KZN filmmaker, Liana Hassim, wins her third Simon Sabela Award for ‘Amandiya’


Liana Hassim with her Simon Sabela Award for best student film.

PIETERMARITZBURG filmmaker, Liana Hassim, is lighting up the South African movie industry with her third Simon Sabela award, writes ESTELLE SINKINS.

Amandiya was up against three other movies made by AFDA alumni for best student film prize at the 5th edition of the Simon “Mabhunu” Sabela Film and Television Awards, held on Saturday, July 15 at the Playhouse in Durban.

Hassim, who wrote and directed the film, first showed it to audiences at AFDA Durban’s graduation festival at Ster-Kinekor’s Cinema Nouveau complex in Umhlanga last year.

Amandiya tells the story of two South African teenagers, divided by culture and class, whose budding relationship is torn apart by violence.

The film includes a beautiful Kathak dance sequence by lead actress, Mishka Gounden, which heightens the darkness of the later violence.

“It’s one of my favourite scenes in the film. When we made it we used a professional dancer as well. She was a stand in for Mishka for some of close-ups of the hands and feet,” Hassim said.

Amandiya was made using a female-only crew made up of Londi Myende (co-producer), Lareina Annamallay, Temara Prem (director of photography), camerawoman, Nana Ongeziwe Nelani, and camera assistant, Diana Dahllund.

“Making the film was incredible,” Hassim said, “because there were moments that we didn’t really have any help during the test shoot.

“I remember that one night we were filming in an area that was very difficult to get to and we had to carry everything we needed including the lights and cameras. It was so empowering for us…”

Hassim never expected to win the Simon Sabela, however, and had been happy just to be nominated alongside 2016 third year experimental films, Stray and Affirmation in Smoke and the third year graduate film Renaissance. The latter had been named the critic’s choice and audience award winners at the graduation festival.

AmandiyaPoster (1)

“I wasn’t totally happy with the film after I made it,” she said, “but then some friends of mine from the Unied States,  Lita Albuquerque and her son Christopher Peck (Gregory Peck’s grandson), came to visit. When they watched the film, they cried. That’s when I realised that there was definitely something there that touched people.

“Lita is a Malibu-based artist and is like my creative mother. She and Christopher have both been so encouraging and have been pushing me to get my stuff out there again. I’m so glad they watched the film.

“And I am so grateful for this award and to every hand that touched this film.I pray that this may be the seed from which the most beautiful tree grows.”

Amandiya is the third of Hassim’s films to win a Simon Sabela. The horror, The Halfway House was the best student film in 2015, while the dark romantic comedy, David’s Winter took home the prize in 2016.

Now living in Durban, the young writer-director has been making friends and family appear in her movies since she was a child.

“When I was at C21 private school in Pietermaritzburg, there was no arts, no music, no drama,” she says. “I was desperate to do anything artistic, movies, music, everything, so I just dragged the other pupils and my family into things.

“I was about seven when I wrote my first film and I got my parents, brothers and even the animals involved. They were all really supportive.”

Since leaving AFDA, Hassim has been working as an assistant director and production assistant on a number of film projects, but she’s hoping to be able to get behind the camera soon.

“A lot of people have been encouraging me to write a new film and I think I am finally in that space. I’m thinking about doing a horror, or maybe a thriller,” she says.

“I read that book, The Girl on The Train [by Paula Hawkins], and found reading a thriller very therapeutic. Reading it allowed me to get my power back at a time when I was in a difficult relationship. I recognised so much of my own story in my life.

“I think I would like to create a similar film but one which translates into a South African context, especially with everything that’s been going on in this country with attacks on women and the whole #menaretrash movement.”


The Simon “Mabhunu” Sabela Film and Television Awards are named after Simon Mabhunu Sabela, a legend in both the small and big screens.

The annual ceremony, which celebrates and honours outstanding work in the film and television industry, was hosted by singer/actress Nandi Madida.

The list of winners is set out below:

  • Best director – Kundai Vera (Stranger Danger);
  • Lux best actress (TV) – Nomzamo Mbatha;
  • Best actor (TV) – Siyabonga Thwala;
  • Best supporting actress (TV) – Gcina Mkhize;
  • Best supporting actor (TV) – Andile Mxakaza;
  • Lux best newcomer actress (TV) – Linda Mtoba;
  • Best student film – Amandiya;
  • Best documentary feature – The Scar of Seven Day War;
  • Best documentary short – Durban Beach Rescue;
  • Best IsiZulu film – Buchitheke Bugayiwe;
  • Best screenplay – Umfelokazi;
  • Best feature film – Happiness is a Four-Letter Word;
  • Best wardrobe design in a feature film – Happiness is a Four-Letter Word;
  • Lux best newcomer actress (film) – Ayanda Mngoma;
  • Best microbudget film – Ikhaya Lami;
  • Special Awards – Junaid Ahmed and Lwazi Manzi;
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Dr Mikhail Peppas.

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