Thapelo Mokoena
20-something actor, Thapelo Mokoena

Thapelo Mokoena is a face as familiar as pap and vleis thanks to his roles in Isidingo and Fear Factor South Africa. This year he brings us his first feature film, Skuif.

Produced by his company, Easy Sundays Productions, Mokoena says, “Skuif is a movie about five characters whose lives are intertwined by their addiction to cigarettes.”

Lungelo Mdlalose, for whom Skuif is a first attempt at being a feature-film director, wrote the script.

Set in a fictitious town called Haniville, the cast of young South Africans are used to show “how the decisions you make today can impact the rest of our lives”.

The movie has a star-studded cast of well-known TV faces; though they don’t have much experience when it comes to film acting. But these were the people on Mokoena’s wish list when he was putting the ensemble together.

In addition to producing the film, Mokoena is the protagonist, Themba, a man who feels beaten by his financial woes and what he fills his lungs with.

His bout with addiction intercepts the lives of characters played by YFM DJ and Vuzu TV anchor, Siyabonga Ngwekazi, and new O-Access presenter, Dineo Moeketsi.

Skuif, which is township slang for “cigarette”, also sees former YO TV presenter Khanya Mkangisa as a cast member.

The entire film is a 24-hour account of the lives of the residents of Haniville, a town named after Chris Hani. Moekena says they used the national struggle hero’s name as “a tribute to our fallen soldiers”.

“While looking through our history and heritage, we looked at our icons and he really stood out,” he says. This first-time film producer was quick to say that the film did not aim to be political in any way.

Instead, the movie that began as a public service announcement about the effects of smoking some three years ago, aims to promote making decisions that lead to a long and healthy life.

“What’s interesting,” says Mokoena through a smile, “is this is also special because of the director’s journey with cigarettes. In the process of writing the script, Lungelo stopped smoking and he hasn’t touched a cigarette in three years.”

So, if the production team can practice what they preach, what’s stopping young people from heeding the no-smoking message?

“First of all,” starts Mokoena, “we’re not Michael Moore and we’re not bashing the idea of smoking. We’re saying there are things out there that you could be experiencing instead of smoking – things that could give your life better opportunities. The subtext in Skuif is that we leave the choice up to you at the end of the day.

“Look, we’re not being preachy, but we’re telling an everyday life story. It’s about the guy who is an addict, is trying to quit smoking and how the lives of those around him are affected. That could be me, that could be you, it could be anybody.”

It sounds like Skuif, which goes straight to DVD on April 1, is something to look out for. But why then is it not being released on the big screen? Mokoena’s plans go beyond a short run at the cinema.

“We’re still looking for a cinema release deal, but first prize for me is releasing it on DVD. That’s because the average South African cannot afford to go to a cinema. So, if Skuif is only at cinemas, then only the Sandton crowd gets to see it and that’s not really who South Africa is,” he says.

He pauses, “My challenge is to create films that are affordable yet of a high quality and tell credible stories. And I have to make sure I move as many units in the two months following the DVD release before it is bootlegged!”

The original copies of the DVD will cost no more than R70 and will include various bonus material.

There’s no denying it, Mokoena has taken big strides since he first had a role in the Hunter’s Dry adverts.

And although Mokoena is Fine with a capital F, as he has shown, he’s more than just a pretty face. His passion for this film is proof.

“Because this was a self funded film, every day was a challenge. But the blessing is that we have a movie in the can. Now it’s much easier for certain doors to open,” he concludes.

Skuif comes out on DVD in April

Source: TheNewAge