Lo­cal is lekker for film pro­ducer

Lesotho Times - - Entertainment - Mo­halenyane Phakela

FOR vet­eran film pro­ducer, Taun­yane Si­las Mony­atsi, home is where the heart is de­spite the many job op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able in South Africa.

Born and bred in Koal­a­bata and Motim­poso re­spec­tively 45 years ago, Mony­atsi learned his craft at Fuba School of Dra­matic & Vis­ual Arts in 1995 and fur­thered his stud­ies at Trin­ity Col­lege Lon­don in 1998 cour­tesy of a Na­tional Man­power De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tar­iat bur­sary.

By 1997, he was al­ready mak­ing waves on the South African theatre scene and rub­bing shoul­ders with such lu­mi­nar­ies as Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Nomsa Nene, Pa­trick Shai and Ra­pu­lana Seiphemo among oth­ers.

The re­sul­tant ex­po­sure landed him an op­por­tu­nity to star on the small screen where he de­buted on the pop­u­lar Se­sotho drama, Tholoana Tsa Sethepu, as Morena Bu­lane. He also played var­i­ous roles in such pro­duc­tions as Jus­tice For All, Soul City, Gen­er­a­tions and as the lan­guage ad­vi­sor in Sa­jene Koko­bela.

De­spite es­tab­lish­ing him­self in the South African en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, Mony­atsi felt a nig­gling urge to re­turn home and use his tal­ents to de­velop the “non-ex­is­tent” film in­dus­try. In 2003, Mony­atsi packed his bags and left the glitz and glam­our of Jo­han­nes­burg for the Moun­tain King­dom.

“South Africa has a pro­fes­sional and well­pay­ing film in­dus­try, and I man­aged to make a name for my­self. How­ever, I told my­self that I would come back and help de­velop the sec­tor in my coun­try since I re­ceived a govern­ment bur­sary to study film pro­duc­tion,” he said.

“In ad­di­tion to my own de­sire to re­turn home, my friends in the SA film in­dus­try would ad­vise me that I should bring the change I wanted to see in Le­sotho and not just com­plain.

“I came with a de­sire to put my coun­try on the film­mak­ing map. When I ar­rived, there was no in­dus­try to talk about, but only a few peo­ple try­ing their best un­der dif­fi­cult con­di­tions.”

Mony­atsi said he part­nered with the Leso- tho AIDS Pro­gramme Co­or­di­nat­ing Au­thor­ity, which was later to be called Na­tional AIDS Com­mis­sion, in its theatre pro­grammes.

“My first pro­ject was Phela, an AIDS mag­a­zine pro­gramme that ac­com­pa­nied South African se­ries, Soul City, on Le­sotho tele­vi­sion,” he said.

“Since film pro­duc­tion is cap­i­tal in­ten­sive, I could only work on projects spon­sored by in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion and the Min­istry of Health. I also worked on a the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion called Thuso E Teng (help is avail­able) in con­junc­tion with the Global Fund and Na­tional AIDS Com­mis­sion.”

Thuso E Teng was fol­lowed by a num­ber of Aids-themed pro­duc­tions such as Kau La Poo 1 and 2 funded by the Min­istry of Health and Global Fund as well as youth-fo­cused Tšasa spon­sored by UNICEF and the min­istry.

“I worked with very raw tal­ent when I was shoot­ing Kau La Poo 1 and would teach the cast ev­ery­thing from A to Z about act­ing,” he said.

“It was not easy at all due to our small bud­get, and I thank those peo­ple who sup­ported my projects. I some­times got an­gry and frus­trated be­cause of the lim­ited re­sources and sup­port, yet I still hoped the sit­u­a­tion would change for the bet­ter.

“I ended up join­ing political move­ments think­ing that they would bring change due to the in­flu­ence politi­cians have in the coun­try, but it did not change the sit­u­a­tion. I re­alised that I was wast­ing my time with them and de­cided to fo­cus on my craft.”

To­gether with fel­low film­maker, Kalosi Ra­makhula, Mony­atsi and oth­ers formed the Mo­tion Pic­tures As­so­ci­a­tion of Le­sotho (MPALE) to help de­velop the sec­tor. How­ever, he be­moaned the scant progress MPALE has made so far.

“I am not happy at all with the cur­rent state of the film in­dus­try since we are not mak­ing any progress,” Mony­atsi said.

“The govern­ment has not re­alised how film can con­trib­ute to­wards the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try in terms of ed­u­cat­ing, ad­vo­cat­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing and cre­at­ing jobs while also en­ter­tain­ing.

“The in­dus­try is grow­ing at a very slow rate due to lack of ca­pac­ity, but ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions like Limkok­wing Univer­sity of Cre­ative Tech­nol­ogy are play­ing a cru­cial role in ad­dress­ing this prob­lem.”

Apart from mak­ing it big in South Africa, Mony­atsi is the first Mosotho to take part in in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals such as the 2009 Pan African Film Fes­ti­val, Zanzibar In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val and Kenya In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

His doc­u­men­tary, New Dawn, about pol­i­tics in Le­sotho from In­de­pen­dence in 1966 un­til 2012, won him the Best Pro­fes­sional Doc­u­men­tary award at last year’s Le­sotho Film Fes­ti­val.

Mony­atsi said he oc­ca­sion­ally gets called up for some projects in South Africa such as the pop­u­lar se­ries, Ea Lla, which is aired on Mzansi Magic on Mon­days.

“I re­cently worked on sea­son one of Ea Lla and will go back for sea­son two when shoot be­gins. How­ever, my loy­alty lies with Le­sotho,” he said.

“Some­times a year passes with­out me re­ceiv­ing any sig­nif­i­cant in­come yet I know that I can make a very de­cent liv­ing in South Africa. How­ever, I have a deep love for my coun­try and I am de­voted to en­sur­ing that the film in­dus­try grows.”

VET­ERAN film pro­ducer Taun­yane Si­las Mony­atsi (left) in ac­tion.

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