South African-born German based director Stefanie Sycholt (Malunde) has wrapped her new film, Themba, about a young soccer hopeful. The film is a testament to the fact that many successful South African players begin their lives and careers in townships only to end up on the playing field of some of the biggest clubs in the world.
Due for release in the new year, Themba is a Zeitsprung Entertainment, Rheingold Films and DO Productions production. Michael Souvignier, Ica Souvignier, Josef Steinberger, Brigid Olen and Sycholt are the producers. The script is an adaptation of Lutz van Dijk’s book, Crossing the Line, and was penned by Sycholt.
Themba was filmed on location against the landscapes of the rural Eastern Cape, as well as Cape Town. Playing the title role is Nat ‘formerly known as Junior’ Singo (Beat the Drum, Wooden Camera). His younger self is played by newcomer Emmanuel Soqinase. Celebrated singing star Simphiwe Dana makes her film acting debut as Mandisa, Patrick Mofokeng fresh from leading roles in Master Harold and the Boys and Clint Eastwood’s Invictus takes on his most testing role to date as the lodger Luthando,.Rapulana Seiphemo star of Jerusalema and White Wedding plays Vuyo, Themba’s father and Kagiso Mtetwa, who played the lead in Sycholt’s Malunde is Sipho Themba’s friend. There are also cameo roles played by International soccer star the German and Arsenal goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann and our own Kaiser Chiefs star Doctor Kumalo.
Themba follows a young boy living in abject poverty in a rural village with his mother Mandisa and his younger sister. His mother is is forced to leave her children and seek work in Cape Town. Only Themba’s soccer talent gives him focus and hope in a community that is plagued by poverty, alcoholism and the perceived stigmatisation and secrecy surrounding living with HIV/Aids. Captaining his own soccer team to the finals of a regional tournament, Themba is spotted by Big John Jacobs the coach of Ajax Cape Town.
Depicting the very real challenges and hardships faced in the rural communities of South Africa, Themba does not shy away from the realities of abuse both physical and sexual that unfortunately is part and parcel of the characters’ lives.