Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stealing the show at the SAFTAs

Acting legend John Kani managed to steal the show from the rent-a-scream mob at the fourth SOUTH AFRICAN FILM & TELEVISION AWARDS in Pretoria. "What is wrong with us South Africans"?" he asked when accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award, the fourth such award in six months. "Why do we not think we are good enough to play Mandela?" It was a pointed reference to Morgan Freeman's role in Invictus, the Clint Eastwood movie which is (baffingly) up for several Oscar nominations.

Not only did Kani get a standing ovation, but his statement was greeted with wild cheers from the audience (perhaps not as piercing and wild as the ones greeting each wannabe and soapie star arriving on the red carpet, but much more satisfying as they came from his peers). It was a moot point. Anyone can do a Madiba accent but Kani would have brought a lot more gravitas to the role. He was so brilliant in Disgrace, and the movie did not get any nominations. What does that tell us? Maybe Clint Eastwood's butt gets kissed so much in Tinseltown that the judges are willing to overlook the fact that Invictus was certainly not his best movie ever. Kani was right: South Africans are the only ones who can tell their own stories, we have a depth and understanding of ourselves and our own history that no imported film crew could ever grasp.

Eastwood, Damon and Freeman did their damndest and maybe the film would work for a foreign market who still think in the apartheid stereotypes implanted in their minds (all Afrikaners are bad and all of them speak in those incredibly dodgy accents which foreign film makers employ. I don't know anyone, English or Afrikaans speaking who talks like that!!!) but at the end of the day they were just a bunch of tourists really. The film was interesting from an historical point of view but in contrast Disgrace explored so many nuances and complexities, so many areas of grey and layers that Eastwood's movies just never peel back. But then Eastwood's movies are, and have always have been, aimed at the masses, and earn cult status due to their popular appeal.

South African writer Antjie Krok is in agreement regarding Disgrace's Oscar status, another legendary local film maker Katinka Heyns told me in the lobby before the award ceremony began. It was a brilliant book and an equally brilliant movie. Katinka herself is no slouch in the great movie business (think, Fiela de Kind and Paljas) and she also won a Lifetime Achievement Award and a standing ovation. Unassuming and indefatigable, Katinka is another great South African film icon.

It was heartening to see that we do honour our greats, even if quite a few awards were posthumous this year. Myself and my neighbours got officially depressed when it turned into a case of Bring Out Your Dead.

We needed a cheer up from MC John Vlismas, who was dressed as a cross between Sid Vicious and Mad Max for the night, lots of chains and bovver boots.


Anonymous said...

I didn't watch the awards simply because I thought they failed to please me, right from their initial stage.

Nonetheless, friends and acquaintances confirmed my thought.

The one thing, however, that they seemed to agree on (including you)is the Papa John Kanu act. Gosh, the man can steal the spotlight.

My opinion: Yes SA actors and actresses are good, and most of them can probably do the whole Madiba/Winnie magic thing.

But, if the movie is aimed at attracting international sponsors and viewers, 'big' names are the way to go.

It would take a very view companies(if at all it would happen)to sponsor a movie with Rapulana Seiphemo as a leading actor.

But, put Will Smith, Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman on the lead, sponsors would pour in numbers.

Like you stated, Papa Kani was brilliant in Disgrace, and the movie did not get any nominations. What does that tell us?

You can ask that again.

sarah cangley said...

Hi Mlwazeni

I disagree! Both Bollywood and Nollywood have established multi-billion dollar film industries without having to rely on big American names.

And the Australians poured money into their film industry and created wonderful movies using their own actors and directors, some of whom then went on to conquer Hollywood.

Some of our own big names such as Charlize Theron sell Hollywood movies, not the other way round.

We need to accept that we have such talent and such stories here that they deserve sponsorship from within. And we need to stop spending exclusively on sporting events and support our arts. At the moment it is left to big corporations (like Standard Bank with the Ballet Theatre) to sponsor our arts and that is wrong.

We need to create a Sollywood film industry, in other words. Egoliwood? Jollywood (Jozi)?