Let’s talk, Thula

We heard it through the grapevine – Thula Moore­land is neck-deep in trou­ble!

TV Plus (South Africa) - - DRAMA -

Sea­son 1 Thurs­days (from 6 April) SABC3 (*193) 19:30

The beat­ing heart of new lo­cal drama Thula’s Vine (2017- cur­rent) is ex­posed in its open­ing se­quence. “There’s a beau­ti­ful shot where we have these hands em­brac­ing the soil be­cause our story is about the fact that for a lot of Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and Shangaan and Venda peo­ple, their ac­tual fab­ric is in the soil. Who they are is tied to the land and that’s why it’s so ex­plo­sive,” says se­ries co-pro­ducer Wandile Mole­batsi of Coal Stove Pic­tures. “It’s not re­ally about what we un­der­stand eco­nomic revo­lu­tion to be about now. It’s not about be­ing po­lit­i­cal, it’s about the fact that your great grand­fa­ther and great grand­mother are buried in this soil.”


Ex­plo­sive is a term that comes up of­ten as we dis­cuss the themes that will come up through­out the se­ries, in­clud­ing land rights, mixed race fam­i­lies, farm com­mu­ni­ties and in­her­i­tance. That’s a

tough sell for a tele­vi­sion drama. When you’re in­vited into peo­ple’s homes, the last thing you want to face is hos­tile si­lence thanks to what Wandile calls “an un­com­fort­able din­ner ta­ble dis­cus­sion”. “But we’re hop­ing af­ter ev­ery episode that Twit­ter is go­ing to ex­plode and peo­ple are go­ing to be up­set… and then we’re go­ing to talk. That’s the beauty of TV, it al­lows for de­bate,” Wandile ex­plains. And how do you get peo­ple talk­ing in­stead of sulk­ing? Well, you put peo­ple above pol­i­tics and you let us fall in love… with Thula Moore­land (Re­nate Stu­ur­man).


“When we meet Thula, she’s a cut- throat jour­nal­ist un­earthing cor­rup­tion and ex­pos­ing scan­dals,” says Wandile. “In the first episode, we show her on the red car­pet go­ing to all these awe­some events tak­ing self­ies with peo­ple in the mid­dle of the street – and then it turns out that ac­tu­ally she’s at the heart of a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal scan­dal with a mar­ried man who’s hav­ing an af­fair.” The en­su­ing me­dia feed­ing frenzy sends Thula run­ning back home to the Moore­land wine es­tate where her bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther Ger­ard (Martin Le Maitre) raised her along­side his daugh­ter Pa­tri­cia (Si­van Raphaely), while her mother Ntombi (Nandi Nyembe), a grape picker on the farm, brought up her son Nkanyezi (Wandile Mole­batsi) sep­a­rately. “It’s not a doc­u­men­tary. It’s not an ex­po­si­tion on land. It’s about this young, vi­brant South African woman who’s deal­ing with a love af­fair,” says Wandile.


Wandile drew on his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with land claims and in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships while cocre­at­ing Thula’s Vine with writer and co-pro­ducer Fidel Namisi. “For Fidel, be­ing a Kenyan he un­der­stood that land an­chors peo­ple heav­ily. And we started to ex­plore what land means to a South African,” says Wandile. “My fam­ily had gone through quite a long process of us try­ing to re­claim a por­tion of land in the North­west and we thought that’s a great story. It’s in­cred­i­ble that Thula’s Vine is com­ing out at a time when land is­sues are be­com­ing so heated again.” He adds, “And the is­sue of race is some­thing I live with ev­ery day. It frus­trates a lot of South Africans that we don’t talk about it. I’m mar­ried to a French Mau­ri­tian woman and the looks that we get, even when we’re out in Dur­ban on Bal­lito, be­cause she’s white and I’m black and we’ve got this beau­ti­ful coloured boy is an is­sue. Be­ing told that it’s not an is­sue doesn’t re­ally help us at all. The great thing about TV is that you can use the medium to get peo­ple to talk about it.”

Thula’s Vine was shot on lo­ca­tion at a real wine farm.

Left to right: Re­nate Stu­ur­man, Mthunzi Ntoyi, Bon­tle Modis­elle, Si­van Raphaely and Wandile Mole­batsi kick back on the farm.

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