Asinamali, the musical directed by Mbongeni Ngema, will be released on the commercial circuit in South Africa in March 2018. However it will go on limited release on 15 September 2017 in order to compete for selection as South Africa’s official Oscar submission.
The Gauteng Film Commission receives a credit in the film for its help with locations, most notably the Johannesburg Fort, which forms the backdrop to the movie’s prison scenes.
Asinamali (We have no money) was originally a stage play, written in 1987. Set near the end of the apartheid era, Asinamali deals with the township unrest that had started to flare at the time, and with issues of the day such as necklacing, political activism, street violence and prison brutality.
Ngema himself, wearing his trademark black beret, stars in the movie as Comrade Washington, an ex-MK soldier who has turned to music rather than violence. He arrives at a South African prison as an Amnesty International representative, with a proposal to put on a musical inside the prison. There is much prison violence on display, lush visuals and entertaining music, but the real focus is a love interest: Washington’s secret motive is to try and find a former girlfriend, a singer, who is being held in the prison.