First-time child actors light up Durban film gem

2009-07-27 00:00

IF you want to see a movie that will move you to the core and features a cast of unknowns who act their socks off, then you need to see Izulu Lami (My Secret Sky).

Filmed in Durban and Inanda, the film, which some people are calling the African Slumdog Millionaire, opens with a woman invoking the help and support of her ancestors to help fight an illness and protect her family.

Despite her pleas, however, death claims her and leaves her two children, Thembi (Sobahle Mkhabase from Chesterville) and Khwezi (Sibonelo Malinga from Hammarsdale), orphaned and at the mercy of their money-grabbing aunt, who sells everything they own and then abandons them.

Only one item is spared — a beautiful handwoven mat, made by their mother for a craft competition. With no food in the house and no money to buy any, the two children decide to head to the city to try and find the priest who told their mother about the contest, in the hope that he will buy the mat.

When these two innocents get to the city, they cannot find anyone willing to assist them, except for Chilli-Bite (Tshepang Mohlomi of Ntuzuma), leader of a gang of street children. And, unfortunately for the siblings he only sees them as a means of making money and, instead of helping them find the priest, he instead delivers them into the hands of Tony, a white pimp, played by Durban actor Michael Gritten, who plans to sell Thembi to a man looking for a virgin.

It’s one of the many hard truths about life on the streets that Izulu Lami faces head on. Director Madoda Ncayiyana doesn’t shy away from showing scenes of petty crime and glue sniffing, but he also challenges cinemagoers to see the beggars at the traffic lights for what they truly are — vulnerable children.

That said, Izulu Lami is not a dark and depressing piece of cinema. Instead its young actors deliver a message of hope, love and redemption.

The acting is superb, an astonishing feat when you consider that before making Izulu Lami none of the child-actors had any kind of acting experience. Sobahle, in particular, is a star in the making, and I’m not surprised she won the Best Actress Award at the Tarifa International Pan African Film Festival in Spain.

Ncayiyana, who also co-wrote the film with Julie Frederikse, can be truly proud of this film. It’s a real cinematic gem.


Estelle Sinkins


Izulu Lami can be seen at Ekaya KwaMashu on July 29 at 6 pm and at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on July 31 at 11 am, ahead of nationwide release on August 21.

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