Written by: Tiisetso Tlelima
East London first-time director, Mlandu Sikwebu’s much-awaited introspective film uMalusi opens in cinemas across the country on Friday, July 10th. Shot mostly on consumer bought miniDV tape, the 78-minute feature film follows the story of an arrogant ‘coconut’ boy, Malusi Mati, from an affluent family in East London who thinks the world revolves around him. When an unfortunate accident occurs he’s forced to flee from the police and hides out in East London’s township, Mdantsane. Leaving his comfort zone to seek refuge in this township he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and has to learn life’s lessons the hard way. This is a film about a young man’s journey from boyhood to manhood. We caught up with the director, Mlandu Sikwebu, he gives us the low-down on who he is and how the film came about.
Who is Mlandu Sikwebu?
“Mlandu Sikwebu is an ambitious 28-year-old East Londoner trying to create the finest films S.A has ever seen.”
What do you want to achieve with this film?
“I hope the film conveys a positive message for the youth. I wanted the audience to see the dangerous effects of drugs and drug use.”
uMalusi tells the story of a private school boy who has to learn life’s lessons the hard way. What are some of these learns he has to learn?
“Well, he has to learn that life doesn’t revolve around him. He’s forced to step off his high horse and acknowledge that he’s not invisible. He learns that there is life outside of the fast cars, women and money, and that drugs kill. But most of all he learns that not everyone around him is trustworthy especially his girlfriend.”
How did the idea to make a movie like this come about?
“It started with a bit of introspection when I was a Sales Rep. I loathed working hard for something I wasn’t passionate about. I then wrote the script and sent it to Jahmil. He then added a few characters and Umalusi was born.”
In another interview you said it was important for you to tell this story because you see yourself in the main character. How so?
“The film is familiar to me because I was raised in a privileged family in the slums of Mdantsane. My friends at school in the morning were white, privileged and wealthy. In the afternoon they were black, broke and needy. I felt I had a thorough understanding of both worlds and wanted to express it on film.”
What challenges did you encounter during the making of uMalusi?
“Because there was no money and contractual agreement with anyone, the cast could come and go as they pleased. We had to work with a small crew of only four men and we literally had to carry our cameras and other shooting equipment on our shoulders.”
What kind of music was used for the film’s soundtrack and why?
“We used African hip-hop and local house music by Lungelo and Wandi for the movie soundtrack. We wanted an African youthful sound.”