FTER completing their three-year Bachelor of Arts in Live Performance degrees at Johannesburg’s Afda college last year, Simphiwe Mhlanga and Thato Molosioa formed a partnership to create content that they and their peers can relate to.
In their final year of study, they each produced and starred in short films that received critical acclaim at the Cape Town Film Festival and the Berlin Student Film Festival.
Mhlanga’s Sicela Amanzi: The Day the Tap Ran Dry is a heartbreaking story about two sisters who live through a drought in Thokoza township south of Johannesburg.
“The film questions what you would do if your life was in someone else’s hands,” says Mhlanga.
Inspired by identity, Molosioa’s 12-minute film, I’m Black and I Hate It, explores what it is like to be a young black woman in South Africa, as well as how society and the media define beauty.
Now they are working together on two new drama series that play on themes of deception, sensation and politics.
“Both 10-episode series are influenced by the state of our country. We look at everything from crime, corruption and politics to rape, human trafficking and harassment on campuses,” says Mhlanga.
“The stories are inspired by what women go through, but also how love can be powerful at the same time,” says Molosioa.
They don’t yet have the financial backing to produce either series, but hope that writing the scripts will open doors for them.
Both young women were raised by single mothers in Johannesburg. They have much in common and agree that were it not for the love and support of their moms, neither of them would have such a powerful drive to succeed in the film business.
“Our mothers raised us to believe we don’t have to be doctors or lawyers to make a contribution to society,” says Mhlanga.
They were influenced by their favourite TV shows, including Gaz’lam, Backstage, Home Affair and Generations.
“I remember watching drama series and saying to myself, one day I will be on that screen,” says Mhlanga.
“I grew up watching SABC,” says Molosioa. “I love the South African drama series, but I also loved The Bold and the Beautiful and Days of Our Lives.”
They believe in being able to let go of a narrative without necessarily tying things up neatly — which can, they say, lead to “bubblegum” filmmaking.
“Producers need to allow characters to grow and allow them to have their own minds,” says Molosioa. “Not letting go of a story can kill the narrative. Sometimes the story can’t continue, and you just have to let it end.”
They are also fervent about encouraging local talent and would like directors who tell South African stories to stop scouting for big-name foreign talent in the lead roles.
They plan to use all the skills they have learnt, including writing, producing and directing, but will also continue to hone their acting.
“Our passion lies in being behind the camera and telling the story,” says Mhlanga. “As a director your voice comes through the story, whereas when you’re the actor you’re given a script and you don’t ask questions.
“But we need to grow in the industry and that will require us to be actresses first.” • Watch the films on Afda’s website: afda.co.za/studentwork/440/ 1 /i/’m-black-and-ihate-it/ and afda.co.za/studentwork/416/1 /sicela-amanzi/
PICTURE THIS: Simphiwe Mhlanga and Thato Molosioa are ready to take on the world of film and TV