Star cast for Cape Town crime thriller

2012-03-24 15:26

Fight sequences on boats in stormy seas are being rehearsed and a Chinese starlet is packing for Cape Town.

Cameras will soon roll on South Africa’s first thriller about the perlemoen smuggling trade.

A stellar cast has been lined up for Black South Easter, a thriller about the gangs that fuel the Mother City’s tik epidemic.

This month, for the first time, South Africa had local films holding the top two spots at the box office – Material and Semi-Soet.

“If we include the two international productions that were shot here – Safehouse and Chronicle – we had SA films holding the top four spots at box office,” says Thandeka Zwana of the National Film and Video Foundation, which invested in Black South Easter.

It is widely reported that the endangered shellfish is poached by Cape Town fishermen and sold to local druglords, who then trade it with Chinese triads for the raw ingredients that make up the drug tik, or crystal methamphetamine.

Perlemoen is a prized delicacy and aphrodisiac in east Asia. Tik is at the heart of the Cape Flats drug trade and is tearing the social fabric of the community.

Against this backdrop, award-winning Cape Town-born, New York-trained director Carey McKenzie has written a story of good cops, bad cops and gangsters.

Speaking from London, producer Tendeka Matatu of Ten10 Films this week revealed an A-list local cast for the film.

Tony Kgoroge (First Grader, Invictus) plays Sizwe, a policeman with dreams of becoming a detective who discovers a dead Chinese man, the victim of a perlemoen turf war.

Sizwe’s investigation brings him into conflict with Specialist, a conniving Cape crime lord played by Fana Mokoena (State of Violence, Machine Gun Preacher) as well as his own police mentor, Venske, played by Deon Lotz (Roepman, Skoonheid).

Enter the beautiful, ruthless relative of a triad gangster, Mei, who has her sights set on tripping Sizwe up.

The role will be played by Chinese actress Yu Nan, a star at home but a meteorite on the international film circuit.

Rising star Thomas Gumede (Otelo Burning) plays a rookie cop, and Zolani Mahola, lead singer of Freshlyground, plays Sizwe’s wife.

Contacted this week, Mahola, a UCT drama school graduate, said that she was “thrilled to be doing the thing that I actually trained for”.

Matutu also revealed that he’d been so impressed by Lotz’s role in Skoonheid that he changed the character’s race to accommodate him.

Lotz, who is having to learn to smoke to play the role of Venske, says: “I believe the characters we are being offered to play in local films are real and giving us more and more of an opportunity to really dig deep.”

For his part, Kgoroge has spent the week with the police, learning about the daily life of a cop. “It’s nice get to jump and kick and shoot and look like a hero,” he says, but stressed the film’s message against corruption.

Matatu says that the development and production of the film had benefited from government intervention.

“The Industrial Development Corporation has also put money in. The Department of Trade and Industry’s rebate system for 35% of the budget has become the backbone of the industry very quickly.”

Matatu’s passionate about developing Cape Town’s film industry.

“We have the infrastructure and the expertise because of all the foreign work that’s being brought here, but we’ve seen too few films set in Cape Town about Cape Town and by Capetonians.” 

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