Sakhumzi Mati on telling township stories and the struggles of black filmmakers

by: Andisiwe Ntoni - 1 November 2016

Sakhumzi Mati, Township film maker. Photo by: Onele Liwani

Like most boys who grow up in the township, Sakhumzi Mati spent most of his time playing street soccer. But what he really enjoyed was watching television. “I used to ask myself what is it with this box that makes people watching it not want to be disturbed.” It was here that his love for filmmaking began.

Making films is expensive

After matric, he went on to get a Diploma in Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town. Once he completed his diploma, he still felt the need to do more. So he went on to study film and television at City Varsity. Sakhumzi says money plays a big role in filmmaking and, because opportunities are hard to come by, you have a better chance of producing content if you have your own funding.

Sakhumzi says he had to sacrifice a lot to bring his ideas to life. “I put in R20 000, and a friend matched my amount so I could create Umthandazo and Ibhayibhile, even though we didn’t know if it would be successful.”

Sakhumzi says his work is therapeutic

Sakhumzi says telling stories about his community’s experiences brings him joy because he is doing what he loves. “It’s also therapeutic to me when I’m feeling down. And I want to help others within film, like talented unknown actors, by putting them on the spotlight.”

Religion plays a big role in his storytelling

In Umthandazo, three men who are known for terrorising the community, plan to rape a girl making her way from church. When they catch up with her, she first asks to pray and prays so hard while standing on top of a bible that the guys get cold feet and let her go.

In Ibhayibhile, two guys rob a pastor, but one of them goes back to take the pastor’s bible. He keeps reading it at a tavern and gets mocked for it. Later someone at the tavern wants to shoot him but he is protected by the bible, which leads him to join a church.

Sakhumzi’s community is very supportive of him and says they can relate to the films. They often ask when he will do something that is longer like Tsotsi, but due to funding, he can’t. Sakhumzi keeps going because of his passion for filmmaking and his supportive friends and family. “I appeal to people to go and watch films by black filmmakers. Support them because they struggle to get their work on screen.”

Photography by Onele Liwani 

This story was first published on RedBull Amaphiko