A new comedy feature film by Quizzical Pictures and the NGO Heartlines aims to
challenge South Africans’ attitudes towards money.
Nothing for Mahala, which releases at South African cinemas on 4 October, is part of a
new Heartlines campaign on values and money.
Nevelia Moloi, project manager at Heartlines, explains that it is the
first time that the NGO has ventured into comedy. “We know that there are a lot of
social issues as a result of money and greed, but talking about money can be a serious,
sensitive topic. We chose to do comedy to take the eina out of it all – so we can all
laugh with a tear in our eye while challenging our attitudes to moolah,’ says Moloi.
In the film Axe Gumede (Thapelo Mokoena) is a young, up-and-coming property agent
who wants to make money at all costs. After a run-in with the law, he is sentenced to
community service at an old-age home. He meets Hendrik (Marius Weyers), a grumpy
old man who spent his life chasing money and ended up miserable and alone.
“It’s about how your life can be radically affected by chasing the wrong thing,’ says
Rolie Nikiwe directed the film and it was produced by Harriet Gavshon, JP Potgieter and Mariki van der Walt, with associate producers Ronnie Apteker and Garth Japhet.
The shoot took the cast and crew all over Johannesburg – from a high rise glass
building in Sandton to the Nelson Mandela Bridge, inner-city streets and a restored
colonial mansion in Modderfontein.
“It’s a tale of two worlds,’ says Nikiwe. “The business world that is a very bling but
sterile environment, and an old-age home environment that has a very museum-like
feel. It’s an ambitious film.’
According to Nikiwe, it offered the same challenges as any piece of entertainment that
tries to carry a message. “It’s an ugly beast. You have to constantly make sure that you
convey the message, but also ask: is it funny? We had to keep making sure that we
maintained that balance.’
Nikiwe notes that choosing the right cast and crew played in important role in finding the
balance. In addition to Mokoena and Weyers, the film also stars Mmabatho Montsho,
Jamie Bartlett, Kenneth Nkosi and Casper de Vries.
“It’s an eclectic and varied cast, but I knew it would work the first day we were on set.
Each actor had a very distinct character – a strong character in their own right. I
thought we had something special,’ says Nikiwe.
Producer JP Potgieter agrees. “We’ve got really seasoned actors doing one or two calls
and really amazing actors in very small roles.’
This did, however, also present some challenges. Says Potgieter: “When you have a cast
of this stature you want to make everyone very comfortable, but this was difficult on a
very low budget while working in many different locations.’
The script, written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey, was three years in the making. Quizzical
Pictures was commissioned to make the film.
Moloi emphasises that the film is part of a broader campaign on values and money.
“We’re producing resources to accompany the film, aimed at church or Bible study small
groups, workplaces, faith-based groups, families and young people. We’ll also have an
ongoing conversation through various media, as well as our ongoing community
mobilisation events where we train people on how to use our resources and take the
conversation forward in their own homes and communities,’ she explains.
The primary sponsor for the campaign is Nedbank, but the film also received funding
from the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Film and Video Foundation and
the Industrial Development Corporation.
Nothing for Mahala was filmed by director of photography Rory O’Grady on an Arri
Alexa. It was shot in 2K to allow for better cinema projection. “I’m very happy with the
results,’ says O’Grady. “The footage has a nice soft feel, especially on the skin tones.
Because it’s a comedy, we wanted it to be high key, and not too contrasty.’
Offline editing was handled by Melanie Jankes Golden, with online editing at Deepend
Post-Production and final mix by Sound Surfers.
The music was done by Brendan Jury. “We’re very excited about the end credit song,
Noma Kunjani,’ notes Potgieter. “It’s a hip-hop remix version of a Sophiatown classic by
Dorothy Masuko, Zahara and PRO.’
Distributor UIP releases the film at more than 40 cinemas countrywide. It will also be
screened on SABC channels in early 2014.
Moloi notes that the films is being marketed on social media channels, including a
Facebook page which has more than 10 000 likes, as well as the Heartlines YouTube
channel and Twitter.
Potgieter says they hope diverse audiences will be attracted to the film. “This really is a
beautiful, heartwarming dramedy and such a universal story. I think a lot of people will
relate to it.’