Let’s talk, Thula
We heard it through the grapevine – Thula Mooreland is neck-deep in trouble!
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.”
WE HAVE TO TALK
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.
REAL TO REEL
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.