Young writer’s first short film a dream come true

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JOHANNESBURG, November 8 – Local writer Sibusiso Khuzwayo’s dream of directing a film came true after a donation of filming equipment from the KwaZulu Natal Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, Panavision and Panalux.

When Sibusiso Khuzwayo read Thabo Mbeki’s biography, “The Dream Deferred” by Mark Gevisser he was inspired by the story about a boy who read letters to villagers at a time in our country when it suited the regime to keep black South Africans illiterate.

Imagining the challenges for a young boy of being a letter reader, he started thinking about the character he could create for a script.

Over the past three years, producers Cati Weinek and Dumi Gumbi worked closely with Sibusiso to realise his dream of directing a film.

“It has been a privilege working with Sibusiso, a writer who has created the most exquisite script and who is a beautiful visual storyteller on set. So, we wanted to make sure to surround Sibusiso with the best talent in the country, from Lance Gewer as Director Of Photography and stars like Andile Gumbi as the lead,” said Weinek.

The result was a short film, Letter Reader,  which crew and cast fell in love with and that was shot recently in a remote mountain village in the magical Drakensberg.

The film tells the story of Siyabonga, a 12-year-old boy from Johannesburg who is sent to a village in KwaZulu-Natal to live with his grandmother while his parents sort out their marital problems.

As a city boy not accustomed to doing household chores, Siyabonga struggles to adapt. He discovers the power of words as he reads letters that put a smile on people’s faces, until one day, a letter with bad news lands in his hands. A letter addressed to Nobuhle – the beautiful 25-year old wife of a migrant worker living in Johannesburg.

He takes one look at this beautiful woman and falls in love with her. As Nobuhle waits anxiously to hear the words of a long-awaited letter Siyabonga realises that the letter spells the end of her marriage. He can’t bring himself to break her heart, so in that instant, Siyabonga decides that Nobuhle deserves better.

The young man who stole the show in front of the camera was Bahle Mashinini, a 13-year-old Johannesburg-based actor who played Siyabonga, the letter reader.

Khuzwayo said that the casting took many months as everything hinged on the authenticity of the boy’s performance.

Dumi Gumbi said this initiative is part of The Ergo Company’s young directors’ programme to develop new voices in the industry, but like all films it needs investors.

The film was shot on the Red Dragon and would be seen at local and international festivals and hopefully on our television screens.

“Usually broadcasters don’t buy short films but we hope that the quality of the film will speak for itself,” Gumbi said.

Khuzwayo hopes to make a full-length feature based on his short film.

– African News Agency (ANA)