Shepherds and Butchers movie poster

The latest movie from leading South African filmmakers Oliver Schmitz and Anant Singh, Shepherds and Butchers, has been selected open the 5th edition of the Jozi Film Festival.

Fresh from picking up the third place Panorama Audience Award for Fiction Films - a first for an SA movie - at the Berlin Film Festival, Shepherds and Butchers will have its Johannesburg premiere as the Jozi Film Fest opens at Rosebank's Cinema Nouveau on 15 September.

Making the announcement on August, the festival organisers also revealed that members of the filmmaking team would be in Johannesburg to introduce the film along with some of the cast members.

"It is an honour to have Shepherds and Butchers invited to open the Jozi Film Festival," Singh said in the same statement. "The festival is an excellent platform for South African films, and has developed a profile to become one of the leading festivals in the country since its first edition five years ago."

The film is the first collaboration between director Schmitz (Mapantsula, Hijack Stories, Life, Above All) and producer Singh, whose more than 50 films stretch back to 1984 and include such South African classics as The Stick, Sarafina, Cry, the Beloved Country, Paljas, Yesterday and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Putting the death penalty on trial

It's a courtroom drama starring newcomer Garion Dowds as the young accused alongside British comedian Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Andrea Riseborough (Birdman, Oblivion) as opposing legal counsel. They're supported by a host of top South African actors, including Deon Lotz, Robert Hobbs, Eduan van Jaarsveldt and Marcel van Heerden.

Set in 1987, when South Africa still had the death penalty in place, Shepherds and Butchers tells the story (based on real events) of a young white prison guard who snaps after witnessing multiple executions, killing seven black men in cold blood.



His lawyer, John Weber (Coogan) is a passionate opponent of the death penalty, but how can he possibly win this law suit? How can one man be both shepherd and butcher, friend and executioner? Can Weber prevent the hangman from being hanged?

The film, based on the novel by Chris Marnewick, reflects on individual and collective guilt while highlighting the use the apartheid regime made of capital punishment.

"Twenty years on, the film is relevant is a country like South Africa, where we deal with extraordinary levels of violence on a daily basis, where people are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty, and where the fallout of legally sanctioned violence is still keenly felt," the makers said.

Shepherds and Butchers releases at cinemas countrywide on 28 October.

About the Jozi Film Festival

The Jozi Film Festival is an annual event that showcases the latest films made by South African and international filmmakers in one of Africa's most vibrant cities - Johannesburg.

The fifth Jozi Film Festival will screen an exciting mix of South African and international films at several venues throughout the city, including The Bioscope in Maboneng, from 15-18 September.

It will also offer provocative Q&A sessions with the filmmakers in attendance, as well as various workshops and networking events.

At the closing awards ceremony, the festival will honour filmmakers with awards in the following categories: Best Feature Film, Best International Feature Film, Best Feature Documentary Film, Best International Documentary Feature Film, Best Short Fiction, Best International Short Fiction, Best Documentary Short, Best International Documentary Short, Best Student Film, and Audience Choice Award.

For more information, visit or

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission