Award-winning director, Khalo Matabane (State of Violence, Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon and Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me), has begun shooting his latest feature, 28’s, a gritty exposé of life inside prison.
The film, inspired by Jonny Steinberg’s award-winning non-fiction novel, The Number, its big screen adaptation by Paul Ian Johnson reveals the origins of the fearsome numbers gangs that operate in prisons throughout South Africa.
Harking back to a sketchy 200-year-old tale, it’s said that the 27s and 28s originate from group of highwaymen. These robbers, under the guidance of an elder, escaped the misery of the mines and white oppression to roam the Zululand hills plundering colonial outposts and relieving travellers of their goods.
Fast forward two centuries and we encounter Magadien, hardened repeat-offender whose life is his loyalty to his brothers in the 28’s. But something stirs his rebellion, a life-threatening move as there’s no way out, of prison or from the sworn bloody oaths of his brotherhood. This is a hard-hitting tale of the reality of South African prisons and near-impossible redemption.
Casting director, Moonyeenn Lee and Matabane have assembled a strong cast which include Mothusi Magano (Of Good Report, Hotel Rwanda, Tsotsi) who leads as the conflicted Magadien, and is supported by Warren Masemola (Eye in the Sky, Machine Gun Preacher), and Sibusiso Msimang (Vaya); Presley Chwenegyagae (Tsotsi); Lemogang Tsipa (Eye in the Sky, Black Sails and Wallender); Kevin Smith (Isidingo, The Gospel According to St Matthew) and Deon Lotz (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Shepherds and Butchers, Skoonheid). Renowned South African story-teller Gcina Mhlophe plays Magadien’s mother.
The production team is headed by award-winning producers Carolyn Carew and Tsholo Mashile (90 Plein Street and When We Were Black). Carolyn Carew says that the process of making this film has been long time in the making with Khalo spending the last few years with the real Magadien Wentzel in Cape Town and afterwards with ex-prisoners in KwaZulu-Natal to fully grasp the language and culture of the gangs.
Creative talents include cinematographer Dewald Aukema (Skin, Angus Gibson & Jo Menell’s Mandela); editor Megan Gill (Tsotsi, Miners Shot Down and Shepherds and Butchers); production designer Willie Botha (Kite; art director: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom; special effects: Black Dahlia, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency).
Durban-based Anant Singh’s Videovision Entertainment are co-producers, and will also distribute the film. Anant Singh said: “I have been an admirer of Khalo’s work for a long time and we are delighted to have the opportunity to work with him. With his talent and creative vision for the project, he will certainly craft an amazing film.”
The production also marks the first co-production between South Africa and Reunion Island’s Tiktak Productions. It received funding support from the KZN Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation and the Department of Trade and Industry.