A South African movie has earned top honours in Spain by scooping two prestigious awards at the 2009 International Pan African Film Festival in Tarfia, on the Spanish south coast. The festival ran from 22 to 31 May 2009.
The film, Izulu Lami (My Secret Sky), won the Audience Award and Best Actress Award for its 11-year-old star, Sobahle Mkhabase.
“When I chose Sobahle from the thousands of school children I auditioned, I knew she was a rough diamond, although she did not yet realise it herself,” the film’s director, Madoda Ncayiyana said.
“For a Zulu girl from a township, who was 10-years-old when the film was shot, to win an international award against professional adult actors proves how talented our little local treasure really is,” he said.
“When I heard that I won the best actress prize, I was over the moon and my mom was even crying,” Mkhabase said.
Izulu Lami also won the coveted Dikalo Best Feature Film prize in Cannes in April 2009.
The film features a cast of mainly young, unprofessional child actors, discovered through extensive casting by the director. The children were discovered in the townships, informal settlements and rural areas of the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Written by Julie Frederikse and Ncayiyana, the film was produced by Dv8 Films and co-produced by Vuleka Productions.
It is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Ster-Kinekor Distribution, the Department of Trade and Industry and the French film fund, Fonds Images Afrique.
Dv8 Films producer Jeremy Nathan said, “The Audience Award is very special as it is given by the public and this will help in generating awareness for its [the film's] South African and global releases.”
“We’re thrilled to see Izulu Lami being awarded,” said Ryan Haidarian, NFVF head of new ventures.
“It is very exciting for the national broadcaster to be part of such authentic, beautiful work,” said Kethiwe Ngcobo, head of drama at SABC. “It’s wonderful to see that the world appreciates this work too.”
The film follows the story of two young children, 10-year-old Thembi (played by Mkhabase) and eight-year-old Khwezi (played by Sibonelo Malinga), who journey to the city from their rural homestead after their mother’s death. When the children arrive in the city they are spotted by a streetwise 12-year-old, Chili-Bite, and his gang.
He offers them a place to sleep on the street and tells Thembi of a friend who knows a priest. The “priest”, however, turns out to be a disreputable pimp who aims to sell the girl’s virginity as a cure for HIV/Aids.
When the siblings become separated, Thembi is filled with the grief that has been welling up since her mother’s death. In time, though, she discovers her own dream and talent, and is able to reconcile with her new friends on the street and her little brother.
Izulu Lami will screen at the Durban International Film Festival in July, and be distributed by Ster-Kinekor Distribution nationwide in South Africa in August 2009.
The film will be available on DVD shortly thereafter. It will be broadcast on SABC towards the end of the year.