Rock-star new director

2014-07-17 00:00

ZEE Ntuli’s debut feature film, Hard To Get, is one of the most buzzed about South African films to be premiered at the Durban International Film Festival (Diff).

The movie, which was shot in Johannesburg and Pretoria, was launched only 10 days ago, but already the trailer has had nearly 5 000 views on YouTube.

“I can’t believe the buzz that is going around about this film,” award-winning director and producer Junaid Ahmed, said.

“The feedback from fans on our Facebook page has also been amazing. One guy told us he’d watched the trailer 29 times ... and everyone says they can’t wait to see it when it is released on August 29.

“It’s really pleasing. I think that aside from Schuster, no one has been able to attract people of all races to a film. I really hope that our’s will be that film.”

Hard To Get tells the story of T.K., a handsome young womaniser from a small community who falls for a sexy, reckless young thief named Skiets.

Thrust into Johannesburg’s criminal underworld, T.K. realises that his best bet is to trust her and hang on for dear life.

Ntuli’s movie is one of several films which Ahmed and his producing partner, Helena Spring, will be taking to cinema goers in the next couple of years.

His Durban-based film production company, Fineline Productions, was chosen as the recipient of the 2012 National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) slate funding, and they are using the money they received — R6 million over a period of three years — to produce local movies. “All the films will be written, directed and produced by Africans,” Ahmed said of his plan to develop emerging black talent within the local film industry. “I believe it is essential that young aspirant film-makers are given every opportunity to develop their craft so that South African cinema is enriched by these new visions and new voices.”

Another key factor for the films is that they need to have box-office viability.

“We are taking the convention of popular genres, such as comedy, thrillers, sci-fi and action adventure, and we are giving them an African narrative, an African story,” Ahmed said.

With Hard To Get, the producer has ticked all those boxes. The film’s director, Ntuli, who was born in Durban and is a graduate of Afda in Johannesburg, had done some television work, working on Intersexions and Mshika-shika, but hadn’t tackled a feature film. He helped write the script with T.T. Sibisi, which took two years to complete.

Ahmed said this is key to a film’s success. “If the script isn’t right, then I won’t produce it. Too many films in South Africa are rushed through the script-writing process and that means that many of them are full of narrative holes,” he said.

“Hard To Get went through 15 script drafts, but once we felt it was ready, we shot it in just over five weeks.”

Ahmed has nothing but praise for Ntuli, who showed the cast and crew, many of whom were vastly experienced, that he has what it takes to make a movie.

“Hard To Get is full of action sequences and those take a long time to set up, so he had to shoot really fast. It was a really complex shooting script, which he delivered on time,” Ahmed said.

“The way he interacted with the cast and crew was just magical. It was a real test for a first-time director and everyone watched what he was doing. They saw that he was going to be a rock-star director and that he was going to make a magical film.”

Ntuli and the 22 cast and crew from the film are heading to Durban for the film’s world premiere at Suncoast CineCentre tonight.

“Even though the cast and crew are busy with other films and projects, they are planning to drive down to Durban,” Ahmed said.

“They’ll watch the film, have a bit of a party and then drive back to Cape Town or Johannesburg. It shows how passionate they are.”

Looking ahead, Ahmed will be producing a comedy, Keeping Up with the Kandasamy’s, which is set in Chatsworth; Happiness is a Four-letter Word, a Sex and the City-style drama; and the sci-fi Precious Metal.

• Hard to Get will be screened at Suncoast today at 7.30 pm, and tomorrow at 9 pm, at the Ekhaya Multi-Arts Centre at 3.30 pm on Monday; and at 6 pm on July 23 at the UKZN Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

THE Durban International Film Festival takes place from today to July 27. It includes more than 200 theatrical screenings and a full seminar and workshop programme, as well as the Wavescape Film Festival, the Wild Talk Africa Film Festival and various industry initiatives, including the seventh Talent Campus Durban (in co-operation with the Berlin Talent Campus), and the fifth Durban FilmMart co-production market (in partnership with the Durban Film Office). For details, go to www.durbanfilmfestival.co.za

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