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Gezzy S Sibisi

Gezzy S Sibisi
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Gezzy S. Sibisi is a senior journalist at Screen Africa. She is experienced in print, broadcast and digital media. Her portfolio of work includes working as a lifestyle reporter as well as contributing business and education articles to The Times, Sowetan, and Daily Dispatch publications. As a freelancer, she has worked on content development for corporate newsletters, community newspapers, blogs and educational websites.

A love letter to Chatsworth

Keeping Up with the Kandasamys was shot on the RED Epic Dragon.”

“Authencity is key in storytelling. We wanted to ensure that the flavours of Chatsworth were captured. This was a unique opportunity to put Chatsworth on the big screen and we had to be true to its vibrant spirit.” – director Jayan Moodley

The vibrant lifestyle, authentic mannerisms and colourful textures of one of the oldest South African Indian communities takes centre stage in the film, Keeping Up with the Kandasamys – a witty play on the much-publicised Keeping up with the Kardashians reality series in which the famous family’s dirty laundry seems to keep enthralled viewers glued to their small screens weekly. Much like the Kardashians, the Kandasamys have captured South African audiences on the big screen so much so that the film garnered over R1.6 million in its opening weekend at the Ster-Kinekor box office. Furthermore, the movie has recently been reported to have made over R14.7 million in its seventh week on circuit.

Keeping Up with the Kandasamys is a story about friendship, family, space and identity, and most importantly about love and forgiveness. It centres around two women, Jennifer Kandasamy (Jailoshini Naidoo) and Shanti Naidoo (Maeshni Naicker) who have an immense hatred for each other. Their suspicion turns to shock and then horror as they face the realisation that their children have fallen in love. So they team up with the ‘mother-of-all-plans’ to break them up and instead find each other in the process,” explains director Jayan Moodley.

The film is centred on these two lead actresses who both previously have been residents of Chatsworth. Much to their delight, the film pays homage to this historic and lively town which rarely gets recognised as a film location of choice. With that in mind the director sees to it that the hidden gems of Chatsworth are captured while also giving the viewer a feel of the warm city of Durban and its outskirts. “Authencity is key in storytelling. We wanted to ensure that the flavours of Chatsworth were captured. This was a unique opportunity to put Chatsworth on the big screen and we had to be true to its vibrant spirit,” Moodley says.

Casting for the film took place primarily in Durban over four days before moving to Johannesburg for a further two days of auditions. The young couple Prishen Naidoo (Madhushan Singh) and Jodi Kandasamy (Mishqah Parthiephal) beautifully bring their modern redemption of the romantic classic, Romeo and Juliet into character, while their disapproving mothers leave no scene unscathed as they give life to the ‘mother-in-law from hell’ phenomenon.

Unlike Moodley’s rather dramatic debut into the film scene with White Gold in 2010, she decided to have some fun in her second take, with co-writer Rory Booth helping her bring the laughing stitches to this well-played slapstick comedy drama. “The story provides a window into one of South Africa’s vibrant and colourful sub-cultures. I truly believe that real nation-building can take place when there is not just an acceptance of each other but an understanding of the different cultures in South Africa; what better medium than that of film, and what better genre than that of comedy to draw in the audiences and achieve this objective,” Moodley remarks.

Filming took place in July and August over a five-week period with African Lotus Productions and the late Junaid Ahmed’s production company. The film also takes time to honour the esteemed producer, as he was very much involved in the production of the film and worked alongside co-producer Helena Spring to ensure that Moodley’s vision became a reality.

During production, the crew and cast noted that they received the most amazing hospitality from residents of the area. Thereafter the film crew decided to return the favour by visiting Chatsworth school Wingen Heights Secondary and giving the staff and learners an opportunity to take pictures with the cast, who also signed autographs with their endearing fans as a token of their appreciation.

Keeping Up with the Kandasamys was shot on the RED Epic Dragon; a decision which Moodley says was made after a consultative meeting between her, the producers and DOP Justus de Jager. For Moodley, the most important aspect to get right regarding the look and feel of the film was to make the viewer feel as though they were present within an Indian South African home. “The brief was to capture colour, vibrancy and a sense of liveliness that is prevalent. We stuck to our colour palette of cream and ‘kungum’ and kept the shots clean and focused on telling the story,” she comments.

“Overall the film has really struck a chord,” affirms Moodley who attributes the success of the film to its simplicity and authencity. “Every person I speak to tells me about a character they can relate to or about how true that ‘one scene’ was.”

It is no surprise that the film’s reach has stretched over to more than its close-knit Chatsworth community and even further than its cosmopolitan city of Durban. Beneath all the snotty and hilarious punchlines; a powerful underlying message resonates with everyone regardless of ethnicity, geographic standing and social standard. “The message of the film is really about forgiveness and the heavy burden we carry within ourselves when we hold onto some sort of grudge. It’s about family, happiness and about a people that band together as a community with such resilience. I think African audiences are in search of comedy and different stories, and it will certainly resonate with both African and international audiences,” Moodley concludes.

Keeping Up with the Kandasamys was produced in association with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission (KZNFC), Durban Film Office (DFO) and M-Net.

KEY CREW:

Director: Jayan Moodley
Producers: Helena Spring and Junaid Ahmed
Associate producers: Suda Sing and Gill Pearson
DOP: Justus de Jager
Editor: Nicholas Costaras

Local trilogy video creates creative buzz internationally

“We shot the entire project on the Phantom Flex. I love the distinctive look of the camera and playing around with the high-speed function of the camera and extreme slow motion and real-time photography.” – Kyle Lewis

The evolution of a man from the time they discover their purpose, to seeing a visual exhibition being captured through the lens of a camera is an amazing craft. Award-winning hip hop artist Nasty C gave this challenge to Kyle Lewis and the results were an Apple Music chart-topping video which gained global creative recognition.

“The concept comes from personal stories and experiences that Nasty C explained to me about his personal growth and life experiences. The narrative has a past, present and future and that illustrates Nasty C growing up, figuring things out and ultimately coming to fruition in his career,” says director Kyle Lewis.

The 14-minute music video features three songs from his Bad Hair Extensions album namely, Don’t Do It, Phases and Good Girls and Snapchat Hoes. The video’s unofficial title is Veliswa, and is named after the rapper’s late mother. However in keeping with the album title, it was later named Bad Hair.

Lewis and his Arcade Content team previously worked with Nasty C during the shooting of Anatii and Cassper Nyovest’s music video for the song Jump, which the rapper featured on. It was at that shoot that they spoke about collaborating on something totally unique.

“Audiences love to be challenged, and I find the South African audience to be an extremely intelligent and deep-thinking crowd. There are so many subtle, nuanced messages and statements scattered throughout and I wanted it to be something that people watched a few times to decipher, but at the same time create their own meaning,” says Lewis.

Lewis remembers that in that brief meeting the rapper spoke about featuring multiple singles but giving him and his team free reign on the narrative and look. “For a filmmaker, it’s amazing to have that kind of trust from an artist.”

Kyle and his team, which included Pierre De Villiers on camera duties, Kaley Meyer as the stylist and Bianca Prinsloo taking over the art direction; worked on conceptualising the brief and finding complementary tools needed in the making of the film. “Life experiences are never the same, so I wanted to illustrate different tones of emotions individually. I wanted dark, surrealistic elements to be juxtaposed with hyper-realism and grit,” explains Lewis.

Furthermore Lewis wanted to treat each of the three tracks as its own individual film, but still be able to make them co-exist as a 14-minute long music video without losing the viewer. The use of bridges in between the songs provide a smooth transition, which Lewis credits to approaching the filmmaking process as a ‘trilogy’ or ‘anthology’ instead of just a conventional narrative. “Each film has its own style of cinematography and framing. With the help of my incredible DOP, Pierre De Villiers, we were able to innovate with how we lit and composed shots. For example, in the final video, Phases, we locked off the camera and did every set up in the same framing, creating an interesting editing technique,” Lewis comments.

De Villiers shot the video on the Phantom Flex with 2+3 Post handling the edit and grade, helmed by long-time collaborator Stephen Du Plessis. “I love the distinctive look of the camera and playing around with the high-speed function and extreme slow motion and real-time photography,” comments Lewis on the camera choice. “I wanted each shot to look like a Renaissance painting and to be as poignant, and there’s something beautiful and eerie about what that camera can capture.”

While he admits that budget constraints are always a factor in producing a sterling film, Lewis and his team are always up for an opportunity to create an unfiltered and artistically creative product that will be worthwhile for the masses. The team however tried to push as many boundaries as they could through the use of creative special effects with the help of SFX artist, Blake Prinsloo from Static Black Media. “The most exciting aspect is the face mapping we did of Nasty C. It gave us the perfect impression of his face, which gave us the opportunity to create artistic, statue-like elements,” Lewis remarks.

The music video has since been featured internationally in France, Germany, United Kingdom and the US, with Apple Music describing it as “epic” and “audacious”.

When Lewis was asked if he ever thought that his films would be so highly-received, he responded: “I think South African music and South African aesthetics are some of the most bold and creative in the world. I was just a vehicle for its success; the true impact comes from the people, fashion and collaboration in this piece. I believe we are as a country the next big innovators and it’s finally getting noticed abroad, which is exciting.”

Key Crew:

Director: Kyle Lewis
Producer: William Nicholson
DOP: Pierre De Villiers
Styling and make-up: Kaley Meyer
Art director: Bianca Prinsloo
Editor: Stephen du Plesis
VFX: Blake Prinsloo
Additional music: Tapiwa Musvosvi
DiT and Camera technician: Karl Schmidt

Meet DIFF’s new manager Chipo Zhou

“I want to build on the past success of DIFF and bring on board some new collaboration that will see the festival showcase more African productions to a larger international audience.” – Chipo Zhou

Turning the spotlight on women making great strides within the film industry, the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) recently announced the appointment of Chipo Zhou as the festival’s new manager.

“After such a vigorous search, we are grateful that we finally found a rounded candidate of her calibre, with whom the festival is bound to have a refreshed face. We welcome Chipo to the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) team and we are confident that she will steer the festival to a better future,” said director of the CCA, David wa Maahlamela in a press statement.

It’s no secret that DIFF has, in the previous year, made headlines within the local film industry for the wrong reasons as much publicised internal disputes led to the resignation of the 2016 DIFF manager, Sarah Dawson. Despite this, Zimbabwean-born Zhou has boldly accepted her role in the hot seat and is confident in overseeing her vision which includes giving a voice to women within the film industry.

“I started acting in a local soapie and this inevitably led to my involvement with International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) and the Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (Wofz) which exposed me to a different kind of woman, a voiceless woman. It was in that moment that I decided that no woman should ever be without a voice and if I can help contribute to that in any way, then I would certainly give it my best,” says Zhou.

Zhou has fortunately had a great headstart in being moulded by powerful voices and striving leaders throughout her life. Her father, who is a teacher of English literature, imparted the narrative seed in her through African folklores and books by sterling female authors such as Tsitsi Dangarembga, Yvonne Vera and Jane Austen. “His love for storytelling inspired my love for literature, which eventually steered me to filmmaking,” she said.

Other positive female influences include her mother’s business acumen as well as her love for education and current affairs which inspired Zhou’s love for film research. Her headmistress from school Miss Dumbuchena, who later held the role of Ambassador for Zimbabwe, played a pivotal role in young Zhou’s school career through her valued leadership and encouragement.

Zhou holds a B.A Honours Motion Picture Medium degree (cum laude) from AFDA, and is currently completing her MFA Motion Picture Medium. She has been passionately involved in woman advocacy through film festivals around the world, including being the assistant festival director of IIFF and steering the gender wheel in her home country as a board member of Wofz for five years.

“A lot has been done to bring women to the fore and that can be seen by the work that organisations like SWIFT and WIFT have done to significantly  increase the number of women-led films over the years. As with any system born from traditions that have been cultivated over centuries, the battle is far from being accomplished. What is unique about the film industry is that the platform allows for a global audience and any voice we give to the struggle of women empowerment in any industry is a strong voice. The importance of our role cannot be undermined and I’m glad to say that this year DIFF has a special focus on women, and some of the stories coming out of this are very powerful and will hopefully inspire and motivate others to action,” said Zhou.

Zhou has also made positive leaps in order to diversify her knowledge by thriving in other complementary roles such as coordinating the South African Communication Association (SACOMM) conference as well as being a media consultant for DERT-SA, an NGO servicing issues of human rights and education within Southern Africa.

“Working with academics who write papers and very often review the work of filmmakers, was an important learning curve for me, in placing what their role is within the industry, something I found very often overlooked and taken for granted. Operating within the human rights community gives you access to the human face of some stories that are made as well as potential audiences for these stories that may not have previously been exposed to the film industry. It has unquestionably expanded my world view and has contributed immensely to my current vision for the future of DIFF,” she says.

DIFF has been a long-standing annual calendar event in the African film industry and this year’s edition is scheduled to take place from 13 to 23 July at venues in and around Durban. Zhou and her team believe that they have a solid team and support system to see to it that the festival becomes a phenomenal experience and a great success.

“I am a fresh face with a new, creative and industrious young team working with me. That in itself is quite significant in that we are a clean slate. This year will be ‘DIFFerent’, we would like to reinvent what it is to be a film festival within our African context and so it will be interesting to see what this process will bring about over the next few DIFF editions. The advantage is that DIFF is already on the international calendar, the challenge  we are enthralled to be tackling is to see it grow beyond being the biggest in Africa and see talent that is coming through our programmes attain international recognition and advancement.”

DIFF is organised by the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts in partnership with the Durban Film Office, eThekwini Municipality, National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission and other valued funders and partners.

Zhou’s appointment will also be announced to the international fraternity as she attends the 70th Festival de Cannes in Paris, France next month. This will be her first international appearance promoting the DIFF brand and she is excited to utilise the opportunity to elevate the image of the festival and enrich her vision.

“I want to build on the past success of DIFF and bring on board some new collaboration that will see the festival showcase more African productions to a larger international audience. We are fortunate to be placed in an environment with so much potential for further development and as a female in the industry, I hope to contribute to creating a future, in which it will no longer be necessary to point out that I am a woman,” Zhou concluded.

BBC Worldwide’s Africa focus

The BBC World Service has through the years manifested itself as one of the leading news corporations in TV, radio and digital. Moreover in 1998 it became the first international broadcaster to establish a news production bureau in Africa by relocating its London office to Nairobi, Kenya, as a strategic move to reinforce itself on the African market. Since then, the news service has enjoyed more audiences in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

So when BBC Worldwide – an extension of BBC’s other channels besides its news service – established an office in Johannesburg, in the hopes of bringing more diverse content and channels to the South African audience; it also had plans to blossom across the African continent at large.

“In September 2015, BBC Worldwide introduced three new global brands to South Africa: BBC First, BBC Brit and BBC Earth alongside the already established BBC Lifestyle and CBeebies channels. South Africa became the first country to host all five BBC global brands following the successful European debuts of BBC Brit and BBC Earth in Poland, the Nordics, Hungary, Romania and Turkey,’ comments BBC Worldwide Africa’s vice-president and general manager, Joel Churcher.

BBC First features gripping British drama in all its forms; BBC Brit offers entertaining reality sitcoms and talk shows; while BBC Earth gives viewers insight to the greatest human discoveries as well as the magnificent wonders of the universe.

Churcher confirmed that all the channels are “brimming with premium and award-winning content.’ In addition BBC First is said to be doing exceptionally well and has been ranked as the number one channel for international drama on DStv based on the average time spent by viewers glued to their screen.

“The content hosted on these channels is designed to reach a diverse pan-African audience, reflecting a wide range of voices, ages and cultures. Our African viewers clearly have a deep affection for BBC programming, and as a leading content distributor, we will continue to deliver high quality, premium content to our channels for many years to come,’ says Churcher.

Churcher confirmed how the move to Johannesburg has also led the broadcaster to partner with a local production company, Rapid Blue and as a result BBC Worldwide has since commissioned several programmes which were either specifically filmed in South Africa or across the African continent.

BBC viewers have come to enjoy localised formats of the broadcaster’s best-selling shows which include The Great South African Bake Off, Come Dine With Me and Strictly Come Dancing.

Besides these adaptations, the country has also gained favour as a film location of choice not only based on its scenic views but also because of the great value of shooting here. BBC Brit has seen increased ratings after Top Gear series 23 showcased some breathtaking African landscapes in Durban and Lesotho. BBC First’s Call the Midwife drama series has also made a point of using actors from South Africa when it shot its Christmas episode on the outskirts of Cape Town, while BBC Earth’s show Planet Earth II also featured the African continent. African countries that have also enjoyed the spotlight in other BBC programmes include Ethiopia, Namibia, Kenya, Zambia and Botswana.

While the brands are doing very well in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa through MultiChoice’s digital satellite TV service, DStv; Churcher highlighted how the growth in the television sales business has seen other brands reaching further into the African continent such as the CBeebies brand, which was launched as a 24-hour channel on the Zuku TV platform in East Africa last year.

There has also been recent news of other new buyers from Africa including NET2 TV, a free-to-air channel in Ghana and the Econet Media Group, which recently established a new pay-TV platform.

“The African continent has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. To ensure that BBC Worldwide taps into its growing audience base, it is important that our channels host a well-executed balance of international and local content, which feature local voices and faces,’ Churcher says.

The brands success in making these great executions were awarded with South African wins at the 2016 Loeries for shows on BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle as well as another award at the Pendoring Advertising Awards for a Zulu radio advert made for BBC Brit. The team also bagged gold at the PromaxBDA Africa Awards for their drama and reality promos.

“We are extremely proud of our accolades and look forward to producing more award-winning campaigns that capture the hearts and enthusiasm of our audiences on the African continent,’ comments Churcher.

During the recent MipTV market in Cannes, BBC Worldwide announced that its reach in Africa has led to the licensing of over 400 hours of programming across Africa in just the first part of 2017.

Shows that have been reported to be most popular to the South African market include, War and Peace, Doctor Who and Luther on BBC First while BBC Brit’s motoring show Top Gear has been the biggest show ever since the channels launched.

“We’re very excited by the rise in local African programming especially the popular shows coming out of Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, and are focused on localising our popular formats to appeal to a wider audience across not just South Africa but the entire continent,’ concludes Churcher.

– Gezzy S Sibisi

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