The Hangman, a hard-hitting new film from young director Zwelethu Radebe, takes a different slant on apartheid, situating a heart-rending father-and-son story within the notorious Gallows death row prison of Pretoria in the mid-1980s.

The 30-minute drama tells the story of Khetha, a prison warder who must endure both the racism of his white colleagues and the hostility of black inmates as he battles to uncover the truth about his father, who disappeared when he was a boy and has now resurfaced as a death row prisoner.

Produced by Tribal Media House in association with the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and Gauteng Film Commission (GFC), The Hangman will have its premiere at Atlas Studios in Johannesburg on 1 February, followed by a second screening at the Olive Tree Theatre in Alexandra on 9 February.

Executive producer Kearan Pennells, speaking on the DJ Sbu Breakfast show on Rise FM last week, said the film, while set against the backdrop of the apartheid struggle, is really about the family struggles that took place with that system.

"What we're trying to say with the film is that secrets have the ability to destroy families," Pennells said. "We feel that, 22 years on into our new democracy, as the youth of South Africa, we still haven't addressed a lot of the family stories of people that were affected by the system, and how the system had its way of making people keep things from one another, in order just to move on with their daily lives."

The 'missing relationships' of apartheid

Writer-director Zwelethu Radebe, in an interview on Vow FM last year, said he believed The Hangman would resonate not only with a contemporary South African audience but also with a global audience, through its treatment of the universal theme of identity, "not only male identity but also identity as an individual, and where we find that".

The main character, Khetha, having had no father when he needed one, finds his identity instead through his place in the apartheid prison system, in the process becoming "something that he wasn't necessarily going to become".



For Radebe, we're still feeling the effects of these "missing relationships" on children's lives, and it's important that we start talking about them.

"The beauty about film is that you don't necessarily have to answer the questions," he told Vow FM. "But I believe that, if we start discussing them, then we can start to understand ourselves a lot better, to understand why there are certain situations and circumstances, and why we are the way we are."

'It's important that we tell our own stories'

The Hangman stars Thato Dhladla as Khetha, Khulu Skenjana as Khetha's father and Lerato Mvelase as his mother. It was produced by Dumisani Mvumvu with Pennells and Tebogo Keebine as executive producers and cinematography by Ofentse Mwase.

"We shot it as a 100% black production," Radebe said. "For me it's important that we tell stories about our people, and that we tell them ourselves … because that's how you start to create an industry.

"Right now, it isn't the case that we have a lot of young black production companies like Tribal Media House being able to create content that is completely 100% black-owned, so for me that is a future vision and hope, and this is why we're doing it, to show people that it can be done - and not only that it can be done, but that it has been done."

The premiere screening of The Hangman takes place at Atlas Studios at 8pm on 1 February under the auspices of the First Wednesday Film Club, with the director and cast members in attendance. Tickets are free, but seating is limited, so film fans are advised to get there early.

Those who can't make it will have a second chance to catch the film when it screens at the Olive Tree Theatre in Alexandra on 9 February.

Keep up with all the latest via @TheHangManFilm

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission