jolly good

MAKING MUSIC: Brice Ndjeuya, Leonard Ashu and Kofi Boateng. Pic Antonio Muchave. 08/01/2008. © Sowetan.
MAKING MUSIC: Brice Ndjeuya, Leonard Ashu and Kofi Boateng. Pic Antonio Muchave. 08/01/2008. © Sowetan.

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Sometime last year, a Cameroonian idea was born. And the South African-based emerging filmmaker has a story to tell.

The story is that under the auspices of his new film company, Brains Africa Films, Leonard Ashu undertook extensive research on African film, going as far afield as Nigeria.

The results of the research he came up with is that it is possible to produce local films at a small fraction of what it normally costs.

That, however, can only happen if filmmakers change their attitudes towards filmmaking, come up with innovative and creative ways of cutting costs of film production, and quite crucially, come together as filmmakers and form a co-operative.

Ashu suggested that the answer to local filmmakers' woes was to form Jollywood, a collective of industry role players such as actors, producers, film directors, technical support staff and small companies providing other services to the film industry.

This way, Ashu said, cash-strapped local filmmakers would produce local films whose quality would be good, and tell ordinary South African stories that people could relate to.

That is the formula that has made Nollywood in Nigeria so successful. He says it is possible to shoot a feature film in nine days. And not only that, but that it is also possible to produce a movie that would normally cost R4million by local standards for a mere R46000.

I was reluctant to run the story at first, primarily because it sounded too good to be possible. The story was however run in Sowetan after Ashu promised that come the new year, he would come to our offices - with the first Jollywood movie in hand.

And true to his promise, Ashu and the two other Jollywood partners, Kofi Boateng, and Brice Ndjeuya, who are now part of the fledgling Jollywood collective, came with a copy of Rainbow Love, the first Jollywood movie.

It is about a black guy who falls in love with a white girl and, because of cultural differences, the romance goes nowhere. This film has been produced by Ashu.

Ashu said it was difficult to persuade local filmmakers to join the collective.

"I think a lot of people at first were rightly suspicious to join the collective because I, being from Cameroon, somehow raised suspicions about the authenticity of this collective as some people wrongly suspected that it was yet another 419 scam by foreigners.

That has since changed because we now have about 300 actors from throughout the country who are part of the collective. Several South African producers and directors are also now part of the village of Jollywood.

"We have held a meeting with the National Film and Video Foundation which is willing to help us, and we send all our movies to the Film and Publications Board for classification.

"Everything is above board. We mean business because our next Jollywood movie, Away from Home, produced by Boateng and featuring 30 local actors, will be released at the end of the month.

"It took nine days to shoot. The idea is to release a Jollywood movie every week. That is our aim," said Ashu.