South Africa, Ivory Coast Team Up on First Co-Pro With Sci-Fi Drama ‘Ambre’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Courtesy of Musa Tukuraa/Sebastian Voortman

Known Associates Entertainment, the production company behind the South African adaptation of the Colombian telenovela that inspired “Ugly Betty,” is partnering with Ivory Coast public broadcaster RTI on a sci-fi drama series that marks the first co-production between the two countries, Variety has learned.

“Ambre” will be shot in South Africa and in Ivory Coast with actors from both countries, with a script written in both English and French. South African public broadcaster SABC has pre-licensed the series, which is slated to air in 2022.

“In the vein of ‘American Gods’ and ‘Black Earth Rising,’ ‘Ambre’ is a futuristic action thriller about courage, hope and the heroism of youth in desperate times,” said producer Lebone Maema, who co-created the 6 x 60’ series with Ivorian writer Binta Dembele.

“‘Ambre’ epitomizes Known Associates’ vision for creating premium African global content. We are thrilled to pioneer co-productions between African countries across languages and cultures for a worldwide audience,” said the company’s chairman, Joel Phiri, calling the partnership with RTI a “milestone co-production.”

Ana Ballo, director of RTI Distribution, said the West African broadcaster — which has grown into one of the largest producers and distributors in French-speaking Africa — is looking forward to bringing the project to life.

“It is a real pleasure but also a real challenge to pull off such an ambitious project with our South African partner and counterparts,” said Ballo. “We really hope that this project will be backed up by both governments and by private sector sponsors to reach the level we are aiming for.”

The series marks the first collaboration between South Africa’s public broadcaster and its West African counterpart. “We continue to seek meaningful partnerships on the continent where we can co-create new formats and stories that drive African storytelling,” said Renée Williams, head of local productions at SABC. “Our aim with this partnership is to create an environment to maximize opportunities for the best ideas, talents and partnerships in an increasingly competitive and global environment.”

Co-founded by Tshepiso Chikapa Phiri and Dan Jawitz, Known Associates Entertainment is the Johannesburg-based boutique production company responsible for “uBettina Wethu,” the South African remake of “Betty La Fea,” the megahit Colombian telenovela that inspired the ABC series “Ugly Betty.” The first season is currently airing on SABC and streaming platform VIU, with seasons two and three already in the pipeline.

The company recently wrapped the crime drama “Atlantis” for EVOD, the new SVOD serviced owned by South African pay-TV channel e.TV, and is in pre-production on the Netflix-licensed feature film “Wild Is the Wind,” directed by Fabian Medea, and “The Umbrella Men,” a heist caper for South African broadcaster M-Net directed by John Barker.

In partnership with Cape Town’s Moonlighting Films, the company is also servicing Universal’s “Beast,” starring Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Lyana Halley, and Leah Sava Jeffries. Production is ongoing in three locations around South Africa.