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Kevin Kriedemann

Kevin Kriedemann
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Kevin consults on PR and marketing for Africa’s film industry. Current clients include Showmax, Triggerfish and Tulips and Chimneys; previous clients include Al Jazeera, Egg, Encounters, Film Afrika, and the Oscar-nominated short films Asad and Revolting Rhymes. Before changing sides, Kevin edited The Callsheet and The Filmmakers Guide To South Africa and freelanced for the likes of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter as a journalist. He’s also co-founder of Africa.film, a site where you can watch Africa's best videos, as chosen by the continent's best filmmakers and the world's top film festivals and websites.

Five reasons to watch Kanarie

Kanarie, Schalk Bezuidenhout’s breakout movie, is now streaming first on Showmax in South Africa.

Schalk stars as Johan Niemand, a fashion-loving gay teen in small-town South Africa in 1985, a time of apartheid, religious conservatism and war, an era when not even his idol Boy George had dared to come out publicly as gay yet.

When Johan is called up to serve his compulsory two-year military training, he escapes the border war by joining The South African Defence Force Church Choir and Concert Group, known as Die Kanaries (The Canaries), where he discovers his true self through hardship, camaraderie, first love and the liberating freedom of music.

If you missed Kanarie at the cinema – and it was only the 10th most popular South African movie at the box office last year, so clearly most of us did – here are five reasons not to sleep on one of the most fun but moving South African films yet:

#1. Schalk Bezuidenhout is one of our favourite comedians, but might be an even better actor
Schalk is one of South Africa’s top comedians: the winner of two Comics’ Choice Awards, described by Skhumba recently as “the one white comedian loved by black people.”

But in Trippin With Skhumba earlier this year, Schalk confessed that he wanted to be an actor before he thought of being a comedian.

On the basis of his performance in Kanarie, acting might still be his true calling, as much as we hope we still get to laugh with him often on stage. The Los Angeles Times compared him to the legendary Buster Keaton while praising his “clear talent for drama” and the way he “superbly juggles Johan’s many moods and modes,” while FilmThreat raved about his “confident, raw performance.”

Schalk earned a 2019 South African Film and Television Award nomination for this role and won Best Supporting Actor last year as Danny in Hotel, but we’re pretty sure he’s just getting started.

Just be warned: he’s missing his trademark knitted jerseys, moustache and wild hair in Kanarie, so you might not recognise him immediately in the movie, but just look out for the guy in the wedding dress in the opening scene…

#2. Germandt Geldenhuys is hilarious, and can seriously sing
Schalk is ably supported by the rest of the cast, particularly Hannes Otto as his love interest, Wolfgang, and Germandt Geldenhuys as the irrepressible Ludolf, in a hilarious performance that won Best Supporting Actor at Silwerskerm and earned a SAFTA nomination.

As FilmThreat put it, “Ludolf’s happy to see anyone and loves to chat with them about whatever. While it sounds like it may be annoying, Geldenhuys finds the right balance of pluck and genuine sympathy to make the character work.”

Germandt won the 2017 Huisgenoot Tempo For Actor of the Year: Soap Operas for his role as Louis Koster in Binnelanders; earned a Fleur Du Cap nomination for Sweeney Todd; and won the Grand Champion Award for singing at The World Performing Championships, which will surprise no one who hears him sing in Kanarie.

#3. Christiaan Olwagen is a director to watch

After being named Standard Bank Young Artist Of The Year for Theatre in 2015, Christiaan Olwagen switched his focus to cinema, writing and directing three acclaimed Afrikaans films in three years: 2016’s Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie, 2018’s Chekhov adaptation Die Seemeeu, and Kanarie, with a fourth, Poppie Nongena, premiering at kykNET’s Silwerskermfees this month.

Kanarie is an impressive mix of genres – a coming-of-age, coming out, musical love story war film – that is sometimes funny, sometimes heart-warming, and occasionally tragic, and that moves from raw reality to music-video-style flights of fancy and back again seamlessly. It’s an incredible balancing act but one that Christiaan makes look easy. While he may not be famous outside the Afrikaans community yet, he’s still in his early 30s and we’d put money on that changing soon… As BusinessDay put it, he’s “streets ahead of other directors.”

#4. Kanarie is inspired by a true story

In Kanarie, Schalk and the rest of the cast are helped by what The Los Angeles Times described as “a first-rate script,” which director Christiaan Olwagen co-wrote with musical director Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, based on Charl’s own experiences in the army choir.

As Charl told BizCommunity, “I believe one of the strengths of the film is the fact that it is a very personal story and that it is true. People are very surprised when they find out that approximately 95% of it is factual. It’s not often you get to watch a film of this nature where the narrative is so close to what really happened. We didn’t have to invent a whole lot – it was all just ready to be told.”

#5. Kanarie is a funny, moving tale about standing out, even when you just want to fit in
Sometimes we sell things short when we pitch them as good South African films. Kanarie is a good film. Period.

It has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes; a 7.9 rating on IMDB; and has won 15 awards around the world. As The Los Angeles Times put it, “Kanarie ably hits the high notes… rich, poignant and finely observed… “ Or as The Hollywood Reporter said, while predicting an international theatrical run, Kanarie is “a winning combination of thoughtfulness and exuberance.” Similarly, Indiewire picked it as one of seven films to watch at Outfest, North America’s premier LGBTI festival, calling it a “surprisingly fun” musical about “the effects of nationalism on a tender soul, and the bond of brotherhood among misfits.”

So whether or not you’re gay, or Afrikaans, or want to support proudly South African products, Kanarie is the film for you, next time you’re in the mood for an uplifting musical love story about finding individuality in a world of oppression and uniformity. Watch it first on Showmax here. 

Award-winning Thuli Madonsela doc airs on Showmax for Women’s Month

Whispering Truth To Power, Shameela Seedat’s documentary about Thuli Madonsela’s last year as South Africa’s public protector, is now streaming first on Showmax.

A perfect fit for Women’s Month, the acclaimed documentary – which went live on Showmax on Women’s Day, 9 August – won the Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs, North America’s most important documentary festival, as well as awards at FESPACO, Luxor African Film Festival, and Jozi Film Festival, where it was also the opening night film, like it was at Encounters.

The Hot Docs jury praised Whispering Truth To Power for “its timely portrait of a bad-ass public servant who uses her office for good at a pivotal moment in South African politics.”

With exclusive, behind-the-scenes access, Whispering Truth To Power charts the final year in office of South Africa’s anti-corruption champion as she attempts to seek justice for ordinary people.

After successfully challenging President Jacob Zuma for illegal use of state funds, Thuli now has to face the biggest challenge of her career: investigating – in the face of protests, death threats and legal challenges – the alleged systematic takeover of government by a private family in cahoots with the President.

If you’re looking for a woman to inspire you this Women’s Month, Thuli is an obvious choice: soft-spoken but decisive, she was named Daily Maverick’s South African Person Of The Year in 2011, one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2014, and Forbes’ African Person Of The Year and one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2016, among many other accolades.

But while Thuli herself is inspiring, the story Whispering Truth To Power has to tell is sobering for South Africans.

“In other countries, people don’t know who the ombudsman is,” says her son Wantu early in the documentary, after complaining good-naturedly about how hard it was for him to have a normal conversation about Liverpool versus Manchester United without someone bringing up his mother. “If the government is doing their job properly, then the ombudsman is not this celebrated figure who is fighting the good fight, because there shouldn’t be that fight.”

While Whispering Truth To Power is partly a gripping tale of Thuli versus Zuma, the Guptas, and a ticking clock, it’s also an intimate look at her life as a single, working mother of two adult children, and the generational tensions that exist in South Africa at the moment.

At the time of the documentary, Madonsela’s daughter Wenzile was a student at The University of Pretoria, a member of the EFF’s student structures, and clearly had a different view of South Africa’s political priorities to that of her mother.

“There is tremendous love between them, and there are of course, raging tensions,” wrote Sisonke Msimang in Africa Is A Country. “Their relationship. with all its contradictions … is perhaps a perfect metaphor for the state of South Africa.”

Whispering Truth To Power was the debut feature documentary from director Shameela Seedat, who previously worked in human rights and social justice research and advocacy, including at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, UNIFEM in New York and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa.

Whispering Truth To Power is just one of a number of great films and series by accomplished South African women on Showmax, like Nosipho Dumisa’s gripping Cape Flats thriller Nommer 37; Catharine Cooke and Cindy Lee’s record-breaking high school mystery series, The Girl From St Agnes; and Aliki Saragas’ award-winning documentary about the women of Marikana, Strike a Rock

Three reasons to binge gritty Cape Town cop drama, Die Byl

Cape Town is the South African city with the highest murder and robbery rate, so it’s the logical setting for Season 2 of Die Byl, the gritty Afrikaans cop drama that is now available to binge, first on Showmax, ahead of its run on kykNET in December 2019.

Piet van der Bijl (Waldemar Schultz) is a brilliant detective who specialises in serial killers – and a workaholic who will do anything for those closest to him.

In Season 2, which is set five years later, Byl’s relationship with Advocate Nicky Swanepoel (2018 Tempo Awards Actress of the Year nominee Milan Murray from Waterfront) is on the rocks, while his ex-wife Carien (Fiesta, Kanna, Vita and ATKV winner Rolanda Marais from Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie), is back in his life.

But as usual, Byl’s more preoccupied with his cases, as he comes up against increasingly sophisticated serial killers who target Cape Flats gang members, senior citizens at a retirement home, inmates at a maximum security prison, and first responders at emergency sites, among others.

While these cases are episodic, the tension builds throughout the season as someone starts targeting those closest to Byl, and the hunters become the hunted…

Here are three reasons to add Die Byl to your watchlist, whether you speak Afrikaans or not:

  1. It’s inspired by “South Africa’s very own super sleuth”

While the cases are fictional, Die Byl is inspired by the real life South African cop Piet Byleveld, who solved some of South Africa’s most talked-about cases, like the murders of Leigh Matthews, Sheldean Human and Sibille Zanner, and caught infamous serial killers like Lazarus Mazingane, the Nasrec killer, and Cedric Maake, the Wemmer Pan Killer.

According to Daily Maverick,  Byleveld – or Piet Byl as he was known – was “one of the best detectives ever to have the job. He had a 99% success rate in a career that spanned almost 40 years” – and assisted the FBI, Mossad and Scotland Yard in investigations.

Byleveld consulted on Season 1 of Die Byl shortly before he passed away in 2017. He was widely mourned, with News24 calling him a “top cop”; Daily Maverick hailing him as “South Africa’s very own super sleuth;” and IOL describing him as “a serial killer hunter with a gentle side.”

  1. It’s the best cast we’ve seen in ages

Waldemar Schultz (7de Laan) and Lika Berning (Liefling) won the Huisgenoot Tempo Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress in 2017 for their roles in the first season as the brooding colonel Piet van der Bijl and his profiler, Captain Lena Evans, respectively.

They’re supported by an exceptional cast that also includes Marvin-Lee Beukes (Waterfront, Die Boland Moorde) as captain Juan Stuurman, who has moved from Byl’s team into IT; Vita award winner Eric Nobbs as pathologist Dr Fritz Barnard and Trudy van Rooy as his new lab assistant, Dr Shani van Rooi; Avanti winner Barbara-Marié Immelman as Ellie Bonthuys, once a journalist only looking for sensationalism, now the police unit’s spokesperson; and Vita award winner Tertius Meintjes as general Neels van As, whose relationship with Byl is improving now that the detective is no longer dating his ex-wife Nicky.

Other key cast include aKING lead vocalist Laudo Liebenberg (Kanarie, Black Sails); SAFTA winner Deon Lotz (Skoonheid, Shepherds and Butchers); and Jessie Berning as the young son of Captain Lena Evans (played by his real-life mother, Lika Berning).

There are also guest appearances in each 70-minute episode, from the likes of 2018 Tempo Awards Actor of the Year Marlo Minnaar (Sara Se Geheim); Silwerskerm winners Cintaine Schutte (Die Seemeeu) and Albert Pretorius (Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie); and three-time ATKV Best Actress winner Jana Kruger (Swartwater), not to mention SAFTA winners Denise Newman (Shirley Adams, Suidooster), Marius Weyers (Dis Ek, Anna), and Jody Abrahams (Hard Copy, Arendsvlei), among many other faces you’ll recognise.

  1. It’s made by Marche Media, with Quentin Krog as one of the directors
    The nail-biting crime series is being produced by Marche Media – the current darlings of the Afrikaans production industry – responsible for award-winning films like Kanarie and Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie; documentaries like Nobody’s Died Laughing: A Journey With Pieter-Dirk Uys; and hit series like Die Spreeus, Dwaalster, and the multi-award-winning Boer Soek ‘n Vrou.

Quentin Krog (Die Boekklub, Vir Die Voëls, Ballade Vir ‘n Enkeling, Thys & Trix) directs the first episode. He’s one of three directors on the second season, alongside Liezl Spies (Tempo Awards TV Series Of The Year Sara Se Geheim) and Leon Kruger, head writer on Season 1 and 2 of Die Byl and hit shows like Waterfront.

All 14 episodes of Die Byl S2 are now streaming, with English subtitles, on Showmax here. 

Triggerfish launches free career-focused learning platform for animators

Triggerfish, in partnership with Goethe-Institut and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, has launched Triggerfish Academy, a free digital learning platform for anyone wanting to understand more about the career opportunities and how to get started in the field of animation.

The website features 25 free video tutorials, quizzes and animation exercises introducing animation as a career and the principles of storytelling, storyboarding and animation, as well as several additional resources to help guide aspiring animators into a career in animation.

“The South African animation industry is growing – and so is the demand for skilled animators globally,” said Noemie Njangiru, head of Culture and Development at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, pointing to  the success of recent Triggerfish projects like the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes; Mama K’s Team 4, recently announced by Netflix as their first original animated series from Africa; and this year’s New York Children’s Festival and Shanghai International Film and TV Festival winner Zog.

Njangiru also highlighted the opportunities for animation outside the traditional film industry, within fields like advertising, app and web design, architecture, engineering, gaming, industrial design, medicine, and the motor industry, not to mention growth sectors like augmented reality and virtual reality

The course was created by Tim Argall, currently the animation director on Triggerfish’s third feature film, Seal Team. He’s roped in many of the South African animation industry’s brightest stars, from Malcolm Wope, character designer on Mama K’s Team 4, and Annike Pienaar, now working at Illumination in Paris on Sing 2, to Daniel Snaddon, co-director of the multi-award-winning BBC adaptations Stick Man and Zog, and Faghrie Coenraad, lead dressing and finaling artist on the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes, as well as Triggerfish head of production Mike Buckland. The featured talent share not just their skills but also their stories, from how they broke the news they wanted to be animators to their parents, to common myths about the animation industry.

“As kids, animation is part of our lives, so we don’t really think about the idea that animation is actually somebody’s job,” said Argall. “When I was a kid, I loved animation and I loved to draw. I remember when I was about 12, I thought: ‘I really want to see my drawings come to life. I want to be an animator.’ But I had no idea where to even begin.”

Triggerfish Academy is his attempt to make it easier for the next generation of African animators: an accessible starter kit for anyone considering a career in animation.

“By the end of working through this course, you’ll have all the background you need to know whether animation is a good choice for your career,” said Njangiru.

Aspiring animators can also use Triggerfish Academy to learn how to write and animate their own short story, then post their animation on the Academy’s Facebook group for feedback and advice from professional animators.

Triggerfish Academy is set up so that youth can play with it directly, but it’s also been designed to double as an activity plan for teachers, NGOs and after school programmes to use. Schools, organisations and other animation studios who are interested in using it can contact Triggerfish for additional free classroom resources.

Triggerfish Academy is just one of a number of Triggerfish initiatives to train and diversify the next generation of African animators, like sponsoring bursaries to The Animation School; the Mama K’s Team 4 Writers Lab with Netflix; the pan-African Triggerfish Story Lab, supported by The Walt Disney Company and the Department of Trade and Industry; Animate Africa webinars; Draw For Life; and the Triggerfish Foundation schools outreach programme.

Kokstad sister and brother become first Africans to screen at top VR competition

Last week The Lost Botanist, co-directed by the Kokstad-raised sister and brother team of Ree and Rick Treweek, became the first virtual reality (VR) experience from Africa to screen in competition at Annecy, the world’s most prestigious animation festival.

The Lost Botanist was one of just nine VR experiences competing at VR@Annecy, from 90 submissions from nearly 30 countries.

Ree and Rick were up against big name projects like Gymnasia, from the Emmy-winning Felix & Paul Studios; Doctor Who: The Runaway, voiced by Jodi Whittaker; Wolves In The Wall, Chapter 2, It’s All Over, based on the Neil Gaiman book; and Gloomy Eyes, narrated by Colin Farrell, which took home the Cristal.

Ree was one of two female directors in the VR category at Annecy. The Lost Botanist marked her second film in competition at Annecy, 12 years after The Blackheart Gang’s The Tale Of How kick-started her career by winning a Special Distinction Cristal in 2007.

A five-minute interactive adventure for immersive devices, The Lost Botanist is a collaboration between Rick’s Johannesburg-based emerging technology research and development house, Eden Labs, and Ree’s Cape Town-based creative studio, Tulips & Chimneys.

You are The Lost Botanist, misplaced in a world that’s forgotten all about nature. While researching the lost marvels of the natural world, you open a grimoire that transports you to The Under-Garden, the dream-like home of the spirits of all forgotten things. In each of the wondrous places you’ll visit, you must find a mythical creature to guide you further into the unknown, from The Nethermere to The Amber Vale to The Nevermist…

“I’ve always wanted to create a world that people could step into, a visual world people could be immersed in and lost in, so for me The Lost Botanist is an absolute dream come true,” says Ree, who is Africa’s most awarded animation director, having been recognised everywhere from the Clios to Clermont-Ferrand, D&AD to Mobius, The London International Awards to New York Festival, and The Loeries to The South African Film and Television Awards, among others. She’s also one of Africa’s most watched animation directors: Amumu: The Curse of the Sad Mummy, her League of Legends short film for Riot Games, has over 18m YouTube views.

Technically, Rick says The Lost Botanist stands out from most other VR experiences for three main reasons: its counterintuitive use of 2D animation in a 360 environment; its use of a 3D printed Oculus Go case shaped like an owl, that feels like an artwork in itself; and its development focus on the standalone VR headset Oculus Go, a comparatively light and low-spec platform.

Rick and Ree plan to extend The Lost Botanist with additional levels in the immersive experience; a spinoff film; an augmented reality game and a merchandise range that includes toys, adult colouring books, and puzzles. “This is just a prologue for a much bigger experience,” says Rick, who has worked with artists like William Kentridge and Mary Sibande at Eden Labs.

He believes The Lost Botanist’s timing couldn’t be better. “There’s a pure lack of VR content, so if we can get The Lost Botanist on the stores now, it will get eyeballs,” says Rick, whose first company, Breakdesign, generated over 16 million mobile game downloads. “It feels a lot like mobile games in 2007, like everything is coming full circle for me…”

Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Market ran from 10-15 June 2019 in Annecy, France. Check out the full VR line-up here.

The Lost Botanist continues its festival run at New Images Festival currently run until 23 June 2019 in Paris, France, where it was selected from 109 applications from 21 countries.

Follow The Lost Botanist on Instagram for updates.

Director Speak: Likarion Wainaina

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

This month Screen Africa chats to award-winning Kenyan director Likarion Wainaina…

Supa Modo has become so successful, becoming the most-awarded film in Kenya and a critics’ favourite. Did you anticipate this success when you were directing this film?

Definitely not. We are extremely grateful for the awards. It’s always a good feeling to know that your art is appreciated but it was never our end goal. We just wanted to do a film that shows us as Kenyans. Who we are. Who we can be. I don’t want to be the kind of filmmaker who makes movies just so I can chase after awards because then you lose the meaning of being a filmmaker and you begin to compete with yourself, to always one-up your previous film.

How has this movie made you grow as a film director and as a filmmaker in Kenya?

It’s definitely helped me gain a deeper understanding of the Kenyan and international markets. Getting feedback from a lot of Kenyans really shows where the heads of Kenyan audiences are. And I can tell you that African audiences are definitely hungry for their own stories, so I hope to continue doing more African stories.

Just A Band’s Makmende is cleverly inserted into the movie as both music and art, what informed this decision?

We were looking for local films to show in the cinema for Jo, our lead character, to watch. When I got in the industry, I was a huge fan of Just A Band and their music videos. So when we reached out to one of the members, Mbithi Masya, and he agreed for us to use their most famous music video, I was ecstatic. K1 also makes an appearance as Makmende and I was a huge fan of the character. I wanted to make a Makmende movie so this was the next best thing.

What scene that was the hardest to direct? Why?

The hardest was the Jo death scene, when we had to film the scene where the mother and daughter are grieving. It was difficult because we were all so emotionally invested in the characters. There was such a heavy emotion over the set and everyone was crying and I couldn’t call “cut” because even I was choking up. That was difficult, when I knew I needed to do another take. After two takes we couldn’t film anymore. We were all emotionally exhausted. Definitely a tough day on set.

Marvel or DC? Do you have a favourite superhero? Did you channel any superhero when directing Supa Modo?

Well, I will not pick any side because I hope to work with either of those comic houses in future, haha. There was no specific hero I attached to when filming. For me, it was the spirit of what it means to be a hero that I channelled throughout the filming.

Given a chance to work with Lupita, which type of movie would you create?

I am not sure if working with her or anyone else will change how or why I create the stories that I do, but I am sure both of us can come up with something unique.

Supa Modo didn’t have as much time in the theatres as it should have. Now that it’s streaming on Showmax, can you comment on the opportunities that streaming services provide to content-makers in Africa?

We had about 12 weeks at the cinema, not a small feat. And still with all those weeks, there was still a large number of Kenyans who hadn’t watched the film. The good thing about streaming platforms is that it gives us filmmakers a larger reach with our films. I heard some people even watching Supa Modo on their phones on the go. Now, that is so awesome.

Where is Likarion Wainaina’s imagination taking us next?

Well, I can’t go into details – but some projects are brewing up. The beauty of doing film is that you start off with a simple idea of a drama and next thing you know you have aliens in it… Maybe I’ll do a project about aliens… Oh yeah, definitely maybe.

Seven of the best local hits to stream now

After being nominated for an International Emmy for two years in a row for her work on Is’Thunzi, South African actress Thuso Mbedu made headlines this month when she was cast as the lead in The Underground Railroad, an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, to be directed by Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk).

With so many South Africans breaking through on the international stage, we’ve put together a catch-up guide to the best of what’s come onto Showmax this April, from festival-favourite films like High Fantasy and Meerkat Maantuig to award-winning documentaries like Everything Must Fall and The Fun’s Not Over to weekly express episodes of SAFTA-winning series like Lockdown and Isithembiso to the Silwerskerm-winning short film Axis Mundi.

Everything Must Fall

Premise:
An unflinching look at the #FeesMustFall student movement that burst onto the South African political landscape in 2015 as a protest over the cost of education. The story is told by four student leaders at Wits University and their Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib, a left-wing, former anti-apartheid student activist. When Habib’s efforts to contain the protest fail, he brings 1 000 police onto campus, with dire consequences for the young leaders…

Why you should watch:
1. It’s directed by Rehad Desai, who won the International Emmy Award for Best Documentary for Miners Shot Down, about the Marikana massacre

  1. #feesmustfall was a pivotal moment for South Africa; as we approach our national elections, it’s the perfect time to revisit the questions the movement raised about our priorities as a nation
  2. Vuyani Phambo and Fasiha Hassan, who both feature prominently in the film, are on the parliamentary election lists for The Economic Freedom Fighters and ANC respectively
  3. In May, Everything Must Fall is one of six productions representing South Africa at INPUT in Bangkok, an annual showcase of the best storytelling in the public interest

Accolades:
:: Vaclav Havel Award, One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, 2019
::
Best Documentary & Best Documentary Director, South African Film and Television Awards, 2019
:: Best South African Documentary, Cape Town International Film Market and Festival, 2018

Watch the trailer.

High Fantasy

Premise:
Four young friends on a camping trip in the Northern Cape wake up to discover they’ve all swapped bodies.

Why you should watch:
1. Despite being shot on an iPhone 7, the body-swap satire screened at some of the biggest film festivals in the world, including AFI, Berlin and Toronto
2. High Fantasy is the second film from Jenna Bass, one of South Africa’s most exciting directors, whose first, Love The One You Love, won Best Direction at Durban International Film Festival in 2014, and whose third, Flatland, opened the Panorama section at Berlin this year. Jenna also co-wrote Rafiki, the multi-award-winning Kenyan love story that wowed Cannes last year
3. Setting a body-swap satire in South Africa raises a host of intersectional identity politics issues, so the film will give you lots to talk about…

Accolades:
::
Best South African Feature, Durban International Film Festival, 2018
::
Artistic Bravery Prize, Durban International Film Festival, 2018

Watch the trailer.

Meerkat Maantuig

Premise:
After her father’s sudden death, Gideonette de la Rey descends into darkness as she realises that she’s the only one left with a cursed family name. With the help of her new friend Bhubesi and his make-shift moonship, she’ll have to find the inner strength to face her fears in order to break the curse.

Why you should watch:
1. Sakkie Bergh, who edited many of Die Antwoord’s music videos, recently picked this as his favourite African film on Africa.film, calling it “sad, humorous, beautiful and full of hope and inspiration.”

  1. Director of Photography Willie Nel won Best Cinematography at both the South African Film and Television Awards and Silwerskerm for capturing the wild beauty of the Magoebaskloof Pass in Limpopo
    3. It’s the second feature film from Hanneke Schutte, one of the winners of the 2013 Jameson First Shot competition, which saw her write and direct the short film Saving Norman, starring four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe and produced by two-time Oscar nominee Dana Brunetti (Captain Phillips, The Social Network). After making her feature debut with the award-winning Jimmy In Pienk, Hanneke cracked Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters To Watch list last year for Meerkat Maantuig
  2. It’s been a hit at children’s film festivals around the world, so is perfect for your next family movie day

Accolades:
:: FIPRESCI Critics Prize & Best International Feature, Schlingel Film Festival, 2018
:: Winner of seven international awards

Watch the trailer.

Lockdown Season 4

Premise:
This hit Mzansi Magic drama is set in Thabazimbi, a fictional high security prison for women, where power and survival mean everything. Season 4 picks up three months after the riot. Deborah (Pamela Nomvete) has clawed herself back to the top as governor of the prison, where Tyson (Lorcia Cooper) is now in power, with access to more contraband than the prison has ever seen.

Why you should watch:
1. The acting. At this year’s South African Film and Television Awards, Dawn Thandeka King won Best Actress: Drama as Ma-Z and Lorcia Cooper won Best Supporting Actress as Tyson. Add in SAFTA winners like Zola Nombona (Ingoma) and Nthati Moshesh (Saints and Sinners) and FESPACO winner Pamela Nomvete (Zulu Love Letter), among many others, and you have arguably the best ensemble cast on South African TV at the moment.

  1. To quote CityPress,Lockdown has given South African television drama a much-needed gritty makeover.”
  2. In May, Lockdown is one of six productions representing South Africa at INPUT in Bangkok, an annual showcase of the best storytelling in the public interest.

Accolades:
:: Best South African Drama, South African Film and Television Awards, 2019
:: Best Wardrobe & Best Hair & Make-up, South African Film and Television Awards, 2019

:: Best Scriptwriting: Drama, South African Film and Television Awards, 2018

Watch the trailer.

Isithembiso Season 3

Premise:
This hit Mzansi Magic soap follows the lives of young students in Johannesburg, as their lives intertwine with some very dangerous people.

Why you should watch:
1.Isithembiso was the most awarded soap opera at this year’s South African Film and Television Awards, taking home four awards

  1. It’s created by legendary South African director Angus Gibson, who was nominated for an Oscar for Mandela: Son of Africa, Father Of A Nation and a BAFTA for 28UP: South Africa, and won a Special Mention at Venice for Yizo Yizo. He has directed some of South Africa’s most loved programmes, from Heartlines to Shuga
  2. Hamilton Dlamini, who stole the show in Five Fingers To Marseilles as Sepoko, won his second SAFTA for Isithembiso as the power-hungry Banzi ‘The Wolf of Braamfontein’ Kunene

Accolades:
::
Best Script, Editing, Cinematography & Sound, South African Film & Television Awards, 2019

:: Best Actor: Soap (Hamilton Dlamini), South African Film & Television Awards, 2018

Watch the trailer.

The Fun’s Not Over

Premise:
James Phillips, who died aged 36 in July 1995, was the voice and conscience of a generation of white South Africans. The Fun’s Not Over tells a little known and now almost forgotten part of South African cultural history that emerged from white alternative protest music during the 1980s and 1990s.

Why you should watch:
1. The Fun’s Not Over is James’ story in his own words and through the voices of the likes of Jack Parow, Koos Kombuis, Max du Preez, Pieter Dirk Uys, Vusi Mahlasela and his friends and family
2. The music includes his 1983 single as Bernoldus Niemand, Hou My Vas Korporaal, which became an anthem of the End Conscription Campaign and helped spawn alternative Afrikaans rock music and the Voëlvry movement; and the gut-wrenching Shot Down, his 1985 track with The Cherry Faced Lurchers, which addressed both white privilege and the violence of the apartheid state.

3. Gus Silber called it “brilliant, illuminating, and deeply moving.. a happy-sad masterpiece of South African musical lore”

Accolades:
:: Audience Award, Encounters International Documentary Festival, 2018
:: Best Documentary, Simon Sabela Awards, 2018
:: Winner, Festival MusicFilm, 2018

Watch the trailer.

Axis Mundi

Premise:
In an effort to rescue her declining ratings, a paraplegic talk show host (SAFTA winner Antoinette Louw from Die Laaste Tango and An Act of Defiance) interviews a self-proclaimed healer (two-time SAFTA winner Deon Lotz from Skoonheid), who claims he can make her walk again on live TV.

Why you should watch:
1. It’s an acting masterclass from two of South Africa’s best actors in the lead roles.

  1. It’s co-written and co-directed by Matthew Jankes, who directed the Vimeo Staff Pick and Short of the Week Umkhungo, and Sean Steinberg, one of the writers on the record-breaking Showmax Original The Girl From St Agnes.

Accolades:
::
Best Short Film – 22 Minutes, Best Director and Best Script, Silwerskerm, 2018

Watch the trailer.

Other new highlights on Showmax include:

  • The Showmax Original Trippin With Skhumba, which ended with a 97-minute stand-up special featuring the 2018 DStv Viewers’ Choice Award: Favourite Comedian and Comics’ Choice Comic of the Year 2017 along with his guests from the previous six episodes: Celeste Ntuli, the most nominated comedian with Skhumba going into the 2018 Comics’ Choice Awards; 2016 Comics’ Choice Comic of The Year Tumi Morake; 2018-2016 Native Tongue winners Siya Seya, Salesman and Mashabela Galane; and 2015 Intermediate winner Schalk Bezuidenhout, among others. Trailer: https://youtu.be/a9YFLt3HkAg
  • The Herd, nominated for five SAFTAs this year, including Best Drama. The Herd is about Bheki (Sello Maake Ka-Ncube in a SAFTA-nominated role), who made his fortune with the help of a witch (Winnie Ntshaba) – at an unbearable price. New Season 2 episodes weekly, express from Mzansi Magic. Trailer: https://youtu.be/G1w4KxM8NLY
    • Die Spreeus, the hit supernatural series about two investigators (Chris Vorster from 7de Laan and Monique Rockman from Nommer 37) who take a closer look into suspected paranormal activity in South Africa.  New episodes weekly, express from kykNET. Trailer: https://youtu.be/a45eE-xn7sE
  • Rehad Desai’s The Giant Is Falling, winner of Best South African Film at Joburg Film Festival 2016, which looks at the relative fall of the ANC and rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters ahead of the 2016 local elections. Trailer: https://youtu.be/DJDRtWL1sk4

In conversation with renowned casting director and agent Moonyeenn Lee

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Moonyeenn Lee is a legendary South African casting director and agent, who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years (for The Looming Tower and Roots).

She’s received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the South African Film and Television Awards and Rapid Lion, among others; judges the International Emmy Awards; and is a member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes for the Oscars, and the Television Academy, which votes for the Emmys.

She’s cast or helped cast the Oscar-winning Tsotsi; the Oscar-nominated Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Hotel Rwanda and Blood Diamond; the Oscar-shortlisted Black Panther and Life, Above All; the Golden Globe nominees Machine Gun Preacher and Mandela and De Klerk; and Emmy-winning series like Homeland, as well as nominees like The Prisoner and No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, among others.

We caught up with her to chat about why she thinks South African TV is “worse than when we started 40 years ago”; why she hates actors who talk about “building their brand”; and why she agreed to cast Showmax’s first original drama, The Girl From St Agnes – her first TV series in a decade…

WHY HAVEN’T YOU DONE MORE LOCAL TV WORK RECENTLY?

Most of the work I do is international and the local work is mostly film work. Before The Girl From St Agnes, the last local series I cast was The Lab. I loved doing series like that and Hopeville and Yizo Yizo. We did some good things.

But most local TV is terrible today. When I received an Mbokodo Award for my contribution to film in South Africa, I said that, in my opinion, TV today is worse than when we started 40 years ago. At least then we had great stories, told by really interesting filmmakers like Manie van Rensburg.

I always tell my actors to watch a film called Phantom Thread. The story is not told with the words; it’s told in the silences, and no one is frightened to be quiet with each other. But in South African television, they tell you what you’re about to see, then you see it, then they tell you what you’ve just seen. They believe that the majority of their audiences are idiots.

All the countries in the world that make television are doubling or tripling their budgets to compete for a world audience, except us. Most of our budgets are lower than they were 10 years ago.

And there’s no room for me. They cast people dependent on how many Instagram followers they’ve got…

SO HOW DID THE GIRL FROM ST AGNES LURE YOU BACK?

Harriet [Gavshon, the producer] phoned me and said she really needs my help, because this is a project that’s very close to her. I love her and have enormous respect for her so we started on this journey. She said all we have to do is cast three or four of the main parts. But when I read this, I said, “No, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it all.”

I thought the premise was really interesting. It’s very different to anything else that we’ve done here and I thought a lot of the characters were really well drawn.

I also knew so many of the people who were involved in it. My daughter, Cindy, is one of the two directors. So this was close to my heart.

ARE THERE LOTS OF OPPORTUNITIES LIKE THIS FOR ENGLISH ACTORS IN SOUTH AFRICA?

No, English-speaking actors generally work internationally and they have to do American or British accents to make decent money. That was why it was nice when this came up, to do English – but South African English.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN CASTING THE GIRL FROM ST AGNES?

The Girl From St Agnes was difficult because we had to find actresses who were not 17 or 18 in real life, because then they would have been writing matric when we were shooting. So we had to find actresses who look 18 but are in their 20s. But the whole thing just fell into place. Some of the younger actresses we cast could stand out anywhere.

HOW DID YOU FIND WORKING WITH YOUR DAUGHTER, CINDY LEE?

Exhilarating. Exacting. She worked for me for a year, before she started as a copywriter. I told her, “If you’re going to write and direct, you need to understand actors and how they work and what you can get out of them.” She’s been brought up with actors and used to go to the theatre with me from when she was tiny, so she gets it. You see that in her commercials – most of them are performance-driven.

This is the first time we’ve ever been able to work together and I loved it.

WHAT’S THE SECRET TO CASTING?

For me it’s about taste.

When I watch television and film, if somebody puts me off as an actor, I can’t watch the rest of it. But someone else may say they’re fantastic.

I’ve been really lucky. I’ve worked with some of the greatest directors in the world. We nearly always become really good friends and stay friends, but it’s because we have the same taste. If I meet a director and don’t get on with them, I won’t do the project, because it’s pointless if we don’t have the same taste.

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH ACTORS YOU REPRESENT?

When I meet actors who want us to represent them, I’ll tell you in five minutes whether we’ll work or not. They don’t have to audition; I know immediately.

If they come in and say, “I want to build my brand,” I have a big hissy fit and say, ‘”Out and goodbye. Have a good life.”

A lot of it has become about how little clothing you can wear and get away with. There is this whole thing about, “How many followers can I have? Can I be the next Kardashian?” The kids today come on set in the morning straight from a party, have no idea about the scene and haven’t learnt their lines – and they don’t care. I’m not saying they’re all like that; there are a lot of actors who are really good. But the basic values have changed and it’s just become rubbish. Sometimes we’ve taken them on by mistake but we get rid of them deliberately. I don’t have the patience.

Being an actor is incredibly hard work and I have enormous respect for real actors, not pretend actors. You have to stay well and you have to stay focused and you have to stay fit. It’s a hard life. It’s not your own. You have no privacy and everything you do, someone is going to talk about. You can’t do normal things like other people can.

WHAT DO SOUTH AFRICAN ACTORS NEED TO WORK ON?

A lot. I don’t think that young actors read enough and they don’t watch old films and they don’t watch or do theatre. When they work with great directors, the directors make references to things and the kids don’t know what they’re talking about.

When I was doing Class Act [a reality TV talent search for South Africa’s next big actor], I worked with those finalists and I used to bring my DVDs in to show them, because they didn’t know who half the actors were that we used to talk about.

I told someone they reminded me of a young Marlon Brando and he did not know who Marlon Brando was. I went out and bought him a box set of Marlon Brando films.

They don’t read enough; they don’t know about the history; they don’t have enough respect for the craft. They only know the glamour and the glitz; they need to become more knowledgeable about what they do.

IS SOUTH AFRICAN TALENT BECOMING AN EASIER SELL ON INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTIONS?

Unless they’re playing a South African, or an African, if they can’t do American or British accents, they can’t do international work. American is a totally foreign language: the pronunciation is different, the emphasis is different, everything is different.

When we first started doing international films in South Africa, they used to bring all the cast in. Now they’re starting to trust us a lot more. With a lot of our actors, their American or their English accents are so good, audiences don’t know they’re even South Africans.

Triggerfish’s latest animation to premiere in Cape after five-star reviews in UK

Proudly presented by Animation SA, The Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) kicks off this Friday, 8 March 2019, with the African premiere of Zog, Triggerfish’s latest BBC Christmas special with Magic Light Pictures.

Here are eight reasons to book your tickets while you can:

#1. Zog is based on the Julia Donaldson bestseller

Zog is based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much loved 2010 picture book, which won the Galaxy National Children’s Book of the Year Award and has sold over 1.5 million copies.

Zog tells the tale of a keen but accident-prone dragon who gets himself into mischief while learning how to fly, roar and breathe fire in his first three years at Dragon School. Each year he meets a kindly young girl who patches up his bumps and bruises, but can she help him with his trickiest challenge yet: it’s Year Four, and he has to capture a princess!

#2. It stars Kit Harington as Sir Gadabout

Hugh Skinner (Harlots) plays the title role; Patsy Ferran (Jamestown) is the princess with medical ambitions; Sir Lenny Henry (Broadchurch) is the narrator; Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) is the bumbling knight Sir Gadabout; Tracey Ullman is Madame Dragon; and Rob Brydon is many characters, as usual for a Magic Light special.

#3. It’s from the team behind the Oscar-nominated ‘Revolting Rhymes’

Zog is the latest BBC Christmas special to be produced by Magic Light Pictures and animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish, following on from their multi-award-winning adaptations of Donaldson and Scheffler’s Stick Man (2015) and The Highway Rat (2017), and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (2016), which was nominated for an Oscar last year.

#4. It was nearly as popular as the Queen at Christmas in the UK

Zog placed fifth on the UK’s viewing chart this Christmas, with only 200 000 less viewers than the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. The Telegraph gave the “hypnotising, inspiring tale for all the family” five stars; Den of Geek called it “a thing of perfectly spherical loveliness; it is lovely from every conceivable angle”; The Guardian warned parents “once this has been added to iPlayer you may never be allowed to watch anything else again on your TV – ever!”; and Donaldson told The Herald that Zog was her favourite BBC adaptation to date.

#5. It’s directed by South African Daniel Snaddon, who co-founded CTIAF

Zog is directed by two-time Oscar-nominee Max Lang (The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom) and South African Daniel Snaddon (Stick Man). Friday’s screening is particularly special for Snaddon as he was the founding director of Kunjanimation, which grew into CTIAF. “When we started the festival in 2011, it was one day of workshops at Wits and two nights of screenings at Alliance Francaise. It’s been amazing to watch it grow and be accepted by the international community. This year, they have Peter Ramsey, director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – just after he won the Oscar! And Aron Warner, who produced Shrek and The Book Of Life… I’m proud of the small role I played, but festival director Dianne Makings really deserves all the credit – what she’s done with the festival is remarkable.”

#6. You’ll relate to the clumsy dragon who just wants a gold star

Snaddon’s looking forward to Cape Town audiences falling in love with Zog, the keenest but clumsiest pupil in the class, who longs to win a gold star at Dragon School. “He’s super enthusiastic and he loves what he’s doing; he’s just not very good at it,” says Snaddon. “I think a lot of us feel like that. Hopefully not all the time but certainly there are times  when you know you’re falling short of your aspirations.”

#7. It’ll make your daughter want to be a doctor, not a princess

Snaddon describes Zog as “this great playing-against-type, progressive story about two people who are told by society that this is the way you do things and say, ’No, we’re going to make up our own minds.’”

But he says he’s found it funny that Zog has been hailed as a feminist story. “I’m delighted, but I do think it’s an awfully low bar if all we’re advocating is that women can be doctors,” he says. “Maybe it’s because we’re saying that being a doctor is more aspirational than being a princess. That’s cool. My father-in-law is a doctor and my sister-in-law is studying to be a doctor – it’s a very worthwhile, noble pursuit.”

He recommends Cape Tonians go watch Zog, “because it’s funny, sweet, short and sharp, and it has really good values, especially if you have kids and don’t want them to be slaves to other people’s opinions.”

#8. It’ll make you feel patriotic

Zog really is the product of some of South Africa’s finest digital artists,” says Snaddon. “We can get behind the Springboks or the Proteas or Ryk Neethling or any of our athletes because they are exceptional people on top of their game, doing amazing things on a world stage. You should go see Zog for that same reason; it’ll make you feel proudly South African!”

Zog will have its African premiere at 8pm this Friday, 8 March 2019, at The River Club in Observatory, Cape Town. The screening will be followed by Studio Ponoc’s animation anthology Modest Heroes.

 

Triggerfish sponsors three more bursaries to The Animation School

Sibusiso Ngubelanga, 26, first applied to study at The Animation School in 2014 but couldn’t afford the tuition. The Khayelitsha resident attended every open day for the five years since then, to the point that some of The Animation School staff assumed he was a student there.

This month, thanks to a bursary from Triggerfish, Africa’s leading animation company, that dream finally became a reality: Sibusiso is now enrolled at the Cape Town campus of The Animation School, named one of the world’s top 100 animation schools by Animation Career Review for 2018.

Triggerfish is sponsoring Sibusiso and fellow first year student Zaid Neethling (19, from Strandfontein), as well as second-year student Dawood Salie (19, from Mitchell’s Plain), who also received a bursary in 2018. The bursaries cover the full tuition fees for the year, thanks to funding from Triggerfish and Animate Africa, a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting Africa’s youth through animation skills development and training.

The Animation School principal Nuno Martins says these bursaries are important because of the shortage of funding opportunities for students at private animation schools. This year, he estimates there were over 50 students who applied but were unable to secure the necessary funding.

“Talent is universal; opportunity is not,” says Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest. “We want to start changing that, because we need diverse teams to do justice to our continent’s diverse stories.”

Forrest pointed out that all three recipients are examples of how it takes a village to create an animator.

Salie is an alumnus of Draw for Life, an initiative offered by Sparks Flew Development Studio and PASCAP Trust and supported by Animation SA, The Animation School, and Triggerfish. Draw for Life introduces talented learners from disadvantaged backgrounds to South Africa’s booming animation industry and mentors them through a three-month series of classes covering the foundations of drawing for animation. Salie went on to complete a short course at Digital Canvas Academy, offered pro bono to Draw for Life alumni. From there, Salie was invited to take part in Triggerfish’s hot desk programme, where he experienced first-hand what goes into creating the BBC Christmas specials that Triggerfish animates in collaboration with Magic Light Pictures, like the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes.

Ngubelanga and Neethling are both graduates of False Bay College’s 2D animation course, funded by MICT Seta and lectured by Cate Wood Hunter and Riaan Theron. The False Bay College course provides an ideal bridging course for learners who were not able to study art formally at school. This allows learners to build their drawing as well as digital skills and put together a competitive portfolio for application to attend the likes of The Animation School.

Ngubelanga and Neethling also both interned on Jabu’s Jungle, a ground-breaking children’s animation produced by Pixcomm, first in Masiphumelele township and now in Muizenberg, which provides training and internships for young animators from the community, and has been sold to India. China and America, among other territories. Ngubelanga and Neethling also interned on Yolanda Keabetswe Mogatusi’s  Rapulani and Rapunzel.

“It’s great to see the way the industry is coming together to create opportunities and mentor new talent,” says Forrest.

While many parents are sceptical about ‘iPopeye’ as a career, animation is currently a scarce skill – not just in South Africa but globally. “Finding animators who are ready for our scale of projects is a real challenge,” says Forrest. “If we had more animators, we could take on a lot more work.”

Martins agrees, adding that 85% of graduates from the last two years at The Animation School found work.

For example, Sinenhlanhla Sanelisiwe Shozi received a third-year bursary to The Animation School in 2018 and was immediately snapped up afterwards by Triggerfish, where she’s now part of the layout department on their third feature film, Seal Team – their follow up to two of the top five highest-grossing South African films of all time, Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba.

These bursaries are just one of a number of recent Triggerfish initiatives aimed at growing and diversifying the animation industry in Africa, from the pan-African Story Lab, which was supported by The Walt Disney Company and The Department of Trade and Industry, to Triggerfish Academy, an online introduction to animation in partnership with The Goethe-Institut and The German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation.

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