‘Elelwani’ up for an Oscar

According to Screen Africa, Ntshavheni wa Luruli’s film Elelwani, has been confirmed as South Africa’s official entry into the Best Foreign Language Film category for the annual Academy Awards.

“I’m surprised by the entry because Elelwani has been a dark horse in South Africa, but I am pleased at the same time,” says Wa Luruli. “This is a historical moment. Elelwani, which is completely in Tshivenda, is part of those SA films that are making it possible for the SA film industry to compete with what is out there. People shouldn’t be afraid to make films in their own language.”

Nine years to make
South Africa’s first Tshivenda film that opened at cinemas in January this year, originates from the book written by Dr Titus Ntsieni Maumela, who as a teacher in the 1950s, wanted to show how education was an important vehicle to change the treatment of women in the Venda community.

The Mail & Guardian reported earlier this year, after speaking to director Wa Luruli that the movie took nine years to make. It tells the story of Elelwani and her boyfriend who are madly in love and plan to spend the rest of our lives together. After graduating, Elelwani returns to her family tin the countryside to introduce her boyfriend and announce her plans but they refuse to accept him. They have plans for her to marry the local king.

Said Wa Luruli, “Culture can only survive if it can adapt – if not, it’s doomed to die. This young woman is the present South Africa, who is trying to forge a bridge between what it was [her past], and what it is [her present].”

‘Whatever happens, happens’
It integrates the old and modern culture and Elelwani learns that there is no contradiction or conflict between African tradition and modernity, as both traditions can live side by side with the understanding that neither of the two is better than the other.”

Elelwani has received a number of accolades: the opening night film at the 2012 Durban International Film Festival; the official selection at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival, the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou and the Luxor International Film Festival in 2013; and winning the award for best actress in a leading role (Masebe) and best production design at the African Movie Academy Awards last year.

It will join Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday (2004 Academy Award nominee) and Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi (2005 Academy Award winner) in the hallowed halls of Academy Award fame should it scoop the title of Best Foreign Language Film.

“Whatever happens, happens. An entry is good enough for me,” Wa Luruli told M&G