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TAKING BACK THE STABLE (article first published : 2005-07-12)

On June 25 at the Playhouse, a group of South Africa’s key cultural institutions helped celebrate the conclusion of this year’s Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) with the launch of Taking Back the Stable, a project that will take centre stage at next year’s festival.

In Taking Back the Stable, a group of young actors, dancers, and musicians will create an original stage musical exploring the Stable’s history, the part it played in transformation, and the role that the theatre project, its methods, and its ideals can still play today in addressing contemporary issues.

The youth will be mentored by some of South Africa’s most well-known cultural figures, including Mbongeni Ngema, who will direct the workshops, along with Gcina Mhlophe, Strini Moodley, Nise Malange, Joseph Shabalala, Manu Padayachee, Jay Pather, Bhoyi Ngema, Bongani Zindela (star of Mzansi), and Madala Kunene. Unpublished poetry from South African poet laureate Mazisi Kunene will be transformed into new Afro-Indo hip-hop.

Taking Back the Stable will yield a documentary film, a new musical theatre drama, and a double CD of original and classic South African music. The film will be shot on Hi-Definition (HD). The film’s South African premiere will come at next year’s DIFF. SABC2 will broadcast a 48 minute version during Heritage Month in September 2006.

“I am really excited about this project,” says Mbongeni Ngema. “The Stable Theatre launched my career as well as that of many well-known artists and it is time we paid back our debt.”

The eThekwini municipality joined the project last week and is sponsoring the launch, co-hosted by SABC2, the National Film and Video Foundation, the Durban Film Office, and DIFF. Taking Back the Stable is an empowerment initiative being produced by a consortium of micro-BEE companies - Mahala Media, Current Affairs Films, and Fineline Productions - with a solid record of success in South African media. Both the theatre and film productions will include a strong element of training and development.

“It’s an ambitious project with a broad scope,” says co-producer Junaid Ahmed of Durban-based Fineline Productions. “Czech TV has already committed to broadcasting a feature-length version, and many other broadcasters and festivals around the world are interested. This is the South African documentary of 2006. If not film, period.” Fineline’s own newest documentary, Nkosi, narrated by Mhlophe, was screened after the event.

“This is not the kind of documentary that just recaps a history,” adds director Michael Lee, an American now resident in the country. Taking Back the Stable is intended to rejuvenate an old story and give it a whole new life that goes on when the film is done.”

More information from Illa Thompson at Publicity Matters on 031 201 1638 or e-mail: pubmat@iafrica.com




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