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Interview – Zwelethu Radebe – ‘The Hangman’ – A Short Film


Posted August 12, 2018 by

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Interview – Zwelethu Radebe – ‘The Hangman’ – A Feature Film

Zwelethu Radebe’s harrowing tale is set near the end of Apartheid and has won multitude prestigious awards. The film stars Thato Dhladhla (Thina Sobabili: The Two of Us) and was written and directed by Zwelethu Radebe. This important drama has now been selected for the Oscar qualifying film festival HollyShorts in Los Angeles and Urbanworld Film Festival in New York.

In the height of Aparthieid South Africa, when the truth of Khetha’s father’s disappearance is brought to the surface on the eve of his execution. Khetha a prison warder in the Gallows Pretoria must either choose forgiveness or live forever with regret of failing to accept the truth.

Right after graduating Zwelethu Radebe won a Student Silver Award at the prestigious South African Loeries. His latest work The Hangman garnered the Best South African Short Film award at 38th Durban International Film Festival and many more awards across the world.

South African actor Thato Dhladhla who is known for this work in the South African film Thina Sobabili: The Two of Us and shows like Isithembiso: The Promise and Isidingo: The Need. The film co-stars Khulu Skenjana who was part of Zulu alongside Orlando Bloom and Forrest Whitaker, and Invictus directed by Clint Eastwood. The EMMY nominated actress Lerato Mvelase is known for her moving performance in Life, Above All by Oliver Schmitz that screened at Cannes Film Festival and the film introduces Mxolisi Matlabe.

Just some of the wins include Best in Fest, Best International Drama, and Best Cinematography at the Discover Film Festival, as well as the Silver Main Jury Award and Best Young Jury Award at the Best of International Short Films Festival.  The Hangman was also in competition at Toronto Black International Film Festival, New York Africa Film Festival, LA Shorts International Film Festival and many more.

Interview - Zwelethu Radebe The Hangman


To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘The Hangman’, where did the idea come from? How did you get involved with the film?

I wrote and directed The Hangman – The idea came from wanting to explore some of the reasons why a black South African would chose to work as police officer or prison guard during a Apartheid, for a system that was designed to disempower black people.

I wanted to look at the human struggle of Apartheid, so I told the story of The Hangman – which tells the story of black prison warder working in the Gallows Pretoria in the height of Aparthieid South Africa, when the truth of Khetha’s father’s disappearance is brought to the surface on the eve of his execution. Khetha must either choose forgiveness, or live forever with regret of failing to accept the truth.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring in ‘The Hangman’?

I had an amazing cast, which consisted of Thato Dhladlawho plays the lead Khetha. Khulu Skenjana, who plays the father Mfundisi and Lerato Mvelase,who plays the mother Sizakele.

Did you face any significant challenges throughout the film’s production?

The funding process proved to be a long and strenuous process. It took about 4 years to get the funding which was disheartening at times, but we kept the faith. We eventually got the money to make the film and didn’t waste time in going into production.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

I’ve been influenced by a lot of filmmakers and photographers throughout my career even as a student. For The Hangman I studied the work of Frank Darabont, Steve McQueen, Tim Robbins, Martin Scorseseand Jacques Audiard. Who all had films that dealt with important subjects matters within the prison system.

When and where can we expect to see ‘The Hangman’?

The Hangman will be screening at the HollyShorts Film Festivalscreening at the Chinese Theatre on the 17thof August 2018 @12:00pm and at the Urbanworld Film Festivalin New York in September.

What advice would you give any up-and-coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

I would say never give up on your film made, no matter how long it takes to realise. Take the time you need don’t rush it’s a worthwhile process. Always remember that filmmaking is storytelling and not just an arrangement of pretty shots, the story is the gold of filmmaking and what you’ll never be forgotten for.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I’m currently developing a feature film version of The Hangman.


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