Award-winning film-maker ‘will’ get Venda fist-fighting on big screen

2015-03-23 12:14

Despite failing to get funding for his first, award-winning, feature-length movie, Ernest Nkosi is making plans to shoot his second film at the end of this year.

“It’s independent again,” says the bearded, dreadlocked biker sitting across the table.

The new movie will be a coming of age story about Venda traditional fist-fighting, putting black male role models – which are in short supply – in the spotlight.

His first feature, Thina Sobabili: The Two of Us, won the audience choice award at Danny Glover’s Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. It also won the same award at the Jozi Film Festival.

But the film was not funded.

Nkosi says his team – creative agency the Monarchy Group – sent a proposal to the National Film and Video Foundation, and was met with silence. There was simply no response.

“It’s difficult to approach other funding bodies because you have to raise R2.5 million [yourself],” he says.

“That’s what we were hoping for with the National Film and Video Foundation, but we couldn’t get through that first hurdle.”

The Monarchy group put on comedy shows around Joburg, sold T-shirts branded with “dreams do come true” – which Nkosi is wearing during the interview – and Nkosi worked for another agency to “keep the dream going”.

This turned up just R400 000 which, Nkosi said, was just enough to get the film off the ground. More cash – “way more than R400 000” – had to be raised after shooting for things such as editing and sound.

Nkosi won’t quantify the total cost of the film, except to say it was pricey.

At one point, the film employed 65 people. The fluctuations in staff numbers were dependent on the production stage.

“We have yet to see a single rand from it,” he says, adding he and his partners were never in it for the money but just to get their names out there.

Thina Sobabili’s target market was youngsters from grade 10 to matric. If the film could stop one of them from falling victim to sugar daddies then, Nkosi says, the Monarchy had achieved its objective.

Addressing perceived problems with distributing African films, Nkosi says the problem was more complex than that – stakeholders believed that the film would not make money in terms of people going to the cinema, buying popcorn and watching the film.

But Thina Sobabili had an audience of about 152 people at one of its screenings, according to Nkosi.

“You can’t tell me people don’t wanna see the movie,” he says. It won those two awards after only seven screenings.

“I’m surprised that I’m not surprised,” says Nkosi.

At the time of the interview, he was on the verge of signing a distribution deal with the Times Media Group, which could see the film finally go beyond film festivals and reach the commercial circuit.

Still, The Monarchy plans to shoot one big feature film per year.  And if the opportunity arises for the NFVF or other funding bodies to partner with the company, Nkosi says they are welcome, but he will not be waiting for funding.

“All we’re responsible for is stories we wanna tell,” he says.

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