Lights, camera, action for youngsters

Actors Cynthia Shange and Ndaba Mhlongo, affectionately known as Mshefane, at the shoot of iconic movie ‘uDeliwe’ in November 1977.
Actors Cynthia Shange and Ndaba Mhlongo, affectionately known as Mshefane, at the shoot of iconic movie ‘uDeliwe’ in November 1977.
Image: Kerry Berrington/Daily News archives.

Pupils from KZN who have an interest in film making have been given an early head start to their careers with a competition designed for schools.

This competition is part of the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission's aim of growing awareness about the legacy of the province's late TV and film legend Simon "Mabhunu" Sabela.

The commission's marketing and communications specialist Lungile Duma said the school competition will see the winners' work being shown at this year's 6th annual Simon "Mabhunu" Sabela Film and Television Awards.

"The competition is open for Grade 11 and 12 learners from across the province and we hope to encourage youngsters to see the TV and film industry as one of the best career choices to make after matric.

"The schools are expected to make short productions of any nature and the best one will be shown at the awards. This way, the learners will be able to know who Simon Sabela was and also get to learn about the world of TV and film production at an early age."

Nominations for the annual awards are open and will close in April. Filmmakers from around the country will be fighting for honours in more than 20 categories.

The awards, which were launched in 2013 in honour of the late TV and movie legend Simon Sabela, will be held during the Durban International Film Festival in July.

Sabela, who was born in Durban and died in 1994 aged 62, was an actor and director whose work spans more than 50 TV and movie productions.

Some of his popular works include The Gods Must Be Crazy II, where he played General, Commander in The Last Samurai, Mr M in Mapantsula and Nelson Mandela in Der Rivonia-Prozess.

Duma said: "Everything has been going well so far and we will announce nominees in June once the judges have gone through all the entries and selected the best work to go to the next round.

"We are expecting the number of entries to be much more than last year's because the awards have been growing steadily since we started them in 2013.

"We are also excited that Unilever have committed to be our sponsors for certain categories that involve women."

Some of the awards up for grabs in the TV categories include best actor and best actress as well as best newcomers for both male and female artists.

In the film category, entrants will compete for best director, best isiZulu film, best supporting actress and actor, best screenplay and best micro-budget feature film, among others.

Some of the big winners at last year's awards include Siyabonga Thwala who walked away with best actor in the TV category while Happiness is a Four-Letter Word scooped the best feature film.

Sabela viewed as authentic voice of black film

Several websites about the history of SA film credit The Great Kimberley Diamond Robbery made by Springbok Films as our first feature film produced in 1910, loosely based on the same concept as America's The Great Train Robbery of 1903.

Black film and cinema is said to have caught up only 60 years later in the '70s, with Simon Sabela's uDeliwe a massive commercial success.

Featuring then Miss Black South Africa Cynthia Shange, uDeliwe is about a young model whose life takes a turn for the worse when she is involved in a car accident resulting in her being permanently scarred.

Before uDeliwe, even though there were successful films by producer and director Jamie Uys from the '60s depicting black actors, Sabela's offering was viewed as the most authentic voice of black film.

Uys garnered massive fortune and fame with films such as Zulu, Tokoloshe, Dingaka and The Gods Must Be Crazy, but filmmaker and production company owner Duma ka Ndlovu said the black caricatures and slapstick humour never quite resonated with an interrogative and conscious black audience.

Uys's films portrayed black characters as the object of ridicule and steadily received criticism as black consciousness gained momentum.

Ka Ndlovu said the making of uDeliwe by Heyns Films was a stroke of genius as Shange, the first black model to represent SA at Miss World, was one of the most recognisable faces in the entertainment industry.

"Beyond her being paraded at soccer matches, they did not know what to do with her and Heyns realised that she was much bigger than that which led to the success of uDeliwe when she was cast in that film which Sabela directed," Ka Ndlovu said.

Sabela, nicknamed "Mabhunu", went on to become one of South Africa's successful black film directors with over 30 films to his name.

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