FILM DIRECTOR SPEAK: Zwelethu Radebe

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LOVE FOR FILM HATCHED FROM CHILDHOOD: Zwelethu Radebe

Filmmaker and commercials director Zwelethu Radebe has joined award-winning production house Egg Films. A born filmmaker Radebe spent much of his youth behind the lens recreating his favourite film scenes. After graduating from film school he won a Loerie for the first commercial he directed. At just 27, Radebe has spent the last three years directing commercials full-time for both local and international clients, shooting in nine countries across Africa and Europe. His award-winning short film The Hajji screened at numerous film festivals at home and abroad, and his latest short, The Hangman – which he also wrote and directed – recently had its world premiere at Atlas Studios in Johannesburg.

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOU AS A DIRECTOR?

My love affair with film started in my childhood, stealing my father’s 8mm camcorder and filming my brother, re-enacting scenes from my favourite films. Later I was cast from school to play a caricature of South African cricket legend Lance Klusener in a washing powder commercial. The bug hit around then. I enrolled into film school where I finished top of my class, winning numerous awards and an opportunity to work for a renowned South African production company, where I started directing TV commercials.

WHAT KIND OF CONTENT DO YOU ENJOY CREATING?

I really enjoy moving audiences emotively through narratives that have honest performances and a striking visual style.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?

I find a lot of my inspiration through vintage and contemporary photography. I sometimes see a photograph that makes me feel a specific way, which inspires me to write an idea that I would use later in a spot or music video.  I also observe people a lot; I learn a lot from watching and get inspired by ordinary people’s lives.

DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS?

I look at everyone who surrounds me as a collaborator, especially those who I work with at Egg Films. That’s what attracted me to the company.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL CAREER MILESTONES?

Winning my first Loerie Award for the first commercial I ever directed, as well as finishing second in the MOFILM Cannes Lions competition in 2015.

WHICH PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN?

I’m currently finishing a South African Tourism job with FCB Johannesburg, which had me travel to four different cities in South Africa.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FUNNIEST MOMENT ON SET?

A cast member falling into a fridge, completely disappearing out of frame during a take. Hahahaha!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ONE-LINER FROM A MOVIE?

Denzel Washington in Training Day: “King Kong ain’t got shit on me!” LOL.

WHAT SONGS MAKE UP YOUR MOST RECENT MUSIC PLAYLIST?

  • Black Motion – Ya Badimo
  • Branko – Atlas Expanded
  • Ed Sheeran – Divide

IF YOU COULD PRODUCE AN AFRICAN VERSION OF A HOLLYWOOD CLASSIC, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

The Godfather.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM SHOOT LOCATION? AND WHY?

I would love to shoot in the favelas in Rio. I think there are a lot of untold stories outside the gangsterism and drugs, which I would love to explore in a foreign country.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FILMMAKER SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

To stop time. There’s never enough time on a commercials set, so I’d love to control time.

WHAT ARE YOUR THREE FAVOURITE FILMS AND WHY?

  • The Silence of the Lambs by Jonathan Demme.  The performances. Anthony Hopkins; need I say more?
  • Amores Perros by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. A multiple character narrative that explores how we’re all interconnected as people.
  • Clockers by Spike Lee. The visual style that Spike puts in all his films is very provocative; I like his boldness.

IF YOU WEREN’T A FILMMAKER, YOU WOULD BE…?

An explorer.

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Cera-Jane Catton
Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.

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