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
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.
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