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PREACH IT! Thief! Thief! Stop that woman! Jennifer Hudson is stealing a nation's -- something!

December 7, 2009 |  7:29 pm

Jhudmel copy

South Africans are in a tizzy today: an Oscar-winning performer and one of the most visible African American actresses of the past five years wants to play national heroine Winnie Mandela. And the South Africans don’t want Jennifer Hudson to play Winnie Mandela. They want a local for the part; otherwise, they argue, Hudson’s involvement might bruise the country’s attempts at building its own film industry.

"It can't happen that we want to develop our own Hollywood and yet bring in imports," said Mabutho Sithole, president of the Creative Workers Union of South Africa, in the Citizen newspaper.

I know, right? Because ever since Aussie Mel Gibson had the gall to steal the sacred blue paint of the ancient Scottish warrior heroes for "Braveheart," the film industry there in Scotland has shrunken to a wee hell, a three-week-old rotten haggis of cinematic creativity that has nothing but the Harry Potter films, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "Hamlet," "Mission: Impossible," "Trainspotting," "Mrs. Brown" and dozens of TV productions to show for itself.

And it gets worse.

WinnieThere are only 18,000 entertainment industry jobs, 80 production companies and about $32 million in location spending every year. Poor sots like Gerard Butler aren't getting any work (besides the four flicks he has in production and the three more he has coming up); I have no idea how those poor urchins in the Scottish film industry even have the quid to keep their kilts from tattering, cursed be the interloper from Down Under.

Then there's Ben Kingsley, who commandeered the Mahatma Gandhi story in 1982 while only half-Indian, crushing India’s nascent film industry under his subsequent Oscar. Things ended so badly that, to this day, India has yet to produce an even mildly hot performer and remains a total, $2.3-billion, 1,000-film-a-year creative wasteland.

If only we could dial back the cruel clock of history and hire Amitabh Bachchan instead. And take away Kingsley’s Oscar and knighthood too. It’s just making the roughly 6 million people who work in India’s film industry feel really bad. (Speaking of feeling really bad, shame on you, Danny Boyle, for not being Indian when you directed "Slumdog Millionaire." India didn't even get any press out of it.)

It gets worse; we’ve had Angelina Jolie stealing from the French by daring to play Mariane Pearl.

Godspeed to Sithole and company over at the Creative Workers Union of South Africa. Please keep fighting the good fight -- lest your country face the same sad, barren fate of the people of Scotland.

-- Leslie Gornstein

Photos: Why cast Mel Gibson or Jennifer Hudson when there is perfectly good non-Oscar-winning talent in your own country? Because J-Hud as Winnie Mandela spells D-O-O-M for the budding South African film industry. Either that or B-O-X-O-F-F-I-C-E -- the Ministry always confuses those two, like "your" and "you're." Credits: Paramount Pictures, top left; Evan Agostini, top right; Trevor Sampson, bottom left. 

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