CityLife Arts

Young filmmaker Lungelo Mdlalose involved in discussing hot issues of the day through film

By Edward Tsumele

Young filmmaker Lungelo Mdlalose is one of an increasing number of filmmakers, who hungry for success are finding new inexpensive ways of producing impactful movies with a small budget. The Johannesburg based filmmaker has just completed a low budget film on water entitled The Water Queen, which has propelled him into an online dialogue with fellow young creatives on the continent through Solutions Cinema (a Doha Debates and North Points Institute partnership).
Solutions Cinema
 (a Doha Debates and North Points Institute partnership) an online film festival is currently taking place online. It  is a community of storytellers, students and educators committed to filmmaking that fosters public discourse, amplifies solutions to global challenges, and empowers individuals and communities to shape their own future.

 Through a series of film screenings and summit-style interactive discussions, we’ll explore story-driven strategies for social change, including how filmmakers, film protagonists and film audiences can each find agency to address inequity and injustice.

“This initiative is extraordinary, bringing together filmmakers, educators and students for thoughtful dialogue and debate about how to better use the medium of film in the pursuit of solutions to some of humanity’s most challenging issues,”says Amjad Atallah, managing director, Doha Debates. 

As part of the programming, Doha Debates is  screening among other titles the Water Queen. These short films that are said to reflect the event’s focus on untold stories and diverse voices:

Doha debates are the funders of The Water Queen. In this interview with CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor Edward Tsumele, Lungelo Mdlalose shares his experience of making The Water Queen.

ET:: What inspired the name of the film?

LM: The name of the film came about after the shoot and seeing the film. It was actually suggested by one of our producers and it worked. So we went with it. Originally the film was called NOBUNYE.

ET: .Can you tell us briefly what the  film is all about

LM: On the surface level the film is about a young girl trying to save her little brother from dehydration. However I think the film itself is a love letter to our indigenous cultures and their relationship with nature as evident with people such as the Rain Queen.

ET: Choosing the theme of water important a subject as it is, is quite unusual as movies are especially commercially driven products, especially a non commissioned film such as The Water Queen, that I gather has been self-funded. Can you tell us why you chose this theme.

LM: The film is actually not self funded but was rather funded by Doha debates and its the first non factual film to be funded by them as they usually focus on more factual content. So the theme of the film was actually one of the topics for the 2019 debates, under water scarcity/day zero and that’s how we ended up with the water theme.

ET: . I see that you are part of an online dialogue about the burning issues of the day in Africa -organised under the auspices of Solutions Cinema (a Doha Debates and North Points Institute partnership). How did you get involved?

LM: I got to know about the Doha debates through a friend and she got me to submit my film idea to Doha.

ET: And what experiences and insights can you share with us emanating from the dialogue?  You have self-financed your film, which is a remarkable feat for a young filmmaker. Tell us the journey about self-financing. Did you try to get funding from State agencies such as the National Film and Video Foundation for example?

LM: Like I said, the film was not self funded. This was actually the first in my career where I got to make a film with funding that wasn’t my own. I wish the funding was I bit more as to give us enough time to make the film but we did the best with the time we had. 

ET. Can you tell us about the opportunities available especially to young filmmakers in South Africa and what they must watch out for in terms of difficulties in getting  a film done under the current economic environment in South Africa, given your own experience?

LM: I think the opportunities available to young filmmakers is the ability to create content outside of the main bodies of the industry without a big budget and still be able to have a successful career. That all thanks to cheaper production methods, thanks to the rise of DSLR’s and social media as distribution channels. I believe it has never been easier than now for creators to create content.

ET: What are you currently working on as I hear that you are currently on set?

LM: I’m currently chasing deadlines for future work, which will be hopefully made soon. 

ET:. Which location was The Water Queen shot in?

LM: We shot the film around the East Rand, Tsakane, Vosloorus and Dawn Park specifically.

ET: . Can you tell us a bit about your cast and how you managed to get them involved especially given budgetary constraints.

LM: The two lead actors are actors I had previously worked with and enjoyed working with each other. So when the opportunity came to make the film they were my first option and the young boy is a kid from my community who was interested in acting, so I decided to give him a chance on this film and I think he did great.

ET: What lessons can you share with other young filmmakers with regards to that?

LM: Your best assets are usually around you. So be observant of your environment and try be part of your community cause it will provide you with all the basic resources you need to make your film.

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