When travelling through the long straight roads of South Africa’s interior, there is little chance of getting lost, but enough time and space to find oneself. Director Screenwriter Lwazi Mvusi and Free Women Features travel the road in their breathtaking debut FAREWELL ELLA BELLA.
FAREWELL ELLA BELLA boasts an all-female production team and is the first feature film to emerge from The Emerging Black Filmmakers Transformation Fund (EBFTF) Initiative supported by National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and in association with Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Launched in 2014, the EBFTF provides financial, marketing and other related support to emerging black filmmakers. The fund has been designed for Black directors who have released fewer than five feature films in their lifetime. FAREWELL ELLA BELLA is also supported by the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC).
FAREWELL ELLA BELLA tells the story of a young woman, Ella (Jay Anstey), who has lost herself, her career opportunities and her love in caring for her alcoholic father (Lionel Newton) in the small town of Beaufort West. When he passes away she is left with little to hold on to. After meeting her charming musician godfather Neo (Sello Maake Ka Ncube), a man who has been absent for most of her life, she decides to head to Johannesburg to bury her father’s ashes at her childhood home. Also bringing their talents to this already formidable cast is Katlego Danke, Noluthando Meje and Mary-Anne Barlow.
Holding a Master of Arts in Film and Television (University of Witwatersrand), Mvusi only 28 has written for a number of South African sitcoms and dramas along with writing and directing “The State”, a 24-minute science fiction short film that debuted at the African Diaspora Film Festival in New York in 2014. “FAREWELL ELLA BELLA is a labour of love. It reflects my passion for telling South African stories but with a focus on the female narrative, which is often sidelined in local and international cinema,” says Mvusi. Written five years ago, she says the film was initially inspired by the South Africa landscapes she had seen on a road trip she had taken with her family.
“But the heart of this film is built around the pursuit of happiness. It is a concept my father taught me to value above all else. Ella is a character steeped in misery. She blames those around her for it. But through the course of the film she learns that only she can bring herself happiness, she must choose,” says Mvusi.
Tsholo Mashile, with over fifteen years of television and line production, production management, and plenty of drive, complements Mvusi in this dynamic team. They are also joined by executive producers Carolyn Carew and Kamscilla Naidoo. Bringing the visual element to the tale is director of photography Amelia Henning, known for her work on internationally acclaimed feature films Faan se Trein (2014) and While You Weren’t Looking (2015).
With over thirty years combined experience the Free Women Features team specialize in training, development and mentoring in the film and television industry with this being their first feature film.
FAREWELL ELLA BELLA will premiering at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in competition for the Golden Dhow in the category of LONG FEATURE FILMS. The film is also one of ten films selected for competition in the Durban International Film Festival in July.