Where Was Origin (2023) Filmed?

Image Credit: Atsushi Nishijima/Neon

The power that hierarchy and caste system have been holding, and still hold, over humankind throughout the years in different shapes and forms is on full display in ‘Origin,’ a biographical drama movie based on the book titled ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by Isabel Wilkerson. Ava DuVernay, responsible for writing and directing the movie, takes us on an eye-opening journey with writer Isabel Wilkerson who embarks on a journey toward global investigation and discovery while dealing with an immense personal tragedy of her own.

As Isabel crafts her book, which would be one of the most defining American books of the generation, she finds the beauty and the bad of the places she visits that have histories of their own. The film, featuring Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Niecy Nash-Betts, and Nick Offerman, leads us to several locations across the globe, raising questions in the minds of the viewers — if the places are just as authentic as the tale is?

Origin Was Filmed in Three Different Continents

‘Origin’ was filmed across the world, in Georgia, Alabama, Germany, and India, especially in the Savannah metropolitan area, Montgomery, Berlin, and New Delhi. As per reports, principal photography for the drama film got underway in December 2022 and the shooting took place for the next three months or so, before getting wrapped up in early March 2023.

Savannah Metropolitan Area, Georgia

The shooting for ‘Origin’ was kicked off by the production team in the Savannah metropolitan area, which is situated in the Coastal Georgia region encompassing Bryan, Chatham, and Effingham counties. In December 2022, the cast and crew members took over the city of Pembroke and turned a few streets into a film set, portraying the era in which the story is set. Some portions were also lensed in the city of Savannah.

Montgomery, Alabama

The capital of Alabama — Montgomery — also hosted the production of ‘Origin.’ Lying beside the Alabama River on the coastal Plain of the Gulf of Mexico, Montgomery is home to several important buildings that are easy to include in period productions, such as the Alabama State Capitol, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the First White House of the Confederacy, and Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building. This is one of the reasons why the filmmaker chose the capital as one of the filming sites.

Berlin, Germany

To shoot some of the most significant historical sequences in ‘Origin,’ the production team traveled to the capital of Germany — Berlin. The Nazi book burning scene, which actually took place at the Bebelplatz, was taped on location at the public square in the central Mitte district of Berlin. Although the makers had a limited budget, they decided to go to the real places to bring the narrative to life. During a conversation with The New York Times, the filmmaker, Ava DuVernay, said, “Could I have found a square in Georgia to do it and enjoyed the tax credit? Probably. Would it have felt as emotionally resonant as it was for everyone when we were actually standing there in the place where it happened? Certainly not…”

Moreover, in an audio interview with NPR, Ava DuVernay revealed that this was one of the scenes that she was the most proud of from the entire film. She elaborated on how it came about, explaining, “So we shot this scene on Bebelplatz, and this is a square in which there is an actual monument to this book burning. And the monument is called the Empty Library, where you can look down into the ground. There’s a hole in the ground, a square in the ground, where you look down into rows and rows of white empty bookshelves to commemorate and symbolize the books that were burned. And so we recreated the whole book burning on that plaza…” A few portions were also seemingly shot inside the German Historical Museum at Unter den Linden 2, in Berlin.

New Delhi, India

A significant chunk of ‘Origin’ also took place in the capital of India. The popular and historically significant Humayun’s Tomb at Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah on Mathura Road in Nizamuddin, Delhi, filled the backdrop of one of the scenes set in India. When asked if shooting on location in Delhi, India influenced the way she understood the script, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor told The New York Times, “In every way. Because Isabel going to India, smelling things that she had never smelled before, learning things that she had only heard about, all of that stuff was happening to Aunjanue, to me personally. I’m not a scholar, but I was able to get a sense of what that experience was like. I’m so grateful to Ava for insisting that we go to these places.”

In the same NPR interview, the director, Ava DuVernay, also had a few words to share regarding the scene she shot with an Indian Dalit man. She was shocked to learn that manual scavenging is still a thing in this day and age, and she wanted to show the world “what it takes for a human being to be required — expected — to degrade themselves to perform that service, just to eat, just to exist.” So, she found some men who actually did that job and convinced them to perform their job on camera.

DuVernay elaborated, “And of course, I’m not having any human being get in excrement. We created what was needed for the scene with oatmeal and food coloring. … I came to them and they came over to the set area and through a translator, I was describing what it was, and the man … looked at me and he said through the translator, “I think we should do it for real.” And his point was, people must know what is happening. Will this look real? They have to know. They need to see the truth, is what he was saying. And I promised him. And so it took a little convincing to have him go into the safe set.”

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