She is King, a major feature film supported by the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC), is a joyous, feel-good musical celebration of Zulu culture in a contemporary setting. The GFC has helped with both funding and locations for the movie, which shows off “the big city” of Johannesburg as the dynamic, modern “Broadway of Africa”. The film will be released on the national circuit in time for the December holidays this year.
The story was written by the director, Gersh Kgamedi, and co-producer Nicola Rauch (the other producer is Mpho Ramathuthu). This is the first major feature film for Kgamedi. The film, which took the producers three years to develop, tells of a talented young woman, played by young actress Anga Jamela, who travels from her village in KwaZulu Natal in the hope of becoming a star.
She auditions for a role in a musical based on the real life story of Zulu queen Mkabayi ka Jama, aunt of King Shaka, who played a little-known role as the family matriarch, scheming behind the scenes to bind together the Zulu royal family. Our heroine lands a role in the musical, and is then faced with the challenge of keeping up with more seasoned performers, avoiding the jealous machinations of the ageing leading lady, and surviving the punishing dance rehearsal schedule. Along the way she falls in love with one of the actors. Others who star in the film are Ifani and Bongani Madondo.
Co-producers Rauch and Ramathuthu have said that as independent women film producers, they were aiming for a film based around a strong African, female, role model. They were inspired by films like “Pitch Perfect” and “Moulin Rouge”. The other aim was to showcase contemporary Johannesburg life for an international audience, and get beyond the stereotypes of lions walking in the street, or of a place of poverty and crime. The film also showcases South African music, including such international stars as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Juluka and Brendia Fassie, as well as a number of lesser-known traditional Zulu musicians.
The film, which is supported by the Department of Trade and Industry, was pre-sold to M-Net for Africa-wide rights, and has also been sold to Flourishing Films for international rights.