South African Filmmaker making it big

South African filmmaker

South African Filmmaker making it big

We all enjoy a ‘rags to riches’ story. And, a South African making it big in Hollywood is just about the biggest story you can get. South Africa has had its small share of glory as a country in Hollywood – with Charlize Theron winning an Oscar for Monster back in 2004, and more recently (2015) Trevor Noah taking the lead at The Daily Show.

But the story we want to share is of Gavin Hood filmmaker, who is less in the limelight, more in the background. How much do you know about this South African filmmaker success story?

Where does this South African filmmaker come from?

Gavin Hood didn’t believe a successful career in filmmaking was on the cards for him, as a South African, so he studied law. It was while practising law that he found his way into film anyway. He was cast in the South African television series The Game in 1989 and, after that, decided to leave law behind and pursue his love for film. In 1991, he went to LA to study screenwriting and directing at the University of California and, as it turned out, found his true calling behind the camera.

Gavin Hood’s Filmmaker Career

South African filmmaker

After studying in California, Gavin Hood filmmaker returned to SA where he won an Artes Award for his work in an educational drama for the Department of Health. In 1998, he made a short film called The Storekeeper which won 13 awards at international film festivals. This success led him to be able to co-produce and direct a feature film based on a screenplay he wrote and won an award for while studying in California, called A Reasonable Man. This movie too won many international awards. After this success, Gavin worked on a Polish film set in Africa called In Desert and Wilderness, which went on to become the highest-grossing film in Poland in 2001, also winning international awards.

In 2003, Gavin wrote and directed a screenplay based on the novel Tsotsi by SA writer, Athol Fugard … and the rest, as they say, is history. Tsotsi won the People’s Choice award at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, was nominated for a Screen International Award at the European Film Awards, and won an Academy Award – amongst others.

Since then he has directed Rendition (2007) starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) starring Hugh Jackman, Ender’s Game (2013) starring Harrison Ford, and Eye in the Sky (2015) starring Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul.

What is Gavin doing now?

South African filmmaker, Gavin Hood, bounces back and forth between London and Joburg, and he says it’s his legal background that draws him towards stories – he favours ones that offer a moral or ethical dilemma. The Storekeeper, for example, examined how far you can go in defence of your property.

His latest project, Official Secrets (2019) starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, premiered at Sundance and earned a standing ovation from the audience – and IFC Films acquired the US rights. With a strong woman at the helm of this movie, Gavin explores the theme of loyalty, and it looks as if he has another box officer winner on his hands.

Enjoy our other blogs about cinema, South African filmmakers, movies and retro vibes from Retro Afrika Bioscope.

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Blaxploitation: Actors of Their Time

To end off our Blaxploitation week, we feel it is appropriate to honour and recognize the stars who made the Blaxploitation genre what it is today. Every actor has a backstory, so it makes it interesting to learn about their journey and the events that led them towards the industry. Here are three famous actors who played a role in the Blaxploitation genre.

Pam Grier

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Pam Grier

Pamela Suzette Grier was born in Winston-Salem, NC, one of four children of Gwendolyn Sylvia (Samuels), a nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier Jr., an Air Force mechanic. Pam has been a major African-American star from the early 1970s. Her career started in 1971, when Roger Corman of New World Pictures launched her with “The Big Doll House” [1971], about a women’s penitentiary, and “The Big Bird Cage” [1972]. Her strong role put her into a five-year contract with Samuel Z. Arkoff of American-International Pictures and she became a leading lady in action films such as Jack Hill’s “Coffy” [1973] and “Foxy Brown” [1974], the comic strip character “Friday Foster” [1975] and William Girdler’s“Sheba, baby” [1975].

She continued working with American-International, where she portrayed William Marshall’s vampire victim in the Blacula [1972] sequel, “Scream Blacula, Scream” [1973].

Grier continued to star in more films during the 1980s, but her most famous role in the 1990s was probably “Jackie Brown” [1997], directed by Quentin Tarantino, which was a homage to her earlier 1970s action roles. She also appeared in John Carpenter’s “Ghosts of Mars” [2001] and co-starred with Snoop Dogg in “Bones” [2001]. Her entire career of over 30 years has brought only success for this beautiful and talented actress.

Calvin Lockhart (1934–2007)

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Calvin Lockhart

Born Bert Cooper to a large family in Nassau on October 18, 1934, he was raised there before moving to New York in his late teens with initial designs on becoming a civil engineer (Cooper Union School of Engineering). Dropping out after a year to pursue an acting career, Calvin worked as a carpenter and construction worker, among other odd jobs. He first studied with legendary coach Uta Hagen and then hit the New York theatre boards. The story goes that he was discovered by playwright Ketti Frings while working as a taxi driver. She was so impressed with his arrogance that she cast him in her play “The Cool World” in 1960.

From there Calvin drummed up interest via a bit of controversy on Broadway when he played a sailor in love with a white girl in the racially-themed “A Taste of Honey” starring Angel Lansbury.

Calvin made a distinct early impression as a slick preacher bent on fraud in the hip cop flick “Cotton Comes to Harlem” [1970] and as an English teacher in the inner-city potboiler “Halls of Anger” [1970]. He also involved himself in such black action features as “Melinda” [1972], “Honeybaby, Honeybaby” [1974] and “The Baron” [1977]. Calvin was then cast in “Uptown Saturday Night” [1974] and “Let’s Do It Again” [1975]. He could also play fey upon request, camping it up briefly in “Myra Breckinridge” [1970]. During this rich period, he also became an artist-in-residence with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford (the first black actor) and appeared prestigiously in such productions as “Titus Andronicus” [1972].
In 1974, Calvin married a woman also from the West Indies and had three children.

After his career subsided, he decided to return to his homeland in the mid-’90s and resettled in Nassau with his fourth wife, Jennifer Miles. There he involved himself with the Freeport Players Guild as a director. He also returned to films after a 15-year absence, completing “Rain” [2008], a movie shot in the Bahamas, shortly before he suffered a major stroke. Sadly, Calvin died of complications on March 29, 2007, and his family is in the process of establishing a scholarship fund in his name for Bahamian student pursuing an acting or film making career.

Ken Gampu (1929–2003)

Ken Gampu was one of the first black South Africans to be featured in Hollywood films, working alongside such stars as Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster. A former schoolteacher, law clerk and interpreter, he spoke seven native dialects in addition to English and Afrikaans. Discovered by playwright Athol Fugard, he was cast in the play “No Good Friday” in 1958. In the 60’s he moved to films and earned international distinction for his role in the movie “Adventure Dingaka” [1964]. He earned excellent notices as well a year later in Cornel Wilde’s African adventure “The Naked Prey” [1965] as a warrior leader. Several of his films have earned cult status with time, including “Zulu Dawn” [1979] and “The Gods Must Be Crazy” [1980].

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Ken Gampu

Ken was involved in many theatre musicals by Bertha Egnos, including “Dingaka” and “Ipi Tombi,” the most successful musical ever staged in South Africa. He was also featured in the jazz opera “King Kong”. He suffered indignities as a black actor in South Africa despite his success in Hollywood. In 1975, he was cast as Lennie in a South African stage production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” but was allowed to play the role only after the government gave him permission to share a stage with white actors. Gampu died at age 74 in Vosloorus, South Africa.

Many actors of this genre displayed a tremendous amount of talent and pazazz. Every actor showcased what they thought to be unique and most importantly, their own. During this time, being of colour was extremely limiting and difficult, especially for those who wanted to be taken seriously in the film industry in Hollywood. This re-emphasizes the stamina and determination of these actors, making them a true inspiration.

Credit Sources: http://www.imdb.com/ 

Retro Afrika Bioscope celebrating Heritage Day

This Saturday, South Africa will be celebrating Heritage Day.  And, with Retro Afrika Bioscope playing such a significant role in restoring and preserving this beautiful country’s diverse film heritage it seems only fit to dedicate a blog to this awesome day!!! It’s also very important to remember where it all started and what significance it has to the people of South Africa and our rainbow nation.

The History

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In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, President Nelson Mandela stated: “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”

And thus Heritage Day was born, to be celebrated every year on the 24th September. With such a diverse culture and rather than focusing on the cultural divisions, a recent initiative by the Braai4Heritage called upon all South Africans to celebrate their common roots by having a Braai (BBQ) on Heritage Day.

Retro Afrika Bioscope has been dedicated to preserving and restoring lost and forgotten films produced in the 1980s. These films might never have been seen by modern audiences if it wasn’t for this project. We started the long process of sourcing these films and restoring them to their former glory and today they are accessible on various platforms such as DVD and Video on Demand. In South Africa we have partnered with DSTV’s Mzansi Bioskop, channel (164) in bringing these once forgotten African Classics into your living room and this Sundays movie will be ‘Isiqalekiso’ [1980]’.

Isiqalekiso [1980s]

After hearing a story of missing golden treasure, a group of young boys set out on an adventure to look for it. After some time, they eventually find a box believed to be the missing gold. But very soon, the group of friends is overcome with gold-fever and it’s not long before they start turning on one another. When a local thug discovers that the boys have indeed found the hidden treasure, he manages to steal it away from them, and the friends are forces to reconcile and come together in order to retrieve their find and get their own back on the thief.

So how are you going to spend your Heritage Day? If you’re living outside of South Africa. why not go onto FilmDoo, Hoopla Digital or Bigstar to browse through our catalogue of movies and stream these Lost African Classics. You never know, you might find your next favourite between the rich treasures that is South Africa’s film pride and joy.

           

 

International Women’s Month: Quotable Quotes by Famous Women in Film

In honour of women in film, we have compiled a list of famous quotes by these elegant, beautiful and talented women. So sit back, relax and enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Practical Magic [1998]

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Nicole Kidman as ‘Gillian Owens’ in Practical Magic

Midnight in Paris [2011]

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Marion Cotillard as ‘Adriana’ in Midnight in Paris

The Color Purple [1985]

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Whoopi Goldberg as ‘Celia’ in The Color Purple

Pretty Woman [1990]

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Julia Roberts as ‘Vivian’ in Pretty Woman

My Big Fat Greek Wedding [2002]

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Nia Vardalos as ‘Toula Portokalos’ and Lainie Kazan as ‘Maria Portokalos’ in My Big Fat Greek Wedding

The Help [2011]

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Viola Davis as ‘Aibileen Clarke’ in The Help

Before Sunset [2004]

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Julie Delpi as ‘Celine’ in Before Sunset

Sex and the City [1998]

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Kim Cattrall as ‘Samantha Jones’ in Sex and the City

And finally, this quote might not be from a particular movie but it sure is worth adding and very true!!! Marilyn was the pure embodiment of female strength, beauty and empowerment. And even though she was not always well behaved in her short but fulfilling life, she definitely made history!!! Happy Women’s Month to all the wonderful women in the world that are making a difference.

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Bringing Lost African Gems Straight to your Living Room on Mzansi Bioskop

Gravel Road Entertainment Group’s Retro Afrika Bioscope and Mzansi Bioskop have teamed up to bring you a starlit line up of lost and forgotten South African films. Over the next couple of months, you can tune in every Sunday at 8pm to DSTV Channel 164, Mzansi Bioskop to feast your eyes on some of the most authentically South African films that were produced in the ’70s and ’80s. These films showcase all-African casts and in a number of local languages with English subtitles.

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“Umbango” will have it’s first-ever TV premiere this coming Sunday. The film was produced and directed by Tonie van der Merwe, starring Popo Gumede, Hector Mathanda and Kay Magubane and is arguably one of the first all African cast isiZulu Westerns. The film was digitally restored by Gravel Road Entertainment Group and was, together with the film Joe Bullet, an official selection in the Forum section at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015. Both films had sell-out audiences at the festival. “As the first producer and director of an African language film, it gives me great pride to finally get some recognition for our contribution to the South African film industry. I am proud of what we have achieved and it’s a great honour and privilege to experience this moment. It’s a shame that most of these actors such as Ken Gampu, Joe Lopez and Hector Mathanda cannot be here today to see these films on TV. Thank you again to all the actors and my colleges. I salute you!!” says Tonie van der Merwe.

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About “Umbango”

When Kay Kay, a powerful, ruthless businessman sets out on a mission of revenge against two men accused of killing his brother, he strong-arms the local sheriff into forming a posse of thugs to aid in his vendetta. But when Jet and Owen, the two easy going friends, learn of the gang out for their blood, they prepare to stand their ground and fight back. It all comes to a head in a final gun-fight, a showdown in the small western town where blood will have to be split if the friends wish to come out of this alive.

Retro Afrika Bioscope is Gravel Road Entertainment Group’s speciality release label for classic retro African content. In 2013, Gravel Road launched an initiative to locate, digitally restore and re-release films produced for the oppressed majority (African) audiences in the ’70s and ’80s under the old South African film subsidy schemes. All films being released by Retro Afrika Bioscope undergo a highly specialized digital restoration process.

The line-up of films for the month of July includes Abathumbi (Starring: Innocent Gumede and Khulekani Magubane), Zero for Zep (Starring: So Mhlanga and Khulekani Magubane), Umgulukudu (Starring: Roy Dlamini and Mandla Ngoya) and Thunder Valley (Starring: Roy Dlamini and Mandla Ngoya).

More information on these films are available on:
Facebook
YouTube Channel

What Was Happening When

1980 – Run For Your Life

While out on a cross-country run in unfamiliar territory, two friends  stumble upon an illegal drug operation in the woods. Soon taken hostage by the notorious drug-lord, they face the threat of becoming drug slaves themselves. Forced to work the plantation for the man known as “Cobra”, the two friends will have to rely on one another and use their wits if they wish to defeat the armed guards holding them captive.

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January

14 – The local community at Soekmekaar resists forced removal and damages the police station.

March

12 – The Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) together with its sister churches for Blacks (the NGK in Afrika), Coloureds (the NG Sendingkerk) and Indians (the Reformed Church in Africa), issue a statement that the Churches will bring no objection in principle should authorities judge that circumstances justify reconsideration of the Immorality Act and the Mixed Marriages Act.

April

4 – Umkhonto we Sizwe attacks the Booysens Police Station in Johannesburg with grenades, rocket launchers and AK47s.

May

2 – Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall is banned because the government fears that it might be used as a song of liberty by black school children.

June

1 – Bombs explode at Sasol One and Two and Natref Eight at Sasolburg and Secunda, with no injuries and RM58 damage. The attack was organised by Solomon Mahlangu of the Umkhonto weSizwe Special Operations.

August

Special Branch policeman Detective-Sergeant T.G. Zondi is shot at in Sobantu Village.

October

14 – The Soweto community calls for a stayaway to protest against rent increases.

November

21 – A terrorist is killed in Chiawelo and a child is injured by police in the process.

What Was Happening When

1980 – Impango 

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January

14 – The local community at Soekmekaar resists forced removal and damages the police station.

March

12 – The Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) together with its sister churches for Blacks (the NGK in Afrika), Coloureds (the NG Sendingkerk) and Indians (the Reformed Church in Africa), issue a statement that the Churches will bring no objection in principle should authorities judge that circumstances justify reconsideration of the Immorality Act and the Mixed Marriages Act.

April

4 – Umkhonto we Sizwe attacks the Booysens Police Station in Johannesburg with grenades, rocket launchers and AK47s.

May

2 – Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall is banned because the government fears that it might be used as a song of liberty by black school children.

June

1 – Bombs explode at Sasol One and Two and Natref Eight at Sasolburg and Secunda, with no injuries and RM58 damage. The attack was organised by Solomon Mahlangu of the Umkhonto weSizwe Special Operations.

August

Special Branch policeman Detective-Sergeant T.G. Zondi is shot at in Sobantu Village.

October

14 – The Soweto community calls for a stayaway to protest against rent increases.

November

21 – A terrorist is killed in Chiawelo and a child is injured by police in the process.