‘Witness’ writer honoured for contribution to film industry

2013-07-22 00:00

SENIOR Witness feature writer Stephen Coan was honoured this weekend by the KwaZulu-Natal government for his contribution to the film industry in the province.

Coan was honoured at the inaugural Simon “Mabhunu” Sabela Film Awards awarded by the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission set up last year by the KZN Economic Development and Tourism Department.

The awards were presented at an event hosted at the Durban ICC by the KZN Economic Development and Tourism Department.

Others recognised were producer Anant Singh, screenwriter/producer Mbongeni Ngema, actress Leleti Khumalo and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Buthelezi was honoured for, among other things, the role he played in the film Zulu as King Cetshwayo kaMpande.

The awards were divided into three different categories — Pioneers, Legends and Veterans of the KZN film industry.

Coan said he was surprised and happy with the award. He learned two weeks ago that he had been nominated and was honoured as a Pioneer in the KwaZulu-Natal film industry.

“When the commission was set up last year, they began to investigate the history of the film industry in KZN. There was nothing. In their research, they came across the feature articles I had written in The Witness over the years on films made in this province and suddenly they had this resource that they did not know existed.

“According to the nomination, I was honoured for my literary contribution to film-making in KZN,” he said.

Coan has written about such films as Zulu, Zulu Dawn, King Solomon’s Mines (shot at Otto’s Bluff), Untamed and the first version of Cry, the Beloved Country, as well as the early silent film Siliva the Zulu. He also produced a filmography of all the films shot in this province.

Coan has been involved in film production since his late teens at the end of the sixties.

“Journalism is my second career, my first career was in the film industry.”

Coan said he was introduced to films at a time when the only way to see a film was in a darkened theatre. “I was enthralled by what I saw, and then I realised there were these things called credits and that the director was a very important person in the film. Then I became interested in how these magical things were actually made.”

He joined the British Broadcasting Corporation after leaving school and while working in the news research department began making amateur films, before being selected for training as a film editor.

And when he moved to South Africa in 1975, he continued to work in the film industry, first at the SABC and later freelancing as a writer and director. He joined The Witness in 1990, and as well as working as a feature writer was a film critic on the newspaper for many years.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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