06 March 2013 by Tara Turkington

Fanie Fourie’s Lobola: 20 questions with the movie’s producer and screenwriter

Fanie Fourie’s Lobola is a romantic comedy just released in South Africa that will make you laugh and cry.

Dinky Magubane (played by Zethu Dlomo) and Fanie Fourie (played by Eduan van Jaarsveldt)

Fanie Fourie's Lobola was officially released in South Africa on 1 March 2013. So far, this playful and quintessentially South African romantic comedy has delighted audiences and critics alike, and has already scooped several awards, including the Audience Choice Award at the 2013 Jozi Film Festival and the Best Comedy Feature at the Sedona Film Festival in the United States.

We caught up with Janine Eser, who was a producer and co-writer on the movie, and was also its music supervisor. Eser, who is South African and has a drama degree from Jo'burg's University of the Witwatersrand, currently lives in Los Angeles. She was also an associate producer on the Academy Award-winning Tsotsi, and developed that screenplay. We asked her 20 questions...

1. Where did the idea for Fanie Fourie’s Lobola come from?

In 2008 I read Nape 'a Motana’s novel, Fanie Fourie’s Lobola. The novel was so charming and I thought it was a strong premise for a film. The title made me laugh out loud for starters. Once Upon A Story, our screenplay development fund, optioned the novel and I began working on the screenplay in 2009.

2. What did you want to achieve most with the movie?

I’ve always wanted to make a film that could explore particular South African issues with a lighter touch. I think laughter often touches people profoundly when it is coupled with poignancy. Making people laugh and cry in the same film is not an easy feat. By being honest, you can make people laugh because they recognise the bizarre nature of life around them in similar situations. But that same honesty can move people deeply when they feel a truth of their experience in the material. 

3. What was the hardest part of making the movie?

Every part!

4. And the most fun?

The most fun was casting the actors, seeing those words one had written on the page suddenly come to life and take on a whole new energy.

Janine Eser, who was a producer and co-writer Janine Eser, who was a producer and co-writer

5. How did you choose the lead roles?

We had a fantastic casting director, Moonyeenn Lee, on board who really went the extra mile for us. I’ve worked with her for more than half my life and she is truly brilliant at finding the right actors.

6. Where was the film shot?

In Gauteng.

7. Where did you get all the fabulous cars from?

They were created for the film.

8. What are the main differences about making movies in South Africa, versus in the United States?

Money. And the fact that it is such a huge industry in the US. South Africa has so many incredible elements to work with, from our spectacular locations to our great crews. But it is always a struggle in South Africa to raise financing and make a film.

9. Which is your favourite part of the movie and why?

Mmm ... it’s hard say without giving anything away ... so I’ll pick a part from early in the film. When Fanie is driving to pick up Dinky for their first date in Brazzaville and he is all freaked out about being lost. Everything is unfamiliar to him, but then she walks down the street. She’s dressed up and gorgeous. She walks the dirt road like she’s walking the red carpet. And time kind of stands still for both of them. It’s a moment when you suddenly feel that the film is going to go in a different direction than either character had expected initially.

10. The score is evocative and interesting. Can you tell us a little about the process of creating it?

Our composer, Adam Schiff, didn’t use a large orchestra or large musical group. The score consists of intimate recordings of single traditional instruments mixed together to represent Fanie's and Dinky's separate worlds coming together as the film progresses. These recordings are processed in a modern way to give the score its contemporary sound. You don’t hear these elements in an obvious, conscious way, but I think subconsciously the score guides the emotional heartbeat of the film brilliantly.

11. The soundtrack is fabulous. Did artists like Chris Chameleon and Jack Parow write songs especially for Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, and if so, what was their brief?

Thank you! Adam Schiff (who is the composer and other music supervisor on the film) and I selected the 23 tracks on the soundtrack. Jack Parow didn’t write songs for the film, but when Henk and I wrote the script we always had the Cooler as Ekke track in it. Adam and I listened to a lot of Jack Parow when we were sourcing tracks for the film and his music kind of became a voice for Fanie in the film.

I think the film makes you laugh and cry because it shows the richness, complexity and humour of South African culture and people.

We chose well-known artists like Hip Hop Pantsula, Freshlyground, Radio Kalahari Orkes, Lira, Mi Casa, Teargas, Bongo Maffin and Fokofpolisiekar. But we also felt that a few underground tracks would be interesting, so we included artists like Mix n Blend, Richard the Third and PHFat. There was an amazing range of spectacular South African music to choose from.

Chris Chameleon did write the songs for his character, Sarel Fourie. We had them in the script but then he turned them into magic with Hunter Kennedy (Die Heuwels Fantasties/Fokofpolisiekar) and Fred Den Hartog (Die Heuwels Fantasties). They really are so funny and brilliantly produced.

12. What is your favourite song in the film?

Dinky Magubane of course!

13. Where did the funding come from to make the movie?

It was a split between private funding, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and the Department of Trade and Industry.

14. How long did it take to make?

Well we started on the screenplay in 2009, so I guess just over four years.

15. How have audiences responded to the film so far?

It’s the best part of making a film like this – watching it with a South African audience. It’s been such fun. We just had our opening weekend and were number four at the South African box. So we’re holding thumbs that the good word of mouth continues and we keep on playing! We won the Audience Award at the Jozi Film Festival in February and I just found out that we won the Audience Choice Award for Best Comedy Feature at the Sedona International Film Festival in the US. Nice to win audience awards!

16. Is lobola as big a deal, really, as the movie makes out?

Every family is different, but I would say certainly yes, for most families.

17. Why should audiences see the movie – not only those in South Africa, but those who might be interested in coming to South Africa?

The film was at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angles in February and many American viewers came up to us afterwards saying that they couldn’t believe that they had seen a South African romantic comedy. They loved it so much. We are presented as such a one-issue country to much of the rest of the world, and we are not. I think the film makes you laugh and cry because it shows the richness, complexity and humour of South African culture and people. One of the reviewers from The Sunday Independent said that, 'The movie’s title may include a word most of the world won’t understand, but it’s a story that should touch everyone.'

18. How did you get into making movies?

I started out as an actress so my first experiences were acting on movie sets. Then I worked in London for British Screen and that pulled me into screenplay development and it was a slippery slope from there!

19. Have any of the cast been offered new roles yet as a result of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola?

When I was out in South Africa last year working on the grade of the film, Jeremy Nathan, one of the producers I work with, came for a meeting about another project. He was making this series for South African TV, Room 9, and just couldn’t find the actress he was looking for. I took him in to see our leading lady, Zethu Dlomo, on the screen we were grading. Grading is colour correcting on the picture, so there is no sound. But even without sound, he could see how magical she is. I think within a week she was cast. Room 9 has been an incredibly successful series. I’m sure that many of our talented actors from the film are going to have great futures ahead of them, too.

20. What advice would you give to young, aspiring people wanting to get into the movie industry?

If you have a passion for film, do everything you can to really educate yourself in film; read screenplays, watch movies, read books. Educate yourself in life, too. It’s not a glamorous life, however much it looks that way. Talent is a vital ingredient, but persistence and dedication are what it is all about.

comments powered by Disqus