Adze Ugah
'Good films are about taking a character and putting them into a situation where they are no longer in their comfort zone' - Adze Ugah. (Photo: www.mrsrightguy.com)

For Nigerian-born Adze Ugah, director of new South African romcom Mrs Right Guy, the film is obviously aimed at South African women, "who really deserve to see themselves on screen".

But he believes it also goes further than that, combining a universal appeal to both sexes, while being firmly grounded in South Africa - and in Johannesburg and Soweto in particular.

Mrs Right Guy - which opens in cinemas on 27 May - follows the story of love-wounded Gugu Hlatshwayo (Dineo Moeketsi) as she meets two eligible young men: serial seducer Dumile (Thapelo Mokoena) and regular good guy Joe (Lehasa Moloi).

This scenario establishes the driving tension of the film: will Gugu see through Dumile's charm, wealth and power, will she see Joe for who he really is – or is she doomed to repeat her past mistakes?

'A film for an audience that was being ignored'

The idea for the film first took root in 2011, when producers Dumi Gumbi and Cati Weinek "decided to make a film for an audience that was being ignored.

"They wanted to tell a story that was about love, how women feel about love and how Johannesburg is a great setting for love," says Ugah. "They were keen to get away from dark stories set in Jozi about gangsters and people killing each other. Most people living in Johannesburg experience the city differently: they fall in love, they work, they have relationships and friends."

 

 

By the time Ugah joined the team in 2013, it had evolved into a story about "how you can unexpectedly crash into love and how it will change your life".

The film appealed to Ugah, who enjoys directing best when he is able to delve into the heart of his character, especially when it's a character whose preconceived values and goals come into conflict with reality.

'In this film our lead is forced to collide with life'

"Good films are about taking a character and putting them into a situation where they are no longer in their comfort zone," he explains. "In Mrs Right Guy we investigate the idea of change and ask what you are willing to change."

Gugu's has a preconceived idea of relationships; hurt badly in the past, she has closed herself to love. And here, says Ugah, is where the film gets really interesting - "because it tells us that we should not become prisoners of our own making … In this film our lead is forced to collide with life and find her true self."

"The story is relatable to both sexes because it is about how we collide and change each other as people. Even if you have been hurt, and you may be hurt again in the future, take a chance on love. Just take a chance."

And Dineo Moeketsi, who makes her big-screen debut in Mrs Right Guy, was the ideal choice for the lead, says Ugah.

"When we were first starting to cast the film in 2012, Dineo Moeketsi was working only as a presenter, but I could see her potential. She was often passed over during castings for other roles, but I could see she is a strong actor; she had the playful, vulnerable yet stubborn force needed for the role of Gugu."

Celebrating living in South Africa, living in Jozi

Another key "player" in Mrs Right Guy is the setting: the city of Johannesburg. For while the focus is on love, the film also celebrates living in South Africa, in Jozi and in Soweto.

"I focused in on the characters and the setting," says Ugah. "Whether you live in Sandton, or work in Soweto, or work in Sandton and live in Soweto, Johannesburg is populated by people from all walks of life. The film is filled with settings that represent Johannesburg."

Perhaps surprisingly for a man who has always loved film, Ugah first choice of study was engineering.

"While I was growing up in Nigeria there were no options when it came to studying film as a career," he explains. "In terms of an industry there is 'Nollywood', but that is more about home videos and not film. So I went to study engineering. But when a film school finally opened in the country, I switched from engineering to do what I love."

Moving to South Africa after he'd completed his undergraduate studies was, for him, the obvious choice.

"We grew up in Nigeria with films like Sarafina, The Gods Must be Crazy and Shaka Zulu, so I knew that South Africans were making high-quality films of an international standard, and they were African stories.

"When I started looking around to do my Honours, it seemed like a very good choice to come here and learn more. There was a strong film and television industry here, and I wanted to be part of it."

Right now, he says, he is excited to see how audiences will respond to Mrs Right Guy.

"As the filmmaker, I am immersed in the process and I don't have 100% control of every aspect of the film. That is the nature of filmmaking. Part of it is about luck. And so I hope we have pulled together a good film that South Africans will enjoy."

A Fuze Films production, Mrs Right Guy was produced by Dumi Gumbi, Kethiwe Ngcobo, Mokopi Shale and Cati Weinek. It was funded by the NFVF in association with the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission