Tue Sep 26 16:34:01 SAST 2017

Local lads manage to bring Solomon Mahlangu to life in Kalushi

2017-03-16 10:26:23.0 | Mduduzi Nonyane |

The story of Solomon Mahlangu, an apartheid activist who was hanged at Pretoria Central Prison in 1979, comes to life in local film Kalushi.

Picture credit: Facebook.

But this is a story unlike any other political drama you've seen.

So sacred is the story that the cast burnt impepho (an incence), drankumqombothi, (sorghum brew) visited Mahlangu's grave at his birthplace in Mamelodi, Pretoria east, as well as visiting Mahlangu's ancestral land in KwaNdebele, Mpumalanga, to ask for blessings from Chief Lucas Mahlangu, an uncle to Solomon, before shooting began.

"The blessings were evident, because filming was so much fun," says lead actor Thabo Rametsi.

Having taken ten years to come to fruition, the result is an exhilarating story about young men fighting for freedom.

When Solomon is beaten to a pulp by a white police officer for selling vegetables on a train, he realises the need to fight back.

His close friend, Mondy, played by Thabo Malema, tells him about a plan to skip the country and join Umkhonto weSizwe for military training so they can come back and fight the unfair system.

The young guerrillas, led by Tommie London, played by Welile Nzuza, narrowly escape arrest as they cross the border into Mozambique, where they spend six months in a refugee camp before they went to a military training camp in Angola.

All of them handle the AK47 rifle for the first time, and are told how deadly it can be when in the wrong hands.

After a year of gruelling military training, the young men return to South Africa but are stopped in their tracks by a police officer. They are then arrested and a trial ensues which sees Solomon being sentenced to death.

Rametsi, who says he is a total stranger to playing powerful politicians, portrays the political legend excellently.

"This role was different because of having to perform these rituals. I have never had to ask for permission for a role before. So this one was special," he says.

He adds that he had to watch a lot of documentaries about African politicians and how they behave to prepare for the role.

The movie was shot in Hartbeespoort, in the North West province, and the Palace of Justice in Pretoria.

"I really enjoyed shooting, the Hartbeespoort landscape is amazing and we worked hard to bring out the military scenes of Mozambique and Angola," he says.

"The military scenes required a lot of research, in terms of how Solomon reacted to intense training."

He praises co-star and namesake, Thabo Malema, who plays Mondy, for seeing the humour of military training on set.

"He is such a great actor, also a funny man on set, so he put everyone at ease after an intense shoot."

Director Mandla Dube says his research was limited to public records, as most of the documents are classified.

"The movie took almost 10 years to make but came out exactly like I wanted. It is a story of an unsung hero, so we had to get it right creatively," he says.

The movie will also be screened at different international film festivals.

"It's bound to get people talking about South Africa's heritage," says Dube .

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