SA novel adapted for the big screen


The multi-award winning novel Happiness is a Four-Letter Word, which
was awarded the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the Film category, has been turned
into a screenplay with filming commencing in and around Johannesburg on 13 July.

The film tells the story of three friends trying to find their happiness while
maintaining images of success and acceptability. The complex, distinctive voices of
the characters developed by novelist Cynthia Nozizwe Jele continue to be the
guiding lens for the movie.

The story revolves around perfectionist lawyer Nandi, glamorous housewife Zaza
and trendy art gallery owner Princess, who seem to be living the new South African
dream: money, success, and loving partners. The three friends juggle life’s
surprising changes as they come to learn that “happiness doesn’t come with a
manual. The three will have to find out what truly makes each of them happy and
then fight to get it in their unique way.

The movie is being produced with part funding from the National Film and Video
Foundation (NFVF) and forms part of the Junaid Ahmed Productions slate of films
which aims to develop key areas of black talent in the film industry. At the helm of the
production team are Hard to Get producers Junaid Ahmed and Helena
Spring, and first time feature film producer Bongiwe Selane who says, “I’m excited
to be producing my first feature film with two formidable producers, whom I
consider doyens in the industry. I was a fan of Happiness is a Four-Letter
when it was first published and immediately knew that it is the kind of
story that lends itself to screen adaptation.’

Junaid Ahmed adds, “It’s important for us to grow black excellence in the film
industry. The fact that Happiness is a Four-Letter Word is a story about ambitious black women is an
added and much-welcomed layer.”

Helena Spring adds, “It’s wonderful for me to watch the great achievements in the
South African film industry and to be part of showcasing black talent in full

While Busisiwe Ntilintili adapted the novel into a screenplay, Cynthia Nozizwe Jele,
who is currently busy with her second novel, kept a strong hand on the adaptation
and has been integral in the film production. An excited and humble Nozizwe says,
“I’m thrilled about the film. The novel received tremendous support and still gets
attention. I’m also excited about the developing trend of local books being turned
into films and television dramas. The content and depth of South African writers is
relevant and of a high calibre.”

The director Thabang Moleya whose accolades include Vuka Awards, South African
Film and Television Awards, and an Emmy Nomination, leads a stellar cast including
Mmabatho Montsho as Nandi, Khanyi Mbau as Zaza, and Renate Stuurman as
Princess. Happiness is a Four-Letter Word aims to elevate the state of
South African cinema, and raise the volume on the stunted representation of black
females in film both behind and in front of camera.


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