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South African Producer Zikona Debese Debuts Film ‘Loving Thokoza’ On Showmax.

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EASTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA, May 28th, 2020/www.gbafrica.net/ When producer Zikona Debese left Mthatha to study film at the University of Johannesburg, she had three main objectives in mind — to educate, entertain and fulfil fantasies through storytelling — all of which resonate in her latest offering Loving Thokoza.

Eight years after leaving her home, Debese produced her first blockbuster film and watched it premiere on Showmax last week.

Finally watching Loving Thokoza on Showmax has been rewarding, the 26-year-old said.

“It feels unreal, as if my own life is a movie or a dream that someone is going to wake me up from.

“Putting a [film] together is pure magic!

“There are so many drafts, so many challenges and so many compromises to be made before the viewer watches the story on their screen but the whole journey is amazing and the best feeling is always realising that we did it,” Debese said.

Debese led a team of junior crew members and brought the film to life within a nine-day shooting schedule.

“What has always fascinated me about filmmaking is knowing that there is a team of people behind the scenes working to show us what we see on TV.

“So being a part of that team that takes an idea from paper and brings it to life, will always be exhilarating for me,” Debese said.

Loving Thokoza, a Black Brain Pictures production, follows Charlotte Grootboom (Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa), a young teacher in apartheid-ravaged Thokoza, where she is determined to show her pupils life’s greater possibilities through a debate society.

The opportunity to produce the film fitted in well with Debese’s aim to create stories for the benefit of audiences.

“I love being a creative because not only does creativity entertain but it also educates and fulfils people’s and my own fantasies.

“A lot of films are based on ‘what if’s’ because we all wonder what would happen if life or certain aspects of it were a certain way.

“Film gives you those scenarios.

“In the case of Loving Thokoza, we have been able to educate people not just about the history of SA but some life lessons to be learnt from rejection.

“Moreover, we’ve thrown in an entertaining element to characters such as Mashudu [played by Vele Manenje],” Debese said.

The Cape Town-born filmmaker took an interest in film while still a pupil at Dalindyebo High School in Mthatha.

At the time, neither she nor her family knew any filmmakers, which made it harder to convince her parents to let her pursue a career in film.

“Being from Mthatha and wanting to become a filmmaker wasn’t something that made sense because we weren’t really exposed to people who worked in the industry — all those people were in Johannesburg — so my whole family wasn’t sold on the idea because no-one really knew what you do on TV if you’re not an actor on screen.

“They eventually warmed up to the idea when I was in matric because I explained that if they won’t let me follow my dreams then anything else I do will be depressing for me,” she said.

Debese cut her teeth in film on the set of Inside the Baobab Tree in 2015.

She joined Black Brain pictures as an intern, working behind the scenes on different productions from sitcom Ses’ Top La to prison drama series Lockdown.

Over the years, Debese switched between different roles from production assistance to co-ordinating and casting, before becoming Black Brain Pictures’ in-house producer.

“I have learnt so much about what goes into producing a film.

“At first, I loved the idea because it meant I could take control but I have come to learn what responsibilities that comes with and I’m fortunate to work with such an amazing team of individuals who all bring their A-game.

“When you’re a producer, you have to carry the story from its inception to the final product, while also minding the budget and everything in-between.

“The most important thing is ensuring that the story doesn’t get lost while trying to accommodate things like budgets, schedules and all else,” she said.

Coming Soon

John Boyega Teams Up Robert De Niro For Netflix’s ‘The Formula’ Film

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According to the Deadline, Gerard McMurray has made his return to the studio and is set to write, direct, and produce new Netflix film; The Formula, starring John Boyega and Robert De Niro, via his recently formed production company Buppie Productions. McMurray is noted for is unprecedented pivotal directional role of Burning Sands, one of Netflix’s first original features for the streamer.

Boyega was recently lauded for his executing pleasant cast in a Steve McQueen’s acclaimed anthology film series Small Axe starring in the Red, White and Blue installment. His previous credits include the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Detroit. He is currently in production on They Cloned Tyrone with Jamie Foxx.

De Niro returns to Netflix following his work in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which also stars Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. He is about to start filming David O. Russell’s next untitled film with Christian Bale and Margot Robbie and also recently wrapped Wash Me In the River opposite John Malkovich. Besides Burning Sands, McMurray also recently directed The First Purge as well as a recent episode of the rebooted The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access.

The story will follow a Formula One racing prodigy who is forced to become a getaway driver to save the only family he has left. The project came together under Rosenthal and Welsh’s overall deal with Netflix. Jason Michael Berman is exec producer, with Sam Shaw and Buppie Productions’ Ephraim Walker on as co-producers.

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Tv Series

Showmax Original Series Starring Laycon Will Premiere In February

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Big Brother Naija Season 5 winner, Lekan Agbeleshe aka Laycon, is set to star in Showmax’s first-ever Nigerian Original series, ‘I Am LAYCON.’

Speaking about the Showmax Original, Laycon expressed his excitement about the show, saying, “I am excited to continue my new life journey and embrace the new responsibilities of evolving not just myself but everyone around me. I want you to come along for the ride as you get to see the growth that you have supported and loved.”

I Am LAYCON is the first Showmax Original shot in Nigeria. “Showmax is committed to supporting homegrown talent in Nigeria,” says Yolisa Phahle, CEO of MultiChoice’s Connected Video. “Laycon is a hugely inspirational figure and the perfect choice to kickstart our original content here. Fans across Africa tuned in to see what it takes to win Big Brother Naija, so we’re excited to take those fans along with Laycon on this journey as he adjusts to fame and life outside the house.”

I Am LAYCON is set to premiere exclusively on Showmax in February 2021. Among others, upcoming Showmax Originals include Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s ancient Africa series Blood Psalms, a co-production with Canal+ International, and Uthando Lodumo, a reality series about South Africa’s gqom queen Babes Wodumo and her fiancé, Mampintsha, all expected in 2021.

Subscribe to Showmax for N2900 per month or choose the mobile plan and watch on a single mobile device for N1450. The Showmax Pro subscription is N6300 per month, and the mobile version of Showmax Pro is N3200 per month. Go to www.showmax.com for more.

Coming from humble beginnings, the 26-year-old musician and philosophy graduate had to hustle his way through life before landing a spot in Biggie’s house, where he wormed his way into the hearts of fans across the continent with his wit and lyrical genius. Laycon beat 19 other housemates on 27 September 2020 to emerge as the winner of BBNaija S5, winning 85 million Naira worth of cash prizes. Following his BBNaija triumph, Laycon already has 2.4m followers and growing. He is now working on his first album.

Fans of BBNaija and lovers of exciting reality TV are invited to follow Laycon on his journey after BBNaija, as he settles into life as a star with his own reality TV show, while juggling his personal relationships and growing music career in one of Africa’s biggest cities, Lagos. Will he achieve his ambition to blow?

The BBN S5 collection on Showmax has every Head of House challenge, weekly tasks, the Betway challenges, Saturday Nights parties, Sunday night evictions and even the private diary room sessions when the housemates had to nominate who would be voted out every week. And, of course, the big finale where Laycon took home the biggest prize in Big Brother Naija history!

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Radio and TV News

Showmax And CANAL+ Announce First Kenyan Original Series

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Streaming service Showmax is expanding its investment in Africa with its first original Kenyan series and second co-production with global broadcaster CANAL+. The leading media company and pay-TV operator and the internet TV service provider have begun production on Crime & Justice, a gritty police procedural and legal show set in Nairobi.

Crime & Justice features a heavy-weight cast with Sarah Hassan (Plan B, How to Find a Husband) and Alfred Munyua (Poacher, The First Grader, Sense8) starring as Makena and Silas, the two detectives at the heart of the topical show that follows one ripped-from-the-headlines case per episode, all the way through to the courtroom verdict.

“When I first read the script, I loved the delivery and realness of Silas as a character. It’s not exaggerated and he’s no Rambo hero; he just tackles his cases the normal way. I found a very real edge with this script, and I hope I’ll do justice to the role,” says Munyua.

Hassan says she is looking forward to playing a detective for the first time in her career. “This is a very different character; I’ve never played anything like Makena before. It’s very exciting to get a character that makes me grow as an actor.”

Crime & Justice features a heavy-weight cast with Sarah Hassan and Alfred Munyua

Hassan and Munyua are joined by Maqbul Mohammed (Varshita, Auntie Boss) as DCI Boss Kebo, Paul Ogola (Sense8, Kati Kati) as Prosecutor Sokoro and Brian Ogola (Lusala, Disconnect) as Caleb, the resident pathologist, as well as the stage and screen legend John Sibi-Okumu (The Constant Gardener, The First Grader), Muhugu Theuri (Pillow Talk, Pieces of Us), Brian Abajah (Sincerely Daisy), Martin Githinji (Sue na Jonnie, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) and Justin Mirichii (Rafiki, Watu Wote) in guest roles.

Crime & Justice is directed and produced by Adam Neutzsky-Wulff, whose slate of films and series include All The Little Things We Kill, starring Elizabeth Marvel (House of Cards, Homeland), and You Are Here, starring Teen Choice nominee Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars, iZombie, The Originals), Peter Vack (Love Life, The Bold Type), Lea Thompson (Switched at Birth, Back to the Future) and MTV Movie Award winner William Baldwin (Dirty Sexy Money, Gossip Girl, Parenthood).

Working alongside Adam in the production team is an all-star Kenyan crew, including co-producer Maureen Wanjiku (Subira, Kenya’s 2019 Oscar entry, East Africa’s Got Talent); two-time Kalasha award-winning lighting technician Walter Odhiambo (Plan B, 40 Sticks); cinematographer Sammy Maina (Lost in Africa, Country Queen), who’ll be taking over from Helge Gerull after episode 2; art director Eugene Oyoo (Kenya’s 2018 Oscar entry Supa Modo); and casting director Lorella Jowi (Watu Wote, Kenya’s first Oscar-nominated film).

While this is the first Kenyan Showmax Original, it is not the first foray into original Kenyan content for the MultiChoice Group, Showmax’s parent company. With more than 25 years of experience in Kenya with its video entertainment businesses GOtv and DStv, MultiChoice produces more than 10 original Kenyan productions each year, including some of the most popular series on its flagship East African channel, Maisha Magic, like Kina, Selina, Pete and Chozi. Showmax subscribers benefit from this wealth of content, as many of these much-loved shows are also available on the standalone streaming service.  

“We are fundamentally an African business and are invested in telling African stories that reflect the lives, languages and cultures of the continent. We believe in African talent and look forward to shining the international spotlight on not only Kenyan stars, but the Kenyan technical industry’s capabilities,” says Yolisa Phahle, MultiChoice Group CEO for General Entertainment & Connected Video. “We believe that streaming video is a powerful way to deliver these shared stories. This is one of many more Showmax Originals we have in the pipeline across Africa.”

Crime & Justice follows the announcement of the first CANAL+ and MultiChoice co-production earlier this year, Blood Psalms, which will premiere on Showmax in 2021.

Based on ancient African mythology, Blood Psalms is an epic 10-part series that chronicles the rise to power of a fierce teenaged princess, Zazi (Bokang Phelane from Keeping Score, Emoyeni), who battles a world-ending prophecy to navigate her people through ancient curses, long-standing tribal vendettas, and the wrath of the Gods.

CANAL+, which will distribute Crime & Justice to its French-speaking base, is also committed to entertainment in Africa. Fabrice Faux, Chief Content Officer of CANAL+ INTERNATIONAL, says, “As part of our strategy of providing our subscribers with the best original content from the continent, we are proud to partner with Showmax and enrich myCanal as well as CANAL+ channels with such premium series.”

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Comedy

Netflix Signs A Multiyear Deal With Comedian Kevin Hart

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According to The Verge, Netflix, Inc; an American over-the-top content platform and production company has signed a multiyear deal with Kevin Hart and his production company HartBeat Productions for four exclusive films starring Hart and first dibs on films the comedy star develops with his company. Hart had partnered with Netflix earlier for his comedy special Zero F**ks Given, which Netflix says was the “#1 Netflix comedy special in 2020

In the report, this new deal would bring the lucrative comedy star even deeper into the fold as Hart’s films have grossed a combined $4 billion in the global box office, according to Netflix, so taking advantage of that star power to draw users to the streaming service and keep them around makes perfect sense.

Relying on recognizable comedy stars has been a successful formula for Netflix. Adam Sandler’s deal with the company has produced films that consistently rank among the top of Netflix’s charts. Sandler’s films on Netflix have been so popular that Netflix has renewed its deal with the former SNL star twice just to keep him around. Beyond that, Hart and Sandler share a similar broad appeal, generally enjoyed by all ages in the US and fans around the world. As Netflix expands globally, films with stars who are recognizable everywhere become more and more important to keep growing its subscriber base.

Hart’s not without his controversies — most notably, a pattern of homophobic behavior (and tweets) that cost him a gig hosting the Academy Awards in 2019. The star has since acknowledged his mistakes, but Hart’s past remarks could be a concern for some Netflix subscribers.

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