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Lockdown season 5 is now shooting in Johannesburg

Season 5 of Lockdown, South Africa’s favourite prison drama, started production last week in Johannesburg, where it’s mostly shooting at Constitution Hill, the historic prison complex where the likes of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Albertina Sisulu served time. 

Every season of Lockdown introduces a new star. This time it’s Sophie Lichaba, aka Sophie Ndaba, who became a household name in South Africa during her two-decade-long starring role as the feisty receptionist Queen Moroka in the SABC1 soapie Generations. 

The multi-award-winning actress joins one of the most impressive casts on South African television: at the SAFTAs this year, four of the six Drama acting nominations for women went to Lockdown cast members: Dawn Thandeka King won Best Actress as Mazet, ahead of her co-star Zola Nombona as Monde (and International Emmy nominee Thuso Mbedu), while Lorcia Cooper won Best Supporting Actress as Tyson, ahead of her co-star Pamela Nomvete as Governor Deborah Banda. 

Since losing a noticeable amount of weight last year due to diabetes, Sophie’s been reported dead on social media repeatedly, most recently as she started filming Lockdown last week. 

The SAFTA winner is unfazed by the fake news, saying, “I’m just excited to be tackling such a challenging role on one of the biggest shows in the country.”

Every episode of Lockdown has trended on Twitter, so Sophie’s new character on the groundbreaking series will give social media something better to talk about on 31 January 2020, when Season 5 will premiere, only on Showmax. 

“We haven’t seen Sophie in a while on South African television,” says Lockdown creator Mandla N, who is still directing every episode of the hit show. “But you could have said the same about Lorcia or Pamela when we cast them, and they’ve both reclaimed their places among the biggest stars in South Africa.” 

Notorious for its cliffhangers, plot twists and emotional rollercoasters, Lockdown takes viewers into the cells and offices of Thabazimbi Women’s Correctional Facility. 

As Season 5 picks up, Deborah is under pressure from The Department of Correctional Services, after one death too many at the prison. Arch-rivals Mazet and Tyson are still running the prison yard together, for now.  And Monde is trying to make things right with Vicky (Lauren Jenae), while worrying about her sister Katlego (Natasha Thahane), who’s been transferred to Kgotsong Asylum. 

SAFTA winners Linda Sebezo and Nomsa Buthelezi are also back as fan favourites Maki and Slenda, while the multi-award-winning Patricia Boyer returns as the hilarious but dangerous Sue. 

Produced by Black Brain Pictures, Lockdown was the most awarded drama at this year’s SAFTAs, taking home five awards, including Best Drama.

Lockdown is moving from Mzansi Magic, so binge-watch Season 5, only on Showmax, on 31 January 2020. In the meantime, you can catch up on the first four seasons here. 

New Showmax Original comedy starts shooting in Maboneng

Woke In Progress, Showmax’s second Original scripted comedy, is now shooting in Johannesburg. 

The fish-out-of-water comedy is set at The Maboneng Marble, where two broke, tryna-be-woke twenty-somethings become unlikely roommates. Having just found out she’s adopted, 22-year-old Martie has come to Joburg searching for her birth parents; 25-year-old Amandla is trying to reconnect with the motherland after decades of following her political elite father between international posts.

Think 2 Broke Girls meets Dear White People, or Broad City meets Insecure, or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt meets Ayeye

Woke In Progress is created by 30-year-old showrunner Rea Moeti, who has rapidly made a name for herself since graduating from her Masters at The National Film and Television School in the UK – named one of The Top 15 International Film Schools by The Hollywood Reporter last year.  

Moeti’s Marikana-themed short film, Mma Moeketsi, won Best African Short Film at Cape Town, Jozi, and Zanzibar International Film Festivals, and is currently up for an Africa Movie Academy Award. She was also head writer on the first two seasons of Lockdown, winning the SAFTA for Best Drama Writer. But comedy is Moeti’s first love: she was head writer on SAFTA-winning sitcoms like Ses’Top La and Abo Mzala, as well as a director on the SAFTA-nominated Thandeka’s Diary.

In 2017, when Moeti first pitched Woke In Progress to Showmax, Vogue had just proclaimed Maboneng “the coolest neighbourhood in Johannesburg,” while last year Forbes included the cultural hub in its roundup of “The 12 Coolest Neighbourhoods Around The World.” 

“Our first two scripted Originals – Tali’s Wedding Diary and The Girl From St Agnes – both broke records as the most watched shows on Showmax ever, so we know our audience is hungry for quality South African series,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Multichoice’s Connected Video, which houses Showmax and DSTV Now. “We think they’re going to love laughing with Maboneng’s Afropunk crowd just as much as they did with Talibabes in Sea Point in Tali’s Wedding Diary.” 

Newcomer Laura Lee Mostert plays Martie. She spent 2018 studying in Los Angeles: method acting at Lee Strasberg Institute, whose alumni include Marilyn Monroe and Uma Thurman, and improv at The Groundlings Theatre, whose alumni include Melissa McCarthy and Will Ferrell. 

Zandile Lujabe, best known as Palesa in Isidingo and Mpho Pop’s love interest Ziyanda in Ayeye, plays Amandla. Like Mostert, Lujabe also studied acting internationally, at New York Film Academy, whose alumni include Issa Rae. 

Other key cast include Kiroshan Naidoo, winner of the 2016 Fleur du Cap for Most Promising Student, as Christo, a paranoid misanthrope programmer who shares the flat with Martie and Amandla; Lebogang Tlokana (aka The Funny Chef) as the over-entrepreneurial apartment manager, Lerato; Ebenhaezer Dibakwane, the 2016 Comics Choice Newcomer and 2017 Intermediate Award winner as her brother Puma, the receptionist/artist; and SAFTA nominee Yule Masiteng (aka Jomo Zungu in Scandal!) as the homeless sage who camps outside The Maboneng Marble. 

They’re joined by a support cast of hoteps, Tinder-fodder, taxi-blessers, and tour guides.  

“Working on Lockdown was evidence for me that MultiChoice is offering shows that are becoming more and more daring, and that our audience is ready,” says Moeti. “When I first pitched Woke in Progress to Showmax, it was tamer than it is now, because I thought that was what South African platforms wanted. But Showmax has pushed it to go further. So it’s because of Showmax that the girls are as liberated as they are now.” 

Moeti co-created Woke in Progress with Emma Lungiswa De Wet, one of the writers on the hit animation Munki and Trunk, which has two million YouTube subscribers. “In a way she’s Martie to my Amandla,” jokes Moeti. 

They later brought on Karabo Lediga, who won 2019 SAFTAs for both drama (Emoyeni) and comedy (Thuli no Thulani) writing, and Moeti’s fellow National Film and Television School MA graduate Sipho Sondiyazi. 

Tali’s Wedding Diary dominated the comedy category at this year’s SAFTAs, taking home five awards, including Best Comedy and Best Actress (Julia Anastasopoulos), so Woke In Progress has a lot to live up to. You’ll be able to make up your own mind when the edgy comedy premieres on Showmax on 12 December 2019. 

In conversation with award-winning director Nare Mokgoto

Screen Africa spoke to visual artist and director Nare Mokgotho…

Tell us a bit about your background and how it has shaped you as a director?

I studied fine art and, after art school, started working in advertising as a copywriter. After a few years at places like J. Walter Thompson, Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi, I traded agency life for a position as a creative researcher at Velocity Films under Peter Carr, who remains my executive producer at MassÏf. In research I learned from some of the best directors in the country, but also discovered what kind of work resonated with me.

Tell us about your journey from copywriter to director? Was directing always the goal?

Directing wasn’t necessarily a goal, but it was certainly a dream. I think being on commercial sets while I was a copywriter made it more real, and I became convinced that directing was something I wanted to pursue. As I mentioned, I spent a number of years as a researcher, which were invaluable for my trajectory.

What kind of content do you enjoy creating and why?

I really enjoy conceptually-driven work, particularly stories that lend themselves to subtlety and require some level of nuance. I always remember the substance of films, commercials, literature and artworks more than I might the formal properties. Techniques can change so quickly, but I think ideas and stories are far more constant and are always on trend.

What are some of your personal favourite projects that you have worked on?

I don’t know if I can narrow them down. They’ve all been beneficial in some way, particularly the most challenging ones.

You took home two awards – for Showmax’s “Zero Bucks Given” and Rapid Lion’s “Wreaths” – at the recent YDA, congratulations! What does the win mean for you as a director?

Historically, the YDA has been good at foregrounding the careers of young directors. The YDA has often helped set up young directors for a career in the industry by affording them greater visibility. For me, the wins mean that people in the industry have a greater sense of the kinds of things I gravitate towards, like performance-driven storytelling injected with subtle inflections of humour.

What, in your opinion, makes an award-winning and successful brand film?

There’s little substitute for a good, simple idea well communicated, or a great story well told. These stay with audiences more than anything else.

Apart from directing, you are a visual artist. Can you tell us more about your work as a visual artist?

I’ve been working as part of a collaborative artist duo for the past 10 years. Broadly speaking, our practice uses everyday black urban experience as a primary departure point. This is a way for us to think through popular education spaces, collaborative infrastructures, oral histories, knowledge dissemination systems and the kinds of things that might be considered worthy of intellectual consideration.

What are you currently working on?

A few projects that have me excited. I’m presently pitching on a major car brand commercial and on another great comedy spot for a top retail brand.

Any plans for a feature film in the future?

Yes, but not in the immediate future. You could say I’m currently laying the foundations and flirting with some ideas.

If you weren’t a filmmaker, you would be?

A visual artist. I’m fortunate because I get to do both alongside one another.  

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

Showmax launches in Nigeria

Showmax has launched a new video-on-demand service in Nigeria. Priced at N2,900 per month, the video streaming service features a dedicated slate of Nigerian TV shows and movies, international hit series, Hollywood blockbusters, and a Big Brother Naija partnership with live streaming and exclusive new BBNaija shows.

The launch brings two important firsts – the first time a wide range of popular Nigerian series can be binged from the beginning, and a partnership with Big Brother Naija featuring live streaming of the Sunday night evictions as well as two new BBNaija shows that are exclusive to Showmax. One of the new shows will be hosted by comedians, Basketmouth and Bovi, who will provide hilarious commentary on happenings in the Big Brother Naija house.

Speaking about the new service, Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of MultiChoice Group’s Connected Video division, said: “We’re aiming for the sweet spot that other services may have missed. Taking a generic service and tacking on a few Nollywood movies won’t cut it, so we’re coming in with a strong mix of bang up-to-date Nigerian shows, international hits and favourites from across Africa, and now, as something completely new: on-demand and live Big Brother Naija content.”

Showmax will live-stream all Sunday eviction episodes of Big Brother Naija as well as the finale, and recordings of the nomination shows will be posted on Tuesdays. In addition to this, two brand-new shows, exclusive to Showmax, have been produced. Big Brother Naija Extra View is a 25-minute compilation of unseen footage and will be added to the site daily from Tuesday to Saturday. Big Brother Naija Hot Room is a 25-minute satirical commentary on the week’s main drama and action, hosted by legendary comedians Basketmouth and Bovi, with new episodes coming every Sunday evening ahead of the evictions.

Big Brother Naija is just the start of the slate of Nigerian content on Showmax. The following shows will be added daily, express as they air on Africa Magic channels, with all past episodes available to binge from the beginning:

Tinsel, one of Nigeria’s longest running TV series and Africa Magic Viewers Choice Best Drama 2017

The Johnsons, featuring City People Award winners Olumide Oworu and Charles Inojie

My Flatmates, starring 2018 Savanna Pan-African Comic of the Year Basketmouth

In total, the new Showmax service will feature hundreds of Nollywood movies and thousands of TV show episodes. Bollywood shows and telenovelas will also be part of the lineup, as will hits from the rest of Africa like Kenya’s Supa Modo, winner of 50 international awards, and South Africa’s big Africa Movie Academy Awards winner Five Fingers For Marseilles.

The lineup of international shows on the new service includes Chernobyl, Vikings, Power, Game of Thrones, True Detective (starring Mahershala Ali), Insecure, Billions, Ballers, and Luther (starring Nigerian BAFTA winner Wunmi Mosaku opposite Idris Elba). The latest episodes of Big Little Lies are added weekly.

There’s also a major focus on kids, with favourites like Paw Patrol, PJ Masks, and Doc McStuffins.

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. 

Young South African wins gold at Cannes ad awards

With one of his first ever TV commercials, Nare Mokgotho has won gold at the 20th Shots Young Director Awards, held annually during the Cannes Lions Festival. The ad, which attracted the attention of the ASA when it aired in South Africa, is for the Showmax Zero Bucks Given campaign.

A South African has taken two top prizes at the world’s most prestigious young directors award event. With one of his first ever TV ads pitted against commercials from around the world, Nare Mokgotho won gold in the Commercial category for the Showmax  Zero Bucks Given ad. He went on to win a second gold, this time in the Online Branded Film category for his Wreaths ad for the South African International Film Festival.

The Young Director Award (YDA) has become internationally recognised as the most important “must-see” fringe event of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The criteria for entry is that the film director must not have been directing professionally for more than three years and the entry must be one of the first five commercials they have produced. Thousands of entries are typically received and the awards are judged by high-profile film directors, executive producers and advertising executives from all over the world.

The Showmax Zero Bucks Given ad was a comedic take on an office worker who decided he just didn’t care about work anymore and only wanted to watch TV shows. Speaking about the ad, Mokgotho said: “I was quite fortunate to work on Showmax’s Zero Bucks Given campaign, which is in my wheelhouse: strong, simple concept infused with a subtle, mischievous humour. I’d like to thank Showmax and the creative team there for really trusting me with the brand and also entrusting the scripts to me.”

The ad, which was shot in Showmax’s offices in Johannesburg, was not without controversy. The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) received a complaint that they ad portrayed “a complete disrespect for the employee’s work environment and fellow workers” and that young people will “get the wrong impression of how to behave at work”. The ASA rejected the complaint and Showmax’s ad become the cornerstone of one of its most successful campaigns ever, resulting in a significant increase in the company’s subscriber base.

The commercial was conceptualised and written by Showmax’s in-house Creative Lead Philippa Heal and Art Director Tree Pechau, and additional credit goes to marketers Nicola Van Ast, Macy Seperepere, Neil De Witt, Lauren McInnes, and strategist Thandeka Mali. This success for Showmax’s in-house agency follows three recent wins at the Bookmark Awards for the Tali’s Wedding Diary and Roast of Somizi campaigns.

Mokgotho is a practicing visual artist who has exhibited both locally and internationally, and whose honours include nominations for the Vera List Prize for Art and Politics, the MTN New Contemporaries and the Sasol New Signatures. He joined Massif, the production company behind the winning Showmax ad, in 2017.

Speaking about the award, Massif co-founder Peter Carr said: “Winning two gold awards at the YDA in Cannes for two different commercials in the same year is an incredible achievement, which is testimony both to Nare and to the depth of rising new talent that we have in SA.”

M-Net partners with Cinemax and ZDF for the six-part adaptation of Deon Meyer’s Trackers

The television adaptation of internationally acclaimed author Deon Meyer’s crime novel Trackers marks the beginning of a new era in high-end African storytelling. Pan-African television network M-Net and two global broadcasting giants are joining forces to take this uniquely South African political thriller to the world. First, as announced in December 2018, M-Net sealed a groundbreaking collaboration deal with Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF. Now, M-Net can confirm that Trackers is also being co-produced by Cinemax, which will also distribute the drama series worldwide beyond M-Net and ZDF’s geographical broadcasting footprint.

“The trailblazing and massively exciting co-production of Trackers illustrates M–Net’s vision and commitment to shine the spotlight on the African film and television industry and provide fresh, proudly African narratives to our viewers as well as global audiences,” says MultiChoice CEO of General Entertainment, Yolisa Phahle. “It is also taking our longstanding relationship with Cinemax to the next level, allowing local and international talent to combine their world-class story-telling and production skills.”

While M-Net is already the home of Cinemax and its sister network HBO, allowing viewers to enjoy showstoppers like Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies, Westworld and many more, HBO, Cinemax and M-Net also launched an innovative Producers Apprenticeship programme last year when the Cinemax series Warrior, coming to M-Net in July, was filmed in South Africa. Some other Cinemax originals screened on M-Net include Banshee, The Knick and Strike Back. 

“Cinemax is delighted to partner with M-Net and ZDF in bringing Deon Meyer’s unforgettable characters and storytelling—all so richly rooted in the people and spectacular geography of South Africa—to screens around the world,” says Len Amato, president, HBO Films, Miniseries, and Cinemax.

Filming for Trackers has already started in exotic locations spanning the length and breadth of South Africa and the co-production partners have been working together on all aspects of production – from developing and casting, to assembling the crew and approving the final content.

Master wordsmith Deon Meyer, whose multiple-award-winning crime novels have been translated into more than 20 languages, with millions of copies sold worldwide, serves as a supervising screenwriter and co-producer; British writer Robert Thorogood (Death in Paradise) is the showrunner. The team of South African writers on the project includes the accomplished Mitchell’s Plain playwright, screenwriter and director Amy Jephta (Die Ellen Pakkies Story) as well as local writer/directors Kelsey Egen and Jozua Malherbe.

Trackers is an unprecedented scripted television venture and MultiChoice and M-Net are proud to chart out new territory with all the game-changing players involved in this co-production,” Phahle concludes.

A talented local and international cast is on the bill for the six-part miniseries, some of which include Ed Stoppard, Rolanda Marais, James Alexander and Thapelo Mokoena. More details about their roles and additional credits will be announced at a later stage.

Trackers will make its debut on M-Net 101 in October 2019 and will also be available on MultiChoice’s popular on-demand service, Showmax. The six-part drama series is produced by UK production company Three River Studios as well as South Africa’s Scene 23.


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

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

:: 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

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…

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

Watch the trailer.

Meerkat Maantuig

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

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

Watch the trailer.

Lockdown Season 4

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.

:: 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

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

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

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”

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

Watch the trailer.

Axis Mundi

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.

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
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