Nigerian-born, Johannesburg-based filmmaker Akin Omotoso continues his exploration of the dramatic and cinematic potential of his adopted home town in his latest offering, Vaya.

And Jozi film fans will get the chance to catch the film ahead of its 2017 release when it has its Africa premiere at the upcoming Joburg Film Festival on 29 October, fresh from a successful world premiere in Toronto in September.

Omotoso's last two movies, Man on Ground (2011) and Tell Me Sweet Something (2015), were both essentially rooted in contemporary Johannesburg - the former a drama played out against xenophobic riots in a township, the latter a romantic comedy with an inner city setting.

With Vaya, Omotoso returns to drama but in a markedly different way, giving the viewer yet another take on southern Africa's richest and busiest metropolis. Based on real stories of homeless people, the film follows the journeys of three strangers newly arrived in Joburg from Durban.

Nhlanhla (Sihle Xaba), desperate for money to pay lobola for the woman he wants to marry, is excited at the prospect of the job in the big city that his cousin Xolani has promised him - until he finds out what the job is.

Zanele (Zimkhitha Nyoka), charged with delivering young Zodwa to her mother in Johannesburg, believes this could be her chance to change her own life - until she realises she's placed Zodwa in grave danger.

And Nkulu's (Sibusiso Msimang's) business in the city, that of fetching the body of his deceased father, seems straightforward enough - until he finds he might not be the only one interested in the body.

Vaya interweaves their stories in a gripping, often funny and deeply moving film about survival and dignity on the harsh streets of Johannesburg and Soweto.



"I think it's important to tell multiple stories about Joburg," Omotoso told City Press this week. "The same Joburg houses Hakeem's character in Man on Ground arriving to find his missing brother, and also Nomzamo's character in Tell Me Sweet Something, as well as the four characters from Vaya."

The film was well received by audiences and critics at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was the only South African film to be part of the official selection. According to a TIFF review, "the empathy it engenders through characters like Zanele is what sets it apart from other similarly gritty dramas.

"Its vision of Johannesburg isn't restricted to just the sordid, cliché details surrounding crime and poverty. To the film's ultimate benefit, Omotoso also uses Vaya to define Johannesburg by its music, rituals and other positive aspects of its vibrant culture."

Cinematographer Kabelo Thathe is also praised for his work. "Like a helicopter tour of Johannesburg, his stunning aerial photography takes us from the high-rise buildings, to the suburbs, and all the way down to the dump, where the city's poorest are left to scavenge. The imagery is truly the film's star, conveying much of the plot's underlying tensions through Thathe's indelible images."

Vaya will be showing on two screens at The Zone in Rosebank at 8pm on Saturday, 29 October, and again at the King's Theatre in Alexandra at 6.30pm on Thursday, 3 November.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission