According to the legends of the Shangaan people living deep in the wilds of Southern Africa, White Lions are Messengers of the Gods, and their presence in their tribal lands ensures peace and prosperity for all. However it has been many years since a White Lion has been seen and the tribe suffers many hardships.

mar-whitelionBut one day a unique white lion, Letsatsi, is a born into a pride of normal tawny lions. He is destined to be revered by the Shangaan, but Letsatsi�s white coat sets him apart from the rest of his pride, ensuring that although his life will be one of adventure, it will be the life of an outsider, full of struggle and danger.

As a very young cub a venomous snake tragically kills Letsatsi�s brother, Buti, while their mother, the lioness Misava, is out hunting. Lost and alone in the wilderness Letsatsi is preyed upon by a pack of Hyenas, the lion�s undying enemy. But another outsider, a young Shangaan man named Gisani finds Letsatsi cornered in a tree and, risking his life, chases the hyenas away, so forming a bond between them that will last both their lives��

The remainder of the story line is woven into a tale that is both intriguing and a visual wonder which has to be seen to be fully appreciated., Shot on various locations, the main four being Kingdom of the White Lion (just south of the Magaliesburg), SA Lion Park, Nash�s Farm and Entabeni farm and game reserve in the Waterberg, White Lion has been a labour of love for producer Kevin Richardson.  He spoke, with overwhelming passion, to In Focus at a viewing of the film at Cinema Nouveau in Cedar Square, Johannesburg.

�The film was conceived by Rodney Fuhr in the early 80�s,� explains Richardson. He had this wild idea about shooting a feature film about a wild lion cub and then following this cub, as an audience, until he took on a pride of his own. Obviously, this was not very easy to do as following lions to film them is very tricky and then the chances of your hero dying before his 1st birthday are around 80%. He put the project on indefinite hold until he acquired the Lion Park in the late 90�s. At this time, he also met me but we had no clue that I would become so involved in the animals, something which has been part of me since I was a toddler.�

Chop Productions was involved in the early years but "we parted ways over creative differences in 2007. Peru Productions then  took over the production reins. We broke the shoot into phases as we only wanted to shoot in spring and summer when people could see Africa as never before, lush and green.

�I soon realised why this hasn�t been done before as we had a summer like we are having now in 2005! It rained a huge amount and we fell behind schedule. The locations were like marshes and everything got stuck. It was a nightmare, but despite this we achieved some remarkable footage and we instantly knew we were on to something unique. We then shot in early 2006, late 2006, 2007, early 2008 and mid 2008 to do the storyteller scenes.�

The executive producers are Rodney and his wife Ilana Fuhr while Carine Stander was the line producer. The director and DOP was Michael Swan and the sound recordist was Ivan Milborrow. The movie was shot on HD, mainly due to the amount of footage required.

Richardson comments: �Film would have broken the bank. Animals don�t always do what you want them to first time and you have to roll way in advance and way after to make sure you get the required shots. We literally rolled tons of tape and over the years we probably have close to 500-600 hours of footage.�

The Video Lab was chosen as the post production company and the decision was made to go the digital intermediate route. Mastering on HD (D5) allows the ability to go to film should this be requested by distribution. The post production was completed on 12 December 2008 and the running time is 90 minutes, including credits.

�I was deeply involved in the post sound,� continues Richardson. �It was necessary to get things as real as possible. I had a wonderful team at Area 5.1. Nicky de Beer did the sound effects and Charlotte Buys was the engineer. They really put a huge effort in to get all the subtleties through that are so important to making a nature film real. Just by the way, not ONE bit of sound was recorded live on location with respect to the animals. Only the actor scenes had a sound engineer on set. All the animals and ambient sounds were recorded and placed afterwards. We used some library stuff but a lot was recorded by us with our animals and because we have the relationships with the animals, we could get real close and intimate with them.�

Richardson is complimentary about the Department of Trade and Industry. �They have been wonderful. We are anticipating our rebate in early March or so. Otherwise the entire film has been self funded by one man - Rodney Fuhr. We don�t have a distribution deal in place as yet, however there is lots of interest both locally and abroad. We have the film with several distributors whom we met in Cannes in 2006 -  we�ve had relationships with them since and they have all been looking forward to the finished film. We are waiting with baited breath to hear their responses - positive I pray!�

Other projects in the pipeline? �Well no - err I mean yes�.. not sure, maybe. A lot depends on how White Lion is received,� he says.