Maseko’s reward after nine years
“The nine years it has taken to make this film have been some of the darkest times of my life. I have experienced depression, self-doubt, fear,” director Zola Maseko said of the difficulty to raise funding for a black South African film. His project needed just a few more than the regular millions to bring the whale Sharisha to life through computer-generated images. The world premiere of his film, The Whale Caller, was at the Joburg Film Festival last weekend.
Last night in Rosebank it all seemed worth it. Maseko lifted the festival’s award for Best African Film and a handy R150 000 prize money to go with it.
The Drum director’s film had the biggest heart of the movies on show in the festival’s first year, screening 60 mostly African films at venues throughout the city. Based on the novel by Zakes Mda, The Whale Caller is a magical film about a whale caller in Hermanus, played by Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, who lives for the annual return of the southern right whales, especially his favourite whale, Sharisha. When he falls in love with a fierce and unusual woman called Saluni (played by Amrain IsmailEssop), a love triangle takes hold of their lives. “Whale Caller took nine years because Zola is stubborn ... not willing to take money from funders who wanted him to cast bankable Hollywood actors,” said Mda at the premiere. Rehad Desai’s first documentary since the International Emmy Awardwinning Miners Shot Down (about the state, big business and the massacre at Marikana) – called The Giant is Falling – won Best South African Film. The big prize of the night – Best Film and R150 000 – went to a deserving Licínio Azevedo for his film The Train of Salt and Sugar.
WHALE OF A TIME Film maker and director Zola Maseko