Daniel Radcliffe filmed survival movie in Colombia
Director Greg McLean filmed Jungle in Colombia and eastern Australia to tell the true story of Israeli backpacker Yossi Ghinsberg (played by Daniel Radcliffe) who became lost in the Amazon wilderness in 1981 when a trek went badly wrong.
“I scouted Colombia a few times in the past several years and found that it has a great infrastructure – probably one of the best film infrastructures in South America,” says Mike Gabrawy, a producer on Jungle. “They have a rich depth of crew and talent.”
The team spent eight weeks scouting the best Colombian locations from the air. They particularly needed to find a suitable river spot for key scenes in the story where Yossi and a friend build a raft to try and ride a river current back to civilisation.
“The biggest challenges faced in Colombia were the constant changes in river heights,” says John Walton, the film’s Australian stunt co-ordinator, in comments to KFTV. “These changes in height did not coincide with localised rainfall as flash flooding could happen with little or no warning.
“That being said, help from local stunt crew and river guides gave us an early warning system to protect the wellbeing of cast and crew. Local knowledge is a wonderful thing.”
Raft scenes were shot as practical, in-camera sequences on Colombia’s Rio Negro. Real timber rafts, similar to that built by Yossi during his real-life experience, were constructed for close-ups, while lightweight versions made of Styrofoam and fiberglass were used for wide shots. A Colombian white-water rafting team supervised these scenes, which involved having 25 people in the boats at once.
Communication was sometimes a challenge with the Spanish-speaking crew, but Walton worked closely with English-speaking local stunt co-ordinator Carlos Paez.
Scenes filmed in Colombia were combined with footage shot at Mount Tamborine near Gold Coast in Queensland.
Dangerous wildlife – particularly snakes – was a safety hazard during the Australian leg of the shoot.
“Constant vigilance is required when working in bush and forest areas, and a good medic is a must,” Walton tells KFTV. “Stunt wise, my team are some of the most highly talented and professional crew in the world, so filmmaking becomes much easier working in these environments.”
The Australian leg of the shoot offered far greater location convenience than Colombia.
“We could park 100 metres outside the pristine rainforest with our unit trucks and lunch tables and lighting rigs,” says Todd Fellman, another of the film’s producers, of the Queensland locations.
“To access that type of location in Colombia, you’d need to travel two to three hours and work in very remote areas that don’t have the same accommodation options or resources. When we put these two locations and what they could offer together we were able to create the visual world that is Jungle.”
Colombia’s international production profile has risen since the country launched its first formal filming incentive. James Gray’s period exploration movie The Lost City of Z is one of the biggest international movies to have shot in the country, using jungle locations in the north of the country.