Interview with Jahmil Qubeka, King of Kwano director 

Jahmil Qubeka taking in the Cannes film scene
Published: July 3rd, 2017
Jahmil Qubeka taking in the Cannes film scene

Jahmil Qubeka taking in the Cannes film scene

An interview with world-stage filmmaker, Jahmil Qubeka

“I am not a conformist and I have a rebellious streak,” says world stage filmmaker Jahmil Qubeka Winner of six SA Film & Television Awards including Best Feature, for his second film, Of Good Report, Jahmil will be coming to Plett in October to direct King of Kwano, a script 6 years in the making, originated by Clyde Berning and scheduled for production in October in Kwanokuthula.

When you’re young and ambitious, it can sometimes be difficult to overcome all the obstacles life and society throw at you, particularly in the film industry. Sometimes, the younger you are, the fresher your ideas are. One inspirational film production and training organisation based in rural Western Cape that embraces youth is iKasi Media and one exciting filmmaker who is on the verge of taking over.

Jahmil Quebeka didn’t let his age or inexperience hold him back from taking the journey to become a feature film maker. His documentary and feature film work has enjoyed screenings at various prestigious international film festivals – Rotterdam Film Festival, Pusan International Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival, Cannes Film Market and Stockholm Film Festival. Jahmil has a link to Plett by way of local filmmaker Daron Chatz who mentored Jahmil in his early career days, working in Johannesburg at the time. Jahmil took the time to talk to Plett Tourism about his inspiration, working in the industry and shares advice with others who are keen to break into the film world.

Plett Tourism (PT): Your feature film, Of Good Report, has been internationally recognised. Please tell us why you think this film was honoured and recognised. Do you think South Africa has bestowed you with similar honours for this film?
Jahmil Qubeka (JQ): Of Good Report made its International Festival bow in 2013 starting with the Toronto International Film Festival. The film had a very healthy festival run which is often the best one can hope for a film of its meagre size. Regarding honours and recognition, I am grateful for the acknowledgement my work has received. I can’t honestly say I feel my work is under appreciated, if that is what you are asking.

PT: You seem to enjoy pushing the boundaries, trying different messaging and genres. So where does King of Kwano come from?
JQ: King of Kwano comes from a desire to make a family orientated film that is heartfelt, funny and inspiring. Not all of my work is of a subversive nature. When the shoe fits, a project with artistic integrity will come along and based on the extent of the challenge the execution poses will ultimately influence my decision to take it on or not. The project came to me through my partner’s insistence that I sit down and read Lika and Clyde Berning’s script. After much cajoling on her part, Layla finally got me to read the damn thing. It was immediately apparent that the draft needed extensive work but at its core was an inspiring tale of redemption. So I committed and set to work on chiselling the script.

PT: What other messages and genres do you see yourself tackling in the future? What movies do you watch that inspire you?
JQ: I hope to tackle every genre possible. What motivates me is work that communicates a poignant point of view and is personally challenging for me to execute. The endeavour is to engage audiences through a vociferous, entertaining thrill ride experience. Going to my films is like going through an amusement park ride.

PT: Since the beginning of your career and your association with your friend and mentor Daron Chatz, how has the industry changed in South Africa? Have these changes been beneficial for you?
JQ: I’m reticent to comment overall on the industry as my insights do not represent a holistic picture of the state of the industry. I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. I’m not a conformist and I have a rebellious streak that is always endeavouring to find alternative ways from the status quo. So the challenges faced by the industry are exactly that, the industry’s challenges. I will always find ways to make my films whatever the political or social climate. I believe it’s a healthy perspective for filmmakers to have. Otherwise we are always moaning and groaning without doing much of what we really love, which is making movies.

PT: There seems to be a general theme of “feastto- famine” trend when it comes to African film directors in South Africa. Do you have any hope things will reduce this gap, that negativity?
JQ: The feast or famine scenario faced by independent, mostly black filmmakers is not unique to the South African landscape. All across the planet filmmakers are faced with this very dilemma. Unless you come from an economically privileged background, making independent films will in most cases leave you flat broke. It’s the nature of the beast. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. There are however a lot of incentives that can be initiated to foster a friendlier environment for struggling artists. But that’s a whole other conversation.

PT: What advice do you have for young and aspiring film makers?
JQ: My advice is stop aspiring and be who you are. Go out there and make your films. Embrace the technical elements, engage them so that they can be your brush as you paint on your filmmaking canvas. Learn the history of your chosen endeavour. Learn about those that came before you, in their struggles you will find the inspiration to go on. In filmmaking hard work does not necessarily equate to achieving excellence. That will be in your clarity of vision and just how precise you are with your execution. There will always be a reason for you not to make your film, just get off your butt and make it. Shoot it on your cell phone if you have to. You need to always have a plan B.

PT: What are your top 3 favourite movies of all time?
JQ: My favourite films list changes from time to time but currently Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now.