South African feature film Jerusalema has been selected for the prestigious Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival. The festival, which runs from 7 to 17 February, will be the setting for the world premiere of Jerusalema.
“We are thrilled at the privilege of being selected for Panorama. The Berlin Film Festival is the perfect launch platform for the film’ says director, Ralph Ziman, whose first film Hearts & Minds premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 1996. Other films invited include Madonna’s directorial debut, Filth & Wisdom with Richard E Grant and Stuart Graham; and Transsiberian by Brad Anderson with Woody Harrelson, Ben Kingsley and Emily Mortimer.
Inspired by true events, Jerusalema takes a realistic and unwavering look into the gritty underbelly of crime, corruption and transgression in the new South Africa. The film chronicles the rise and fall of Luck Kunene (Rapulana Seiphemo) who from a young age always wanted a BMW and a sea view, but coming from a poor family in Soweto the odds were stacked against him. Carjacking or “affirmative repossession’ as it’s called, gave him a glimpse of a brighter world.
When a heist goes wrong, Kunene and his childhood friend, Zakes (Ronnie Nykale), move to Hillbrow, the inner-city Johannesburg slum.
Years later Kunene’s home is a decaying tenement, strewn with prostitutes and junkies. The landlords are collecting rent whilst the tenants live twenty to an apartment, in decay and squalor.
Fed up, Kunene “persuades’ the tenants into a better deal for their rent. Holding back the money, Kunene ruthlessly negotiates with the landlords, effectively stealing the buildings from under their noses. Taking over one building at a time Kunene quickly establishes his foothold in Hillbrow. When all else fails, force is used to secure his inner city property empire.
But with local drug lord, Tony Ngu (Malusi Skenjana) on the warpath, and an embittered cop, Detective Swart (Robert Hobbs) after him, Kunene must use all his street-smart to survive.
The film, directed by Ralph Ziman (Hearts & Minds, The Zookeeper) and produced by Tendeka Matatu (Max & Mona, Straight Outta Benoni, Footsktaing 101) through Muti Films, was shot in Johannesburg in late 2006 and should be released locally towards the middle of the year. It stars Rapulana Seiphemo (Tsosti, Muvangho, Isidingo), Jeffrey Sekele, Ronnie Nyakale, Shelly Meskin, Malusi Skenjana, Robert Hobbs, Kenneth Nkosi and newcomers Jafta Mamabolo and Motlatsi Mahloko.
The Panorama section of the Berlin film festival was established in 1986, it presents new works by well-known directors, as well as showcasing debut films and exciting new discoveries. The selection of films gives an overview of trends in world cinema and attempts to bridge the divide between artistic vision and commercial interests.