Vendawood shaking up SA’s film industry

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First there was Hollywood, then Bollywood and Nollywood, and now, brace yourself for Vendawood. The film industry in South Africa has problems accessing funds and attracting audiences. That’s not the case in South Africa’s northernmost province, however, where Venda filmmakers are making movies guerilla-style.

According to the National Film and Video Foundation, only eight to 10 films are produced each year, with an average budget of R9 million, yet, at the box office they barely rake in R1 million.

Special Assignment producers Godknows Nare and Johann Abrahams travelled to the hills of Venda to the world’s most unlikely film sets to see how they do it.

In Tuesday night’s show on SABC3 at 8.30 pm they meet filmmaker Khathutshelo Mamphodo, who lives in Lwamondo village. His comedies about ordinary life in a Venda village have become favourites around the country. The budgets are tiny, and the actors are friends and family members, but the results are entertaining.

Khathutshelo’s first film, Tshovhilingana, made in 2006, is a comedy that tells the story of an unemployed man with too many wives. He has since produced three follow-ups using the same characters.

Another filmmaker, Tshidino Ndou, is an IT consultant in Sandton, but every weekend he sets off for his home village Tshakhuma to work on his latest film.

All the Venda films are made for the DVD market and usually break even within the first month of release. The filmmakers say that they hope to reach a wider audience because they are telling universal stories that everyone can relate to. Is this the way to go for South African filmmakers? Experts are not convinced, but it could be the boost our film industry needs.

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