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Venda 'milestone' for South African film

29 October 2013

The award-winning Elelwani, the world's first Tshivenda-language feature film, will have a special run at Johannesburg's Cinema Nouveau from 1 to 7 November before opening in South African cinemas in January.

The November run will ensure that the film can be considered for next year's South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas), says Helen Kuun, chief executive of Indigenous Film Distribution, which is responsible for the film's local distribution.

Elelwani ("The Promise" in English) is directed by Ntshavheni wa Luruli and based on a 1954 novel of the same name by Titus Ntsiene Maumela. According to Luruli, the film is about "a progressive young woman growing up in the new South Africa, trying to shed her cultural past but later realising its value; that the past is still relevant in dealing with the present, including the future".

The lead role is played by Florence Masebe, who won the best actress award at the African Movie Academy awards in Nigeria in April. The film also won the award for best production design.

The film has been described as an "ethnographic thriller infused with the tradition of oral storytelling", offering viewers a "cinematic initiation into the culture of the Venda".

The film was shot in the beautiful Thohoyandou area of Limpopo.

"Elelwani is a unique film and an important milestone in South African cinema history," Kuun told the National Film and Video Foundation. "Not only does it provides a window into Venda culture, but it's also a well told tale that is beautifully shot, with solid performances from the lead characters.

"We are confident that the film is likely to win awards, which is why we want to ensure that it is eligible for the 2014 Saftas by exhibiting it in November this year. The Saftas celebrate creativity, quality and excellence in South African film, and Elelwani is definitely a movie that we can all be proud of."

Elelwani was made possible through funding from the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, a Department of Trade and Industry rebate, and the Department of Arts and Culture.

SAinfo reporter and National Film and Video Foundation

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