Nosipho Dumisane: Opening a window

Nosipho Dumisane is a young female director whose debut film, Nommer 37, has made history.

It was the first South African feature film at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Texas, US. The gripping crime thriller, loosely based on the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window, has also been selected to represent the country at the 18th annual Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF) in Switzerland in July this year.

The 29-year-old, originally from Umlazi in Durban, is best known as a producer of kykNET soap opera Suidooster. Before this, she was creating adverts. But, she initially thought of becoming a doctor.

Dumisane says that it wasn't until a school teacher, Anita Schonauer, entered her life in Grade 10 that she expanded her imaginings.

"Over the last two years of my high school career, she took us to film schools such as Afda and brought people from within the industry to speak to us about this world that I had believed to exist for 'other people'. I had never seen a woman in the role of a director or even as anything other than an actor or wardrobe/ make-up stylist."

She then applied to film school to become an actress.

"An error with my application saw me being placed in the motion picture medium stream at Afda Cape Town, a stream that covers everything but performance, and I was interested enough to try it out. I grew to love what I did. It became clear to me that as an actress I would be limited but as a writer or director or producer I could be in charge of the work that I did and the stories that I chose to tell."

Her mother was thankful for her choice.

"She didn't want to see me kissing boys on screen!"

Dumisane was raised in a conservative Christian home of academics and entrepreneurs.

"My massive family are extremely close. My father raised 10 kids. I was encouraged to read a lot and because our parents didn't like the idea of us going out to parties and so forth, we would hire a lot of DVDs for entertainment.

"Living in the township, my older sister and I were not allowed to play outside the house much so we had to be very creative in how we played,' inventing' our own toys, we would tell intricately woven stories and create characters using our shoes. Our parents always impressed upon us the importance of hard work, respect for our elders, developing a relationship with God as well as the importance of dreaming.

"So, when I had finished film school and audaciously decided to start my own business, Gambit Films, instead of following a more traditional route in the film industry, I knew that I could do it, that I would have to fight for it and that it would have to be for more than just me," she says.

Nommer 37 was first written as a short film for kykNET's Silwerskermfees short film competition.

She co-wrote the short film with Daryne Joshua and co-directed with Travis Taute and it won several awards at the Silwerskerm Festival and the SA Film and Television Awards (Saftas), and travelled the world.

Gambit Films was then ready to adapt it into a feature film.

"Daryne, who grew up on the Cape Flats, had been brewing an idea in his mind for years about adapting this classic to our world - something closer to home.

"Having lived in Cape Town since I was 17 years old, one of my earliest experiences is one of the blocks of flats. What immediately struck me once I was inside was the fact that from within, all that I could see around me were the blocks that surrounded me," Dumisane says.

"I thought about what that would do to the psyche of a person. If you can never see beyond the walls of what's around you, are you able to dream about it and want it and hope for it? So, now, imagine living in a space that has been designed for you to not see the outside world when you're in it. I tapped into that feeling in order to create this amazingly contained thriller with a bit of social commentary."

After the spectacular acclaim and awards for the film, Dumisane hopes to venture into every film genre, from sci-fi to thriller and biopics .

"My work needs to challenge our ideas of what life is or should be."

*The film will be released locally in June.