Instead of aiming for the bright lights and the big bucks of Hollywood, filmmaker Ntsikelelo Mavata returns to his hometown roots to make films about the people of Rhamnyiba, Eastern Cape.
Mavata is a graduate of Johannesburg’s Big Fish Digital Filmmaking School, and has taken the technical and storytelling skills he learnt in the big city home to make films inspired by the people and stories of the rural Eastern Cape.
Since 2013, Mavata and three friends have run a small production company called Kwanontsomi Enterprise. Assembling a closely knit team of local acting talent and technical crew, the company has gradually built up a catalogue of short films, documentaries and now a full-length feature film, all centred on Rhamnyiba village, outside King William’s Town.
Mavata was recently featured in a video profile on News24’s Beautiful News website.
Mavata’s love of films started at a young age: “I knew I wanted to make films from the first time I watched a bioscope at an elderly neighbour’s house for 50 cents when I was six,” he told LiveSA entertainment magazine in 2016.
As a teenager, he started writing and producing school and church plays that got more ambitious with each new production. After finishing high school, he decided to make filmmaking his life and has never regretted the decision, despite the financial obstacles that stand in the way of many burgeoning creative talents.
Watch one of Kwanontsomi Enterprise’s short film productions below:
Realising that young filmmakers didn’t have “a huge support structure in this industry, which is why I found it important to pass on the skills I had learnt at [film] school”, Mavata began to mentor and guide aspiring filmmakers in the area.
The Eastern Cape has a long tradition of storytelling, with people using music and art to express their creativity and represent their origins. Mavata says all his company really does is give those stories a platform and technology to reach a wider audiences. “Film is a perfect medium to archive who we are as a people,” he explains to Beautiful News.
Through learning the art and business of filmmaking and getting to enjoy seeing their stories represented on screen, Mavata thinks the community is learning to dream big, and he hopes his own passion and dedication to the company’s various projects will continue to inspire more people to follow their creative goals.
One of Mavata’s career highlights so far is his 2013 short film Illolo Lenkonde, which he made as his graduation film at Big Fish. It was shot with the help of the Rhamnyiba community.
The film features a standout final performance by legendary South African television actor Moshoeshoe Chabeli (best known for his role in the SABC sitcom Mponeng) shortly before his death in October 2013.
Watch Illolo Lenkonde below:
In addition to developing new talent, Mavata and his company also work closely with a local high school, teaching learners the basics of filmmaking and the creation of strong, original stories.
“We worked with around 35 to 50 students [at the nearby Victoria Mxenge High School], in grades seven through to 11… [covering] everything from coming up with ideas, scriptwriting, directing, sound and camera work,” Mavata told LiveSA. It is something he hopes will expand to other schools around the province.
Another idea Mavata hopes to develop is to produce original local content and help to develop technical skills for the Nelson Mandela Bay community television station, Bay TV. “We already supply [documentary and actuality] content to them and are currently working on a [scripted] series… [and our first feature film called Kwanontsomi.]”
Watch a short clip from the film, Kwanontsomi below:
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