U Gugu no Andile, a drama series produced for television continues to claim a space for itself on the international landscape.
Gugu & Andile, the feature, directed by Minky Schlesinger and produced by Luna Films (now Fireworx Media) was selected in competition at FESPACO, won three awards at the AMAA’s (African Movie Academy Awards) and screened at the London African Film Festival. The film has been selected for the Rotterdam Film Festival in February 2010 and will then travel to the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Almost 5 years ago, the SABC put out a brief entitled Shakespeare in Mzansi – asking filmmakers to submit story ideas around Shakespearean plays. Four six-part miniseries were commissioned and underwent an intensive script development phase, finally going into production almost two years later.
The Shakespeare in Mzansi strand played to great audience success starting in early 2008 until the end of 2008 on SABC 1.
Gugu & Andile was shot in August and September of 2007 during the rainy season, which tested the limits of a low budget production trying to recreate events that took place almost twenty years ago.
When the strand was commissioned there were many questions about the relevance of Shakespeare in contemporary Africa. Judging by the appeal of the film, and the extent to which it has traveled to festivals, there can be no doubt that good storytelling is good storytelling. Gugu & Andile is loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, the tragedy about star-crossed lovers that has been adapted for the screen by filmmakers all over the world, in different social contexts.
Our version sets itself just before the advent of South Africa’s democracy, the early 90s, a time when the country was on the brink of civil war. The year was 1993 and democracy was at hand – so why were South Africa’s townships burning?
Gugu, a sixteen year-old from a Zulu family falls in love with Andile, an eighteen year-old Xhosa youth. During these troubled times, their love is frowned upon by both communities. This is a film about love, death and reconciliation.
It is a strange irony that many youth of today can hardly imagine what this time was like. Gugu & Andile provides a unique view on events that seem almost impossible now, looking back from our current vantage point. So as not to repeat our past, we need to remember it. Despite its devastating ending, the film suggests hope: that love at its most pure somehow prevails and can heal. It is this message at its heart that has made Gugu & Andile relevant beyond its borders, and is responsible for its appeal to widely diverse audiences.
The Rotterdam screening introduces the film to an international audience in the context of hundreds of other films from all corners of the world. It will screen as part of the program for Africa cinema.
The producers and director would like to take this opportunity to thank the cast and crew for their incredible dedication and commitment to the project. A film is a team effort, and Gugu & Andile had a great team.