'The Tokoloshe' gets warm welcome at horror festivals

Actress Petronella Tshuma says South Africans should watch the movie The Tokoloshe as it plays into our heritage.

Whether you called it Pinky-Pinky or Oupa Doelie, the small man was a menace to many black children growing up in the villages and townships.

A tokoloshe is believed to be a diminutive, malevolent spirit with sexual desires that can cause illness or even death.

Unlike the first film of the same title in the 1990s, this version is making headlines worldwide.

Although the film officially opens on November 2, it was screened at last week's first Comic Con exhibition in Africa held at the Kyalami Racing Circuit in Midrand.

The three-day event showcased comic books, science fiction/fantasy-related films, television and similar popular arts.

The chilling film generated much interest at fantasy and horror flick festivals around the world, including at its European premiere at Frightfest in London, the UK's largest international horror film festival. It also premiered in South Korea.

Producer Dumi Gumbi said: "Film reviewers in the UK have given The Tokoloshe a '4 out of 5' rating, which is meaningful coming from international horror experts.

We are hoping that South Africans will love seeing how this film deals with a scary South African myth."

Tshuma, who grew up in Yeoville, Johannesburg, plays the convincing role of Busi, a young woman who is desperate for money and takes a cleaning job at a rundown hospital.

She befriends young Gracie (Kwande Nkosi), who believes she is being terrorised by a tokoloshe as children start disappearing mysteriously.

"I definitely grew up knowing about the scary, short and hairy creatures. I never particularly believed in them.

"However, I would hear other people's stories of the tokoloshe coming out at night and chasing after them.

"As a child you just hoped you didn't have to come across them. From my perspective, one's belief in tokoloshe depends on where one grew up. Tokoloshe is more prominent and feared in the township and rural areas. I grew up in the city but the one monster I feared at night was Pinky-Pinky," says Tshuma.

She also points out that the film shines lights on the systemic abuse and oppression of women as the tokoloshe is widely believed to be male.

Tshuma, who is in e.tv's Rhythm City, was chosen to play the role from hundreds of actors who auditioned.

"Like many other actors, the director and producer went through actors they felt could play and speak Busi's truth.

"The beauty of the film is how we all receive it. It has the power to say something different to everyone that watches it," she says.

Tshuma won the most promising actor at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2014.

The 28-year-old, who is also pregnant with her second child, says her condition didn't affect filming.

"Being a woman, a mother and an actress is beautiful.

"I am definitely living my dream. I balance it all with having a great support system. Thanks and love to God and my family," she says.

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