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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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:
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Finding the Forgotten Cinematic Jewels of Africa

retro africa

Gravel Road Entertainment Group is a Cape Town-based entertainment company that focuses on creating quality film content. Aimed to enrich people’s lives and designed to be distributed across all market channels.

We then thought of an innovative idea to be distinct from other Film Companies and gave birth to a creatively genius idea. This is when Retro Afrika Bioscope was born. The initial idea behind this speciality release label was to locate, acquire, restore and expose once discarded and forgotten Classic African films to a whole new generation of African Cinema lovers around the world. Many of these films were banned from South African screens back then.

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These stories brought some form of eluding from what was happening in South Africa from 1960 till 1990. We all know that apartheid was brutal at that time and entertainment was very minimal due to South Africa’s harsh policies.

Even though black South African actors were very exploited back then we could see from the content they were generating that they loved what they were doing and enjoyed the platform they received which means they were made for this and nothing else made them happier than being in front of the camera.

All in all, these films, filmmakers and actors created a legacy for themselves and made a historical monument which Gravel Road Entertainment Group has brought forth and allowed our generation to enjoy Mzanzi’s own film ancestors. “Mayibuye I’Retro Afrika Bioscope Mayibuye” enjoy the African Cinematic jewels!!!

Written by: Thokozile Nwebani

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.

What Was Happening When

1980 – Upondo No Nkinsela

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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.

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