SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Nathan Rice is a 26-year-old
filmmaker from KwaZulu Natal, who has just completed a three year degree in
Motion Picture Writing and Directing at AFDA Durban. His short film
Homeless was recently nominated as a candidate for the 2015
Academy of Motion Picture Awards in the best short foreign student film category,
after it received the highest Audience and Critics score at the AFDA graduate
festival. The film tells the story of two brothers who live in an informal settlement
and are forcefully removed.
“Homeless was inspired by a newspaper article I once read about
people who had been evicted from their shacks in an informal settlement. These
people were left homeless, without possessions, and had nowhere to go. The story
interested me a lot and I decided to look up more about it. I found that there were
many such stories in Durban and as I found more and more information about it, I
realised that I needed to tell this story,’ says Rice.
The film was shot using an Arri Alexa camera by director of photography Bradley
McGee over six days – mainly in the Springfield and Greenwood Park areas in
Durban. Justin Case was responsible for editing, Darren Jaynarayan handled sound
design and Londiwe Shange was the producer. The main actor in the film was Cebo
Zikhali – a third year performance student at AFDA. Rice says he had approached
Zikhali about the role before he even started writing the screenplay. “I have worked
with him before on other short films and I have always been a fan of his work.
Therefore, before I even started writing the screenplay, I started chatting to him to
see if he would be interested in the role. Cebo was very excited from the start and
from very early conversations with him about the character I knew that he was the
right person to play the role. He could identify with so much of the character and
was able to bring his own style to it that I never would have been able to come up
with on my own,’ he explains.
But working with the child actor in the film proved to be one of the biggest
challenges for Rice, who had to direct in Zulu, as the actor could barely speak any
English. “I had heard and read a lot about working with child actors, but now I got
to do it myself. It’s a challenge because you often have to find the right balance and
have to always be mindful of their time,’ says Rice.
While Homeless deals with a specific and current issue of vagrancy in
the city of Durban, its relevance extends to a global audience as well. “If we look at
the refugee status in so many countries and these stories hitting the news all the
time, I think that people will find that the Homeless tackles these
current issues that everyone knows about,’ says Rice. “More than a story about a
physical homelessness, this film is about the homelessness of the soul. The film can
be an encouragement to anyone as it is about finding a reason to keep going, even
when you’ve lost everything. I think that this uplifting theme can resonate with