Film cuts a swathe from the fabric of our society

2011-03-19 17:51

Day five on the set of a new South African film titled Material and there’s a catering war going on.

The official caterers for the cast and crew have been out-cooked by Auntie Sophia, the Bosnian housekeeper of the historic Fordsburg house that is the location of the fictional Kaif family home.

I walk in to find the cast, director and crew hunched over a feast of curry, roti and salad in a wonderful indoor courtyard with a magnificent red and black polished floor.

I know the food’s good not just from the look of it, but because there’s silence around the table – an unlikely state for a bunch of creatives getting stuck into a project.

Also, I get a piece of the most delicious vanilla sponge cake with custard filling and coconut topping thrust at me, and it’s so tasty I too am rendered speechless.

Material is a universal story set in a very particular cultural place.

It’s about a Muslim family and is the showdown between a father and son when tradition locks horns with personal ambition.

It was dreamt up by co-producer Ronnie Apteker after he met comedian Riaad Moosa back in 2001 while the two were on the stand-up circuit together in Kuwait.

Says Apteker: “I met Riaad and totally fell in love with him. In 2004 I met Craig (Freimond)… I took him to meet Riaad and he fell in love with him too.”

It’s the story of a Muslim son who doesn’t want to take over his father’s fabric shop in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, instead he wants to be a comedian.

It’s very loosely based on Moosa’s own story – he’s a ­doctor-turned-comedian.

Writer and director Freimond, maker of Gums and Noses and ­Jozi, is passionate about Material?– as he should be, he’s been working on it for eight years in various incarnations.

And his meeting with Vincent Ebrahim, famous for his role as the ­father in the talkshow satire The Kumars at No?42, became a game-changer.

“I love this story,” says Freimond as he prepares to explain how he got Ebrahim on board.

“I called him up when he was in Cape Town and flew down to meet with him. I said, ‘I am going to give you the script, but you aren’t going to like it’.

We started a dialogue from there and suddenly the ­version of the father in the story started coming to life.”

Freimond is generous with his time, but soon it’s back to business. He goes back on set and ­Ebrahim readies himself, ­resplendent in a long grey beard. Suddenly silence descends, the lights go up and the cameras roll.

With only four weeks to shoot and a limited budget of about R7?million, it’s a high-pressure environment and the high-spirited lunch I gatecrashed is a necessary daily release for the filmmakers.

Local audiences will have to wait as there’s a long way to go before the finished garment’s ready for cinemas.


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