South African film, Felix, is winning big on the international stage. The film most recently picked up an award at the Toronto International Film Festival, director, Roberta Durrant, and actor Hlayani Mabasa chat about the international attention.
Johannesburg - Roberta Durrant has over the past 30 years helped put South African TV and film on the map. Productions such as Sgudi Snaysi, Going Up, Khululeka, Stokvel, SOS, Madam and Eve, Scoop Schoombie and Stokvel earned her the title of Mama of Comedy.
Such is her comic timing that, last night at the launch of the drama series, Durrant joked that if she was “much, much younger” she would not mind going after the young Anga Makubalo, who plays the lead role of Ntando, an intern lawyer who gets swallowed up in the life of gangsterism after a gang leader kidnaps his fiancée.
Please tell us about the new crime drama, Z’bondiwe
Z’bondiwe is set in Soweto, and it deals with the gang warfare between two gangs: the Mambas headed up by Axe (played by Bongani Maseko) and the head of the Vutha Boys, Ntlonipho “Killer” Nxasana (played by Mbulelo Grootboom).
Their rivalry comes from the past because Axe’s father Jackson murdered Killer’s father when Killer was a boy of 11. He saw his father hacked to death before his eyes.
Into the mix comes a young lawyer, Ntando Mabatha (played by Makubalo) who has to infiltrate the Mambas in order to rescue his fiancée from the Vutha boys. The series questions how far would someone go for love, but also the extreme behaviour that obsessions can lead to.
How does it tackle the issues of crime that South Africa is facing at the moment?
How was it making, creating and producing Z’bondiwe?
What does Z’bondiwe bring to the table as far as the debate on crime is concerned?
We seem to be telling stories that gloss over crime and offer no comprehensive solutions. How can this be avoided and what role does film and TV have to play to deal with crime and other social ills?
Z’bondiwe did not set out to be an educational drama. Its objective was to create an entertaining gangster series set in the world of gang warfare.
Nevertheless, through research and making sure that our characters and story beats are authentic, we have been able to pose certain questions around crime, criminality and justice. The series is socially relevant. If the viewer can identify with the characters and the story, then the stories’ social relevance does communicate.
You have worked in various TV formats – sitcoms, dramas and short films. Which medium is your first choice?
My first love is dramatic narrative, but I also enjoy comedy. I believe the genre of studio-based sitcom has become too static a visual medium to really have an effect on today’s viewers.
However there still is a lot of room to do comedy sketches, location-based comedies and romantic comedies. But as all of these genres are narrative based, I enjoy both comedy and drama.
How different is Z’bondiwe from other projects you have done?
Who must viewers look forward to and which character will they fall in love with?
I certainly think that the viewer is going to fall in love with both our key protagonists: the young lawyer, Ntando Mabatha and his fiancée Roxanne Nozulu (played by Zola Nombona).
But then, the viewers are also going to love and love to hate some of our gangster antagonists, such as Ntlonipho “Killer” Nxasana, his right hand Jakes Masilo, (played by Israel Makoe) and the head of the Mambas, Axe, and his younger brother Lebo (played by Mpho Sebeng). Those are our key antagonists.
Who brings out the best as far some of the cast members are concerned?
What other projects are you working with?
Who has been the best actor you have worked with in your career as producer, director and creator?
Has South African TV progressed or has it regressed as far as putting out quality shows are concerned?
With the new digital equipment that is available at competitive prices, the technical standards of our work have increased by leaps and bounds.
We still remain constricted with budgetary limitations, but nevertheless we manage to put out world-competitive, quality programming.
What are some of the challenges you face as a filmmaker, that make it difficult to do your job as creators?
Which TV genre faces the most challenges?
Why is that?
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