Hear Me Move

Hear Me Move is the first film showcasing South African dance and portrays local youth embracing their identities 20 years after democracy.

Writer and producer Fidel Namisi, director and producer Scotness L. Smith and producer and actor Wandile Molebatsi of Coal Stove Productions in Johannesburg are determined to make their dreams come true. Their tenacity as a team got them through the long wait to finance and develop their debut feature film Hear Me Move.

The power of sbujwa

The first film to showcase South African dancing, Hear Me Move, incorporates many local forms of dance, of which sbujwa is the most prominent in the movie. “Sbujwa is about where we are now, where our youth is now. It originates from the dance form pantsula or, in other words, where we come from,” says Namisi.
Comments Smith: “We don’t exclude other dance forms because the movie opens with a hip hop sequence, and we incorporate pantsula and contemporary dance. Sbujwa originated in the late 1990s and early noughties, encompassing various dance forms such as pantsula but infused with house beats.”

In the movie, sbujwa frames a narrative around this dance form that is inherently South African. Smith continues: “Twenty years after democracy, young people are able to express themselves through this dance movement. Dance as a subculture is huge in our townships, other urban areas and even here in downtown Johannesburg.”

Good advice

Says Smith about the process of making a movie in South Africa, for which aspiring filmmakers are often ill-prepared: “Young filmmakers are deeply intimidated by the amount of bureaucracy we have to go through in order to make a film. Although the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) are set up to assist filmmakers, it takes time and patience to realise ideals.”

From January 2009 to May 2013 Coal Stove Productions applied for and received funding from the NFVF, the dti and the IDC with the assistance of executive producer Danie Bester, signed a distribution agreement with Ster-Kinekor and started auditions in July 2013 with world-renowned choreographer Paul Modjadji on board for five months to put the dancers / actors through their carefully managed dance moves.

Smith mentions that during pre-production: “It became clear to us that the film’s dancing was going to make it exceptional so our aim was to get dancers who could act, which seems like an easier thing to do than it actually is. That was a big challenge.”

Deep issues

Namisi says, “I really wanted to make a commercial film to which people can relate. On the surface it seems like a popcorn flick, but we explore very deep issues.”

The movie centres on dance as an expression for the characters’ emotions as they deal with matters such as absent fathers, brotherhood, family and teamwork. “The movie is colourful, young and vibrant and quick-paced. But absent fathers in the context of South Africa is deeply explored. The two lead actors go in search of their own identities which, in the end, force them into conflict,” mentions Smith.

Namisi says managing the tight budget proved to be difficult at times. “We wanted this film to be a representation, a snapshot of South African popular music between 2013 and 2014. In the end we managed to secure music deals with visionaries in the industry for the 18 dance numbers we feature in the film.”

Inspiring and confident

Remarks Smith: “Was I going for the poverty grade in movies such as Tsotsi and Yesterday? No, I wanted vibrant colour, sweat, glistening skin and we were actually shooting during the bloom of graffiti in Jo’burg. The film exudes energy and its look is inspiring and confident. Hear Me Move was shot over five weeks for six days on the RED 1 and the Phantom. We had straight and circular tracks, a Steadi and drone cam and car mounts.”

The movie was principally filmed in the Johannesburg CBD with Cheryl Etok as line producer and cinematographer Justus de Jager. Joburg graffiti culture features prominently in the movie, as does iconic pop culture imagery. Hear Me Move is currently in post at FiX Post Production in Johannesburg.

Namisi concludes: “Our message with Hear Me Move is that the youth is taking ownership of the new identity that they are defining for themselves. They are cognisant of where they come from and positive about what the future holds. It’s time to get over being ‘previously disadvantaged’. Those should only be words on paper, but not a state of mind.”

Hear Me Move features Nyaniso Dzedze as Muzi, Mbuso Kgarebe as the antagonist Prince and Bontle Modiselle as Khanyi. Other principal cast members include Lillian Dube in the role of Gogo, Wandile Molebatsi as Thami, Makhaola Ndebele as Shoes and Sthandiwe Kgoroge as Lerato. Thembi Seete, Trevor Gumbi, Lorcia Cooper, Amanda Du Pont, Boity Thulo, Alfred Ntombela and Khanyi Mbau have cameo roles in the movie.

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