Director Lineo Sekeleoane on “her baby”, Zulu Wedding
SA’s first black female director and producer talks about what it took to bring her dream, the movie Zulu Wedding, to life
IT’S been billed as one of the funniest things you’ll see all year. Described as unashamedly romantic, glamorous and hilarious, Zulu Wedding is one of Mzansi’s most-anticipated movies. Although South African movie-goers will have to wait until April to watch it, there’s already a lot of buzz around the film. Director Lineo Sekeleoane, who’s making waves as the country’s first black woman to conceptualise, direct and produce a big-screen movie, says there’s been so much interest they’ve had to delay the film’s debut until April to accommodate a continent-wide launch.
Yet behind the romcom’s love and laughter lies tragedy and heartache.
“I had a miscarriage after production, so this is like my baby,” Lineo reveals to DRUM. “It’s something I gave life to in a way, but it took a life, so it has to work.”
At the time of filming, Lineo (41) says she was under tremendous pressure to find funding and sponsorship. She was also involved in a bitter court battle over her businessman father’s will. “I was his sole heir but he’s got eight other children so they’re all fighting for his stuff,” she says.
With all the stress she was under Lineo lost the baby three months into her pregnancy. It was tough to bring her brainchild to life when she lost the baby she’d been carrying but Lineo says she drew strength from her cast. “The most amazing part was the crew and the cast because of everything I was going through.”
She was especially impressed by Pallance Dladla. “We had a choreographer on set but the things he did himself were just amazing. “Lorcia Cooper as well – she’s such a wonderful spirit. Having Lorcia on
set was great because she’s such a positive person, but when you see her on Lockdown, she’s the total opposite. She was the holy spirit of the project. All of them have something beautiful about them.”
WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
The romantic comedy tells the story of feisty New York-based choreographer Lungile aka Lou, who will do anything to avoid falling in love. Lou (Nondumiso Tembe) returns to South Africa to see the Zulu king she’s been promised to, in an attempt to convince him that he doesn’t want to marry her.
But she doesn’t expect to deal with his charming adviser, Zulu (Pallance Dladla). And when Lou’s American love interest, Tex Walker (Darrin Dewitt Henson), follows her home to prove his love for her with the promise of paying lobola, things take a turn for the hilarious.
Although she’s making a name for herself in comedy, Lineo says her home life was anything but happy, due to the rocky relationship between her parents, Daniel and Edith Sekeleoane.
“Dad was a great father but a terrible husband. He used to cheat on my mom a lot and abuse her physically.”
But she does have some happy memories. “My favourite childhood memory was a little scrap car my brother, Mabuti, and I used to play in,” she recalls.
At age six Daniel took Lineo and Mabuti to live with him in his home country, Lesotho. “Dad basically held us ransom. There was nothing my mom could do because she was South African.”
As a result, Lineo had little contact with her mother, who passed away after battling breast cancer in 2002. Daniel died in 2015. The businessman had interests in both South Africa and Lesotho, including a bakery, a shopping centre, supermarkets, a poultry farm, a restaurant and even a cinema.
Before his death Daniel wanted his children to know how every one of them operated. “Whatever decision my dad made, he always called us to ask what we thought,” Lineo says. “We had to work, we never had holidays.”
HOW LINEO GOT STARTED
Lineo was bit by the film bug at a young age. “I used to watch TV a lot but I used to sit really close to the screen. Whenever there was a car chase and there’d be a car coming towards me, I’d get up and run!”
She returned to South Africa with her father at age 14, matriculated from Kimberley Girls’ High School and then completed a post-matric certificate at Kingswood College, a prestigious private school in Grahamstown. In 1994 she enrolled at Durban University of Technology to study accounting but dropped out after finding she hated it.
Not knowing where to go next, she says she checked her pockets for inspiration. “I started looking at all my slips – where do I spend my money? It was all spent on movies because that’s probably what I wanted to do.”
In 1997 she signed up to study film at Afda, charting a path that would eventually see her break into the TV and movie industry. The early 2000s saw Lineo working as a production manager for M-Net Cares, a supervising producer at KTV and the programming manager at Channel O.
She started producing shows such as For Sale, a 13-part comedy series on SABC1, as well as the 2008 miniseries Macbeth: Entabeni, under her company Solidstone Productions.
As co-owner of Tunc Productions, Lineo produced the series Redemption and started Top Gospel, a gospel channel for Top TV (now StarSat). And in 2017 she started filming Zulu Wedding, several years after she was inspired to write it.
Lineo reveals the movie was born out of tragedy nine years ago. “My cousin was raped and my dad called me to take her to hospital,” she recalls. “Whenever something bad would happen, I’d go to my happy place in my mind and start imagining funny situations. I thought of a joke that I was going to tell my friend.
“It was the first time I saw the HIV prick test, and I thought it would be funny if she’d go on a date and prick her dates because she tests them before she sits down,” Lineo laughs.
She then started writing little scenarios for a character called Mabo. And that’s when Lineo decided to fulfil her childhood dream of making feature films and founded her company, Luju Inc, in 2009.
“My mother used to call me honey. Luju is honey in siSwati,” she explains. “My loving husband is siSwati too, so I took my two favourite things and started the company from there.”
Lineo shares a four-year-old daughter with her husband, and prefers not to reveal their names.
She lavishes praise on her cast and crew but Lineo is quick to dismiss the admiration she’s received as SA’s first black woman director and producer. “I don’t like firsts. Completing a film is a difficult thing to do in any country at any level.”
Lineo, who funded the film from her own pocket with help from friends and sponsors, won’t disclose how much it cost to make. “It’s been a very costly experience but it’s been an exciting ride,” she says. “When you work with amazing people, you learn from everyone.”
Catch Zulu Wedding in cinemas from 20 April.
ABOVE: Film producer and director Lineo Sekeleoane with her father, Daniel Sekeleoane. She and her brother were raised by him in Lesotho, his home country.
Scenes from Lineo’s movie Zulu Wedding, which stars Nondumiso Tembe, Pallance Dladla, S’Thandiwe Kgoroge and American actor Darrin Dewitt Henson.