As the 72nd Cannes Film Festival drew to a close yesterday, it was an emotionally charged, low-budget sci-fi short film made in 48 hours called Lace that ended up best representing the future of South African film.
There was almost no local media coverage when, in March, Lace – starring Enhle Mbali Maphumulo and Richard Lukunku – came second out of 5 000 films made in 138 cities for the 48 Hour Film Project at the competition’s award show at Filmapalooza, held in Orlando, the United States.
Maphumulo lifted the best actress award and the film won best writer for its writer/director Kgosi Choene. It was produced by Neo Ntlatleng of Viva Pictures.
But this week Lace was praised at Cannes by those who attended its screening, where Choene and Ntlatleng were present.
Talking to City Press, Choene said it was his first visit to the world’s most prestigious film festival, which he found “full of such extraordinary souls and talents getting to interact with storytellers from every corner of the planet”.
He said: “People came up to me and said the film was provocative; that they can’t stop thinking about it. It was received really well and it represents Africa.”
The team spent their time in Cannes networking. They are preparing a feature-length script of Lace, which trades in memory and virtual reality.
In the film, which was written and created from scratch in one weekend, Maphumulo and Lukunku play a madly-in-love couple, with him about to propose marriage before tragedy strikes. The duo gave a searing, raw and emotional performance that stunned the judging panel.
Talking to City Press this week, Maphumulo shared how important the role in the short film was to her.
“I think Richard and I like to immerse ourselves in a character, no matter how big, no matter how small, and give it the best performance of our life. I feel like the small characters that I’ve played often gave birth to the big roles I’ve had because I give it my all. Even if I’m on there for five seconds I absolutely give it my all.”
More breaking news from Cannes this year is that Bongiwe Selane – producer of the hit romcom Happiness Is a Four-letter Word, starring Khanyi Mbau, Mmabatho Montsho and Renate Stuurman – is busy preparing a follow-up that will start shooting later this year.
“It picks up the characters four years after the original film, after their lives have taken different turns,” she told City Press.
But that wasn’t her main reason for being in the glamorous French coastal town.
Selane, who is also an industry organiser, was busy launching a pan-African producer training initiative called The Creative Producer Indaba in partnership with the European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (Eave), the Sundance Institute, the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s professional section and an African writer/director project called Realness.
“I got a scholarship with Eave and spent the year travelling Europe and attending workshops to do the course for producers. I got inspired by how Africa doesn’t have a similar networking collaboration for the development of producers,” she told City Press.
Pascal Schmitz and Mayenzeke Baza, young South African independent film distributors with a company called AAA Entertainment, were also in Cannes, selling local titles.
They said there was big interest in Knuckle City, the new feature from controversial local auteur Jahmil XT Qubeka, set in the world of Eastern Cape boxing.
They were also selling the new feature Uncovered by Zuko Nodada.
It’s one of several new South African political thrillers heading to our big and small screens and it plays out in the world of KwaZulu-Natal mining.
Several other documentary projects were pitched by South Africans travelling with the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) delegation. One is a political feature called Influence, co-directed by journalist Richard Poplak and Diane Neille and produced by Neil Brandt of StoryScope.
“It deconstructs the post-truth era in South Africa,” is all that Brandt would say about the film, which looks at the Zuma era.
“We took it to market looking for sales and we got a whole lot of interest.”
Other South African doccie pitches included films on inequality and African warrior queens.
Brandt described the South African presence at Cannes as “full of youthful exuberance” and everyone City Press spoke with expressed pleasure that the NFVF, under the new leadership of chief executive Makhosazana Khanyile, presented a purposeful and modest programme this year.
The NFVF has come under fire for splurging on the event with parties and large delegations but this year there was not even a South African pavilion.
Instead the country joined forces with the rest of the continent at the Pavillon Afrique.