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First Venda movie to premiere at festival

By Zenoyise John | 2012-07-13 09:48:02.0

Filmmaker Ntshavheni wa Luruli is riding on the crest of his success.

His film Elelwani, the first feature film in Tshivenda, is one of the most unlikely success stories in filmmaking this year.

The film will "open" The Durban International Film Festival. It is the 33rd edition of South Africa's largest and longest-running film festival.

The ground-breaking premiere takes place next Thursday. The film deals with the collision between modernity and traditionalism.

How did the movie come about?

"Elelwani was one of the four novels by renowned author Dr Titus Maumela that I wanted to adapt fortelevision," Luruli says.

"But after I was turned down several times I decided to make a feature film from a novel of the same title."

Luruli was also inspired to do the film because he feels that not only is Tshivenda marginalised in films but feels that the Venda people have always been treated as underdogs .

"We grew up despised and spat at by other groups in South Africa," Luruli laments.

"We were called names and deemed worthless. Unfortunately, this trend continues (even) today.

"Many Venda and Shangaan people were killed during the xenophobia riots," he says.

Luruli adds that making the film was not a stroll in the park.

"I did not have a script when they started production. The crew was absolutely terrified.

"Then we were rained out during the shoot. It was literally raining every day in Venda.

"The local Venda people were very generous in helping us with everything we needed, especially his majesty King Kennedy Tshivhase, who allowed us to shoot at his royal residence, which is unheard of. So to him I say, long live the king," Luruli says.

He says it was not easy to translate written narratives into film, but praises popular actress Florence Masebe, who plays the main character for carrying the film excellently.

"Luckily, she is a Muvenda, and she understands the culture very well," wa Luruli explains. "She was my choice right from the start.

"The rest are a mixture of actors and non-actors, since there are no Venda stories that are told that could help cultivate a professional acting experience."

Luruli adds there are virtually no theatre, television or movie drama scripts in Tshivenda, there is a small pool of experienced professional Venda-speaking actors.

"A handful have been able to get some kind of acting experience in a local soapie.

"So I mixed the experienced ones and non actors.

"They all did a fabulous job. You've got to see the film. The cast isabsolutely great."