South African short film “The Suit”, directed by Jarryd Coetsee, continues to dazzle audiences abroad as it makes its European premiere in competition at the Leuven African Film Festival (Afrika Film Festival – Leuven) in Belgium which is seen by many film professionals as the benchmark for Africa-focused film festivals in Europe.
Based on the treasured short story by luminary of the Drum era, Can Themba, the film is set in 1950s Sophiatown shortly before the forced removals and tells the story of a man who forces his wife to treat her lover’s suit as if it were a person. “The Suit” will compete with 15 other short films for the festival’s first prize, the Golden Young African Film Maker’s Award (YAFMA). In addition to the Golden YAFMA, two other prizes will be awarded, the Silver YAFMA and the special jury prize.
On hearing the good news, director Jarryd Coetsee said: “I feel excited and jubilant. I’d like to thank the festival co-ordinator, Barbara Brugmans, and her entire team of organizers for their hard work and passion for enabling African film-makers to express their voices on such an important platform in Europe.”
“The Suit” won the Best Short Film competition of the Scotland African Film Festival held in Edinburgh and Glasgow in November as well as the Audience Award of the Cape Town leg of the Swiss-based Shnit International Short Film Festival. It has screened at the Zanzibar International Film Festival, where it was given a Special Mention by the jury, the Red Bull Amaphiko Film Festival in Soweto, the Durban International Film Festival and opened the Mauritius International Short Film Festival. “The Suit” has also been selected for the official competition of the upcoming Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Toronto Black Film Festival and the Vancouver South African Film Festival in Canada.
The Leuven African Film Festival presents the best films from and about Africa, the Arab world and their diaspora, from the 21st April to the 6th May 2017 in Leuven and other Belgian cities. Founded by Guido Convents and Guido Huysmans, the festival will celebrate its 22nd anniversary, realized with the support of the King Baudouin Foundation. The annual Golden YAFMA supports new African talent with the creation of high quality films. While seeking to encourage a positive vision of Africa in the media, the award not only helps individual careers, but serves as a hub for the African film world.
The film was funded by the National Film and Video Foundation and produced by Luke Sharland of Johannesburg-based Mandala Films. Mandala Films implemented a mentorship programme during production through a partnership with AFDA. Father and son acting powerhouse John Kani and Atandwa Kani, who are currently shooting the Marvel Comics’ superhero blockbuster “Black Panther” in the USA, take top billing opposite rising star Phuthi Nakene. “The Suit” also features performances by Ayanda Seoka, Sabelo Ndumo, Thabiso Rammusi, Ezekiel Ratsooana and Tiny Falatsi.
Coetsee, who is currently in pre-production on his debut feature film, described the experience of working on the multiple-award winning short film: “It was inspiring and charged with meaning to work on the set of “The Suit”. The film takes places in 1950s Sophiatown which was a vibrant township in the heart of Old Johannesburg comprising residents of mixed ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The apartheid regime forcibly removed the residents and bulldozed Sophiatown to pave the way for a new whites-only suburb. However, some buildings miraculously survived the demolition and we shot almost all of our scenes in them.”
Coetsee studied English literature, and film-making in London on the Voices That Matter scholarship, as well as support from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. He first read Can Themba’s short story “The Suit” in high school. The short story has also been adapted into a global hit play directed by prominent British playwright Peter Brook.
Coetsee says: “Our cast and crew, comprising 102 artists and technicians of diverse races, ethnic groups, sexes, sexual identities, religions, ages, abilities and nationalities, were a constant reminder as we engaged in the edifying process of creative collaboration of how phenomenally South Africa has changed since the onset of the democratic dispensation in 1994. And this is another reason why I’m particularly grateful that “The Suit” has been recognized by the Leuven African Film Festival, because the festival encapsulates our guiding spirit as a celebration and determined champion of diversity and strong community. I’m motivated by the reciprocal relationship of sharing good stories with audiences across the world. The possibility of an award is just icing on the cake and ultimately means a broader recognition of this hauntingly beautiful and powerful story.”