South African film Ayanda, which premiered in Los Angeles in June, at the Los Angeles Film Festival, has been picked up for distribution in the US by American director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor Ava DuVernay.
As the writer and director of Selma (2014), the acclaimed biopic of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, DuVernay is the first female African American director to have a film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
“Ava DuVernay has long been a promoter and distributor of black independent films,” says actress and producer Terry Pheto, who co-produced Ayanda. “DuVernay herself recognises this and is proving to be a force to help bring about needed change. She is not only a savvy film marketer and acclaimed director, but also a black woman entrepreneur who is deeply committed to increasing the representation of black people on the big screen.”
Ayanda, the latest film by award-winning director Sara Blecher, is a tale of love, friendship and growth in contemporary South Africa. It opens nationwide in local cinemas on Friday, 2 October 2015, and is set for release in the US shortly after, in mid-November.
The film tells the story of a single-minded 21-year-old Afro-hipster Ayanda (Fulu Mugovhani), who has a talent for taking neglected pieces of furniture and “bringing them back to love”. Eight years after her father’s death, his prized auto repair garage is in deep debt and in danger of being sold, but Ayanda does everything in her power to hold onto his legacy.
The film also stars Nigerian actor OC Ukeje – winner of the 2015 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award for Best Actor, Jafta Mamabolo, Nthati Moshesh, Kenneth Nkosi, Sihle Xaba and Vanessa Cooke.
Blecher says the film could not have found a more well-matched distributor in the US. “Not only is Ayanda a story about women, made by women, but it also highlights female entrepreneurship and ingenuity, both talents which can mean the difference between success and hardship in a city like Johannesburg. To have the film bought for distribution by an African American woman who has made her mark in Hollywood was an incredibly proud moment for all of us involved in the making of Ayanda.”
Set in a vibrant and diverse Johannesburg, Ayanda gives audiences a colourful and vivid view of urban South African youth culture. The film has a youthful cast, and pulses with energy and street style. At its heart, however, Ayanda looks at what it’s like for a young girl to grow up without a father, and how she and others around her have to learn how to let go of the things and people they love to move forward.
Ayanda was produced by Real Eyes Films and Terry Pheto’s Leading Lady Productions, with the support of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), Africa Magic and the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It will be distributed in South Africa by Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film Distribution.