June 2020. Long before the film even had the vague title “Untitled Alicia Keys Project”, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius was abuzz. Rumor had it that Netflix was flying an entire crew to shoot a film on the COVID-free island. It didn’t take long for the hype to reach my feed in Los Angeles.
In the months leading up to the crew arriving in October, the Mauritian radio, newspapers, Facebook groups, and even WhatsApp groups were all speculating about the mysterious Netflix project announcement. After months of strict lockdown and a disastrous oil spill, Mauritians welcomed the distraction.
After a bit of sleuthing on IMDB Pro, I found the “Untitled Alicia Keys Project”. I looked up the music department: nothing yet. There was so little information available — no storyline, no mention as to whether the story is set in Mauritius or just pretending to be Hawaii (which looks very similar). I made a mental note to check back in a few months, but honestly wasn’t hoping for much. I was pretty sure they would dress it up as Honolulu or some Caribbean island.
As most of the world was struggling to keep the pandemic under control, Mauritius was COVID-free and re-opening with strict quarantine rules in place. PCR tests before boarding, upon arrival, and mandatory quarantine in a designated hotel, where they would not be allowed to leave their room or even enjoy the beach. They could only shop duty free after having completed their quarantine. Two successive negative PCR tests 48 hours apart were required to leave quarantine after 14 days.
Not many tourists were willing to complete such a strict 14-day quarantine before being allowed to enjoy the beach or the rest of the island. But for a film crew, it made perfect sense. After the quarantine, they could work mask-free and safely, all while bathing in sunshine and exploring the tropical island’s rich culture and delicious food. It was a beacon of hope for the struggling Mauritian tourism industry, still reeling from the COVID-19 lockdowns.
A “Behind the Scenes” video released a few months ago seems to prove this experiment a triumph. And not only did they set the story in Mauritius itself, but they even managed to dress up Port-Louis to look like…