Mukunda Michael Dewil
South African screenwriter and director Mukunda Michael Dewil at work.

Writer and director Mukunda Michael Dewil has joined the ranks of Neill Blomkamp, Sharlto Copley and Gavin Hood, South African filmmakers enjoying international success, with his latest film Vehicle 19, which has made it on to Hollywood’s 2010 Hit List for the best original screenplay of 2011.

The prestigious list, compiled by top producers, agents and managers, puts Mukunda’s movie in the company of works such as Safe House starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Portman’s BYO, and Olatunde Osunsanmi’s Dark Moon.

“The script is a contained thriller set in South Africa and shows an innocent bystander getting wrapped up in a world of international espionage when he picks up the wrong car at a rental company,” says Mukunda.

The movie is being produced by Peter Safran and ­Ryan Haidarian, the former head of production and development at South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation, which is producing the action thriller. The executive producer is Gary King of Johannesburg-based award-winning production house Picture Tree, which also represents Mukunda in his commercial work.

The Hit List success follows on the heels of Mukunda’s debut feature film Retribution, which stars top South African actors Joe Mafela and Jeremy Crutchley. Retribution has been making waves in the international film festival circuit and is set for local release through Ster Kinekor in August 2011.

Vehicle 19 stars Paul Walker, the cop in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Car movies have helped Walker’s career out a whole lot; this time he’ll not only play the lead role, he’ll also help out with the executive producing.

The script has Walker, an “unsuspecting traveller” in a foreign country, picking up the wrong car at a rental depot, and as a consequence becoming tangled in a web of police corruption.

Vehicle 19 is in pre-production and is scheduled to be shot in Johannesburg later this year. The film has already been bought for release in the UK, Germany and the Middle East.