life was simpler will love No 1 Ladies’. Anyone who enjoys a good Miss Marple mystery will fall in love with Mma Ramotswe. Settle in with a cup of bush tea and enjoy.
4 popped kernels
Wonderful stories that transport us to an amazing place. Jill Scott is so amazing, it's hard to believe she's acting.
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: TV & direct to video
Tempo: Cruses comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Social Significance: Pure entertainment