What goes around comes around

TWISTING TURNING THRILLER: Hatchet Hour on location

South African independent filmmaker Judy Naidoo’s first feature length production Hatchet Hour is making waves on the international film festival circuit. The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September as one of four South African films selected by AAA Entertainment to be showcased at the festival. A Ladybug Films production, Hatchet Hour has also been chosen to screen as part of the official selection at the 12th annual LA Femme Film Festival, taking place in Beverly Hills, California in October 2016.

A sensational thriller, the film, directed and produced by Naidoo, follows the frantic efforts of an ambitious lawyer as she tries to conceal the accidental murder – by her – of her gardener. Knowing the ins and outs of the law, she fears she will lose her career and spend time behind bars – a fate she will stop at nothing to avoid. In an attempt to evade the former, she ropes in her best friend to help her get rid of the body. Naidoo says that the film hopes to drive home the message that ultimately your actions have consequences which can’t be escaped, “and what goes around comes around.” The film is written by Naidoo and Salah Sabiti, and stars Erica Wessels, Petronella Tshuma and Adam Croasdell amongst others.

Naidoo, who founded the South African production company Ladybug Films in 2002, says that the film has essentially been ten years in the making. In 2006, when she returned from the New York Film Academy, her close colleague Sofia de Fay offered her rights to the screenplay that is now Hatchet Hour “on condition I rescued it from her ancient dying computer at her old house, which I did,” she explains. “She entrusted me with it and I’ve been trying to make it ever since. In 2012, through the assistance of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) I was able to develop the script further, by this stage it was no longer relevant, very dated. Together with Salah Sabiti we rewrote the story but the basic premise (which I loved from the onset) remained the same… I loved the premise. Especially since it involves two female leads… I’ve not seen interesting, challenging roles like these written for SA women. It’s also a thriller with all the twists and turns that, that genre encompasses. It’s an unusual film but definitely an entertaining watch.”

In 2015, together with support from M-Net, the NFVF, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC), production on Hatchet Hour commenced. Once Naidoo and Sabiti completed the screenplay cast auditions were held in Johannesburg with some actors sending in audition clips through their agents. Naidoo explains that while there were auditions that took place, she conducted her own search perusing suitable talent and their body of work before asking to see specific actors – this is how she found two of her three leads. “Erica Wessels I discovered through my own search. Adam Croasdell and I attended Wits University together around the same time so I was familiar with his work but I had the chance to audition him in Los Angeles when I was there in 2014 for a directing course with Judith Weston. Petronella Tshuma emerged through the audition process. They each had something quiet unique to themselves that they were able to offer the roles.”

With the cast finalised, filming commenced on Hatchet Hour and continued for four weeks in and around Johannesburg. The film’s colour palette primarily encompasses cold exteriors and warm interiors, which Naidoo says was decided on at the onset. DOP Tom Marais shot the film using a Sony F3 and exceeded expectations in achieving the desired look and feel, “which is often clean, classic and very structured/composed,” comments Naidoo. “Certain colours also pop, like yellows and reds but this was very intentional. Also, I felt the film had a noir feel and wanted to work a lot with reflections and seeing through things like glass, or obstructions in the frame. Our locations were excellent as they allowed us to play with these ideas and achieve them.”

Hatchet Hour will have its world premiere at the LA Femme International Film Festival while its South African premiere will take place in conjunction with the Joburg Film Festival. The film is due for theatrical release on 4 November and is distributed by Black Sheep Films in South Africa while AAA Entertainment is handling negotiations with foreign territories.


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