South African crime drama heads for the US

13 February 2014

Los Angeles-based production and distribution company Wrekin Hill Entertainment has acquired the North American rights to iNumber Number, a South African thriller about a cop who, after being cheated out of a promotion, “crosses over” to become a part of a cash-in-transit heist gang.

According to the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), Wrekin Hill is looking toward a US nationwide theatrical release of iNumber Number in the spring of 2014. It will open in cinemas locally on 25 April, giving South African audiences the chance to see it first.

“It’s a major coup for us as filmmakers because it highlights the quality of the film,” producer Harriet Gavshon told the NFVF this week. “The international film market is highly competitive, and securing a US release is a big win for the film.

“Universal Pictures optioned the remake rights to iNumber Number at the end of last year, so we are urging audiences to make sure they see the original first, as we are certain it will become a South African classic,” Gavshon said.

The film, which had its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival in September, was written and directed by Donovan Marsh and stars Presley Chweneyagae (Tsotsi, State of Violence and S’dumo Mtshali. It was produced by Marsh, Quizzical Pictures’ Harriet Gavshon, JP Potgieter and Mariki van der Walt, and executive produced by Nim Geva and Owen Kessel.

An action-packed movie, iNumber Number is about a pair of cops battling corrupt colleagues as well as a gang of armoured-car thieves. The film boasts an oddball cast that brings comic relief to the ruthless thuggery.

Chili (S’dumo Mtshali), and Shoes (Presley Chweneyagae) have been partners in the police force for eight years. After they make a risky arrest, their corrupt superior refuses to give them the reward they are due. Enraged, Chili sets about infiltrating a gang of armoured car thieves.

iNumber Number is South African director Donovan Marsh’s fourth film after Dollars and White Pipes, Spud and Spud 2: The Madness Continues.

Universal’s remake of the film will be produced by Chris Morgan, the writer of the Fast & Furious movies, and his partner Emile Gladstone, via their Universal-based Chris Morgan Productions. Aram Tertzakian of XYZ Films is also producing. Nate Bolotin and Nick Spicer are attached to executive produce.

“The Hollywood remake of notable foreign movies has proved to be successful in many instances, and this is a huge accolade for the filmmakers of iNumber Number,” Gavshon said.

“Hollywood continually remakes excellent foreign films because American actors and the English language draw much bigger international audiences for a film. Subtitles are still a sticking point for cinema goers and audiences generally don’t like them. In the case of iNumber Number, a great South African crime drama will have international exposure in a couple of years’ time, which is great for our industry.”

Helen Kuun, CEO of local distributor Indigenous Film Distribution, agreed. “The remake will make the film accessible to a wider audience, even though the plot remains the same. What usually happens is that the budget and special effects are ramped up because of increased financial backing. For iNumber Number, that means it will have the distinct advantage of being shown at many more cinemas all over the world.”

National Film and Video Foundation and SAinfo reporter