True surfer movie ‘Manzi Olwandle’ wins top prize in U.S.

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Filmmakers Kyle Smith (far left), Timothy Hay and Dylan Theron (far right) are pictured with the stars of Manzi Olwandle (Ocean Water), Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase, Mphathi Ndlovu and Sanele Mthethwa.
Filmmakers Kyle Smith (far left), Timothy Hay and Dylan Theron (far right) are pictured with the stars of Manzi Olwandle (Ocean Water), Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase, Mphathi Ndlovu and Sanele Mthethwa.

An intimate and uplifting true story has helped Ballito filmmaker Timothy Hay to win the top prize in the My Røde Reel 2020 competition.

Manzi Olwandle (Ocean Water) beat thousands of entries from around the world, winning its creator $200 000 (over R3 million).

Hay’s film, which was shot on location in the Eastern Cape, tells the story of Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase, a surfer, who lost his brother, Zama, following a shark attack when they were teenagers. The boys had been surfing at their home break in Port St John’s when the attack happened, approximately 10 years ago.

Ndamase (26) plays himself in the three-minute film, with the role of his younger self and that of his brother performed by two young surfers from Salt Rock, Sanele Mthethwa and Mphathi Ndlovu.

“It conveyed its emotion and story effortlessly while showing a lot of respect for its audience. I was really floored by it.”
movie judge Ryan Connolly.

“I fell in love with the story from the very beginning,” Hay said.

“And I loved that Avo’s love of surfing has never left him. He is still surfing in the same waters where the attack happened.”

Before entering the My Røde Reel 2020, Hay planned to create a film about Ndamase for a surfing channel, and when that fell through thought it would be the perfect submission for the contest.

“The story gripped me and I thought it would grip the judges,” said Hay, who was assisted by his friends and fellow creatives, Kyle Smith and Dylan Theron, on set. After writing a script he met with Ndamase to discuss the film, a meeting which changed the direction of the movie completely.

Timothy Hay and Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase on the set o
Timothy Hay and Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase on the set of ‘Manzi Olwandle (Ocean Water)’ in Port St John's.
Sanele Mthethwa and Mphathi Ndlovu pictured on the
Sanele Mthethwa and Mphathi Ndlovu pictured on the set of ‘Manzi Olwandle (Ocean Water)’ in Port St John's.
Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase in a scene from ‘Manzi Olwan
Avuyile ‘Avo’ Ndamase in a scene from ‘Manzi Olwandle (Ocean Water)’.

“Initially it was just going to feature the two boys, but it ended up being something so different, and so much better, with Avo in it,” Hay said.

The judges agreed, saying the short film had excellent cinematography, rock-solid pace, was well-acted, and had a ton of heart. “It conveyed its emotion and story effortlessly while showing a lot of respect for its audience. I was really floored by it,” judge Ryan Connolly added.

Hay, a cinematographer, director and editor, intends using his prize money to continue making movies, with the aim of hopefully creating his own feature film in the future.

Two other South Africans also made the honours list in the contest, sponsored by RØDE Microphones.

David O’Connor grabbed first place in the sound design category for his film Incident; and the duo of Gottfried Roodt and Lloyd Wilgen placed third in the behind the scenes category for their entry, Noodle Power!.

WATCH | Manzi Olwandle (Ocean Water)

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