A docu-drama about the murder of mining tycoon Brett Kebble and its aftermath carries the distinction of being the first in the world to use the self-confessed killers to re-enact the murder.
The docu-drama with the working title 204: Getting Away With Murder is directed by Warren Batchelor of InThaZone Entertainment.
He explains that they started out with a focus on the three hit men who confessed to killing mining tycoon Brett Kebble in an apparent assisted suicide. Mikey Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizel “Kappie’ Smith received full indemnity on the murder charges through Section 204 of the Criminal Procedures Act – to which the title of the film alludes – in exchange for testifying for the state.
“I started by interviewing them extensively, but the film suddenly grew a life of its own and we got interviews with all the major players,’ Batchelor notes. “It was the most amazing organic process. We were going in one direction, and then we’d get another interview which would take us on a completely different tangent. We probably broke every rule of documentary making.’
High profile interviews
Produced by Batchelor, his partner at InThaZone Tony Miguel and associate producer Anne Power, the docu-drama is privately funded by businessmen and individuals. Production took place between March and November 2011.
The role players and commentators interviewed in the docu-drama include Kebble’s brother Guy and father Roger; former national commissioner of the South African Police Service Jackie Selebi; convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti; former head of the National Prosecuting Authority Vusi Pikoli; veteran detective Piet Byleveld; South Africa’s foremost forensic investigator David Klatzow; former Scorpions special investigator Piet Jonker; Kebble’s butler Andrew Minaar and his personal assistant Laura Sham; plus journalist David McKay and criminal legal expert Pierre de Vos.
“Schultz, McGurk and Smith’s story was consistent all the way through. What surprised me was how vehemently the Kebble family disagree with their story. The Kebbles don’t believe that it was assisted suicide; they believe Brett walked into a trap. That’s why we’re so lucky to have them in the documentary – they bring balance.’
Batchelor notes that his biggest challenge was the fact that he isn’t a journalist. “However, I got better at doing the interviews as I went along. I wasn’t there to crucify them or be sensationalist – just to let them tell their stories without interrupting. Maybe because I wasn’t a journalist they trusted me a lot and opened up to me.’
The docu-drama has already generated a huge amount of interest because of the decision to use the real killers along with Kebble and Agliotti look-alikes in the recreation of Kebble’s murder, as well as events before and after the murder. According to Batchelor they filmed at the exact place in Melrose, Johannesburg where Kebble was killed, using the same make, model and colour of cars and an exact prop replica of the gun that was used.
“I decided to use them for authenticity’s sake,’ explains Batchelor “They were the only people who were there that night, who could say what really happened. There’s no sensationalism involved and there’s no glorifying or romanticising of the killers at all, although we do get to know them as characters in the movie.’
He notes that this has never been done before, because killers usually end up behind bars. “The fact that we’re able to do this is an indictment of the South African justice system. Because of 204 they can tell their story and show us exactly what happened that night, according to them. They say it’s like they’ve won the lotto. It’s such a miscarriage of justice that happened, and it is so sad for this country. That’s why this story needs to be told.’
The recreations were filmed by director of photography Douglas McFarlaine on a Panasonic AG-HPX172. “They were shot very carefully, very beautifully and were very well lit – they will be the cinematic side of the docu-drama,’ notes Batchelor.
While he acknowledges that it is a controversial idea, it was amplified by a newspaper article which claimed that he paid the three men R1m to appear in the docu-drama. “This was misconstrued from the fact that the killers were paid R1m between them for the actual deed of killing Kebble. We didn’t pay them anything to appear in the docu-drama,’ he emphasises.
They were planning to release directly to DVD to allow for the inclusion of extras and interviews that had to be cut from the 100-minute docu-drama, but were convinced to release in cinemas first. At the time of going to print they were negotiating a distribution deal with Indigenous Film Distribution.
The film’s original score is being composed by Neil Solomon and Sean Fourie, while Craig Hinds from the band Watershed wrote a theme song.
Batchelor notes that a few final edits still need to be made by in-house editor Robert Haynes before the film is graded, final mixed, and then handed over to the distributors. He believes it will be released at cinemas within the next few months. They will also explore their options with broadcasters, pay per view and festivals in South Africa and overseas.
He is also planning a feature film on the same subject.
By Linda Loubser
Screen Africa magazine – May 2012