Cannes: South Africa Brings Crowd-Pleasing Pics to the Market
18 May 2017
“The South African showcase is a display of our country’s offering to the world and is evidence of the potential we have as a country to be valuable contributors to the international film industry,” says Zama Mkosi, CEO of the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF).
It’s a promising mix of old and new for the South African delegation this year, as emerging talents share the spotlight with renowned veterans to showcase what Mkosi calls “the diversity in our storytelling.”
Acclaimed helmer Khalo Matabane (“Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me”) returns to the big screen with “The Number,” a hard-hitting look at the origins of the ruthless gangs operating in the South African prison system, based on the award-winning book by journalist Jonny Steinberg.
Oscar nominee Darrell Roodt (“Yesterday,” “Sarafina!”) and renowned playwright Mbongeni Ngema have paired up to direct the big screen adaptation of “Asinamali!,” the iconic anti-apartheid musical written by Ngema.
Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, whose powerful 2013 effort “Of Good Report” was banned by South Africa’s censorship board ahead of its world premiere, will unveil his latest feature, “Sew the Winter to My Skin.”
Producer-director Lineo Sekeleoane arrives in Cannes with “Zulu Wedding,” the latest in a growing trend of South African romantic comedies, which features U.S. actor Darrin Dewitt Henson as the romantic lead.
And newcomer Gersh Kgamedi will unveil “She Is King,” a feel-good musical about a talented singer from the Zulu heartlands hoping to make it big in Johannesburg.
For a country unaccustomed to B.O. success in the global market, the genre-spanning selection has fueled hopes that South African filmmakers can find their commercial mark with foreign auds.
Such optimism has been buoyed by the recent success of breakout hits like “Vir Altyd” and “Happiness Is a Four-Letter Word,” rom-coms that topped the local box office in 2016, with another, “Keeping Up With the Kandasamys,” cracking the $1 million barrier this year.
With the total B.O. crossing the billion-rand (around $73.4 million) threshold for two years running, local bizzers are hoping they’ve finally found a formula for box office success. Yet even Sekeleoane, of “Zulu Wedding,” points to the uncertainty of whether that success can “translate to an international audience.”
For “She Is King” producer Nicola Rauch, the musical’s catchy beats offer what she describes as “a vehicle to entice [foreign] audiences,” adding, “the music is a language that everyone can understand.”
“We’re not taking [“She Is King”] to festivals,” she says, “we’re taking it to markets.”