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INTERVIEW: Hakeem Kae-Kazim on his role in 'Man on Ground'


Hakeem Kae-Kazim is a Nigerian-born actor, who is probably best known for his role as warlord and terrorist, Colonel Ike Dubaku in Season 7 of the TV series, 24 and the spin-off film, Redemption. Hakeem was raised in England and trained at the renowned Bristol Old Vic in the UK, only to be invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company after graduation. Kae-Kazim has shared the stage with the likes of Brian Cox and Sir Ian McKellan at the National Theatre. His transition to British television saw him appearing in several leading roles including: Trial and Retribution, The Bill, Grange Hill, Ellington and the title role of Julius Caesar for the BBC.

Hakeem's international stardom was sparked by his portrayal of George Rutugunda in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda. His performance led to roles in The Front Line, Pirates of the Caribbean III, Lost, The Fourth Kind and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. His role as Ade in Man on Ground sees him reuniting with director, Akin Omotoso, after their collaboration in God is African for this important South African drama based on the xenophobic attacks in 2008.

How did you prepare for your role as Ade?

Akin , Fabian and I started looking into doing this project just over 3 years ago so as we got deeper into the research it gave me a deeper understanding of where I should go with Ade.

What was the most challenging aspect of your performance?

It's always a challenge in making sure you get to the truth of the character and understanding where they are coming from, as human beings, creating the subtlety of the man inside.

What was it like working opposite Fabian Adeoye and Fana Mokoena?

It was a wonderful experience to work opposite two craftsmen and dedicated artists. Fana was also with me in Hotel Rwanda so it was great to get to work very closely with him on this project.

What are your impressions of Akin Omotoso?

Akin and I worked together previously on God Is African so it has been great getting to collaborate again very closely on this project. He is a truly gifted director that understands the language of film so working with him becomes an all encompassing artistic experience, which I thoroughly enjoy as one is pushed to go deeper... beyond language.

Xenophobia is a controversial topic in South Africa... were there any concerns about your involvement with 'Man on Ground'?

No not really.... I had lived in South Africa for 10 years and was lucky not to experience xenophobia in an obvious personal level but knew people that had, so wanted very much to highlight the issue... we came together precisely to address the issue of xenophobia through this project.

The South African and African film industry is maturing... what advice would you offer up-and-coming film-makers and actors?

It is important that we tell our stories in OUR way, but also that we learn the techniques of the industry, so as to enable us to make world class films. I would also call on investment Africa to look at film in Africa as a serious investment not only from a financial perspective, but also in the understanding of the importance of TELLING our stories and our history thus empowering the next generation to know where they have come from... what has been the African contribution. Rejoicing in the celebration on film of our African heroes and heroines, of our myths and legends in that way we will empower a whole generation to celebrate their "Africaness"!

Have you got any film projects in the pipeline at the moment?

I have two films about to come out. One is called Last Flight to Abuja, which is a part of the New Nigeria Cinema. The other is a film called Black November, which also stars Mickey Rourke and Kim Bassinger due out in the Autumn and I am off to Nigeria to do a part in the film Half of a Yellow Sun, which also stars Thandie Newton, Anika None Rose and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

 
INTERVIEW: Akin Omotoso on his film 'Man on Ground'


Akin Omotoso is a Nigerian-born actor, writer and director. While probably best known for his role as Khaya Motene in the SABC 1 soapie, Generations, Omotoso's passion has always been writing and directing. So much so that Omotoso used money from his acting to fund his first short films: The Kiss of Milk, The Nightwalkers and The Caretaker.

Akin's first feature film, God is African, prompted him to direct the short films Rifle Road, Gathering the Scattered Cousins and the documentary, Wole Soyinka: Child of the Forest. His second feature film, Man on Ground, is an important drama based on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008.

Man on Ground is based on true events... could you elaborate?

Man on Ground is based on the xenophobic riots that broke out in South Africa in May 2008. Ernesto Nhamuave was burnt alive and that image came to signify the horror of the riots. His picture inspired us to make the film. There had been tensions before but this was the first time there was a concentrated violent attack. The riots were condemned and there was a lot of outpouring of support for the displaced victims. There have been lots of artistic responses to the violence and our film is a continuation of that dialogue between artist and society.

Xenophobia is a central theme in Man on Ground - how did you research the topic?

We commissioned research into the attacks and a few months later we got a stack of papers, books, interviews, comments, analysis on the riots. Those documents were the foundation of the film script. It was important to get all sides of the story and the research was crucial. It gave us insight into what was happening on the ground, it provided us with our tagline "tell them we are from here". One of the victims was asked what he would tell his attackers if he could talk to them and he say,"tell them we are from here". Here, being planet earth.

Tell us about the culmination of the script... how long did it take you to write?

The script took three years to write. We went through the research, investigating different narrative options till we settled on the version that became the shooting script. One thing that was always clear was the idea of quest and thriller. Someone would be missing and the film would be a journey to discover what happened.

What was it like directing Hakeem Kae-Kazim?

Hakeem is an absolute pleasure to direct. We worked together on my first feature film God is African ten years ago so it was good to reunite for my second film. He is a great actor. Hakeem and Fabian Adeoye Lojede, he plays Femi in Man on Ground, collaborated heavily on the script of Man on Ground and they are producers so the relationship goes beyond director/actor... it's collaborative. And just to add on the cast was wonderful and their work was recognized at the Monaco International Charity Film Fest where the cast won Best Ensemble.

What were some of the toughest challenges you encountered during filming?

We made a choice to go with crowd funding for the film. This meant writing to friends and friends of friends for the funding. We did it this way to reflect the ethos of the film, which is ultimately people working together, so the funding of the film was in line with the themes of the film. However, one of our funders didn't respond with the amount that was promised which left us in a hole and meant that we would have to stop the shoot.

Those few days were tough, as we had started shooting and the idea of shutting down was heartbreaking. We kept going on blind faith, don't try this at home folks!, but fortunately for us an angle in the form of ChrisDon Productions came to our rescue and we were able to complete the shoot. That was the toughest time.

What would you like audiences to take away from Man on Ground?

I hope they enjoy the cinematic experience of the film. We wanted to make a visceral film and I think, judging from the responses thus far please God, we succeeded.

You've done your fair share of acting, writing and directing... where do you feel most comfortable?

Love them all but if I had to choose: directing. Love the idea of a team coming together and making a project.

What are your thoughts on the emergence of Jollywood?

I think it's great. There are tons of stories to tell and the more structures created to tell the stories, the better.

Do you have any film projects currently in development?

I'm busy working on my next script at the moment. Watch this space!

Man on Ground is a bold and exacting portrayal of rising xenophobia in South Africa. Omotoso casts the story of Femi, a young Nigerian man played by Fabian Adeoye Lojede living in the African refugee tenements of Johannesburg who disappears against the backdrop of animosity against immigrants flaring into violent rioting. In the pan of a single night, his brother (Ade) played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim, on a short visit from London, tries to elucidate the mystery.

 
INTERVIEW: Gray Hofmeyr on Leon Schuster's 'Mad Buddies'


As a writer, director and producer of feature films and television dramas, Gray Hofmeyr is generally regarded as being among the top in his profession in South Africa. He began directing television drama in 1975 after training in the United Kingdom and working for the BBC as a floor manager.

Gray Hofmeyr directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Mad Buddies.

Hofmeyr began script writing in 1985 and has received seven best television drama script awards. He has directed nine feature films, seven of which he co-wrote, and has directed numerous television commercials. His latest Leon Schuster comedy collaboration is Mad Buddies (review).

 
INTERVIEW: Shia LaBeouf on Transformers: Dark of the Moon

 

Transformers star Shia LaBeouf (pictured right) has revealed that the third instalment of the hugely popular franchise will be the most spectacular yet.

Directed by Michael Bay, Dark of the Moon will complete the trilogy with some ‘insane action,’ all in state of the art 3D, says the star, who returns to play Sam Witwicky and is joined by newcomer, Victoria’s Secrets model Rosie Huntington-Whitely and a stellar cast.

“The last 30 minutes of the movie is the craziest action sequence he has ever filmed in all of Michael Bay’s entire career and he would attest to that. It’s unbelievable,” says LaBeouf.

“Think about it, if you are going to make a Transformers trilogy you know that the last 30 minutes of that trilogy you have to deliver the most insane action sequence that anybody has ever seen. It has to be that way and it is that way. It really is outrageous and incredible.”

Bay has pushed the 3D technology developed for James Cameron’s film Avatar even further, he says. “A film like this defines what summer fun is, it does what a summer blockbuster is meant to do which is essentially provide a fun movie experience.

“The third film is darker and it has the action that you have in the first two films but this time it’s even better. We basically took the cameras that were used in the Avatar 3D room and put them on the head of a skydiver so the cinematography is outrageous and Michael is pushing the limits in that way. “

Huntington-Whitely makes her acting debut in Dark of the Moon, playing Sam’s new girlfriend, Carly, and her leading man paid tribute to her total commitment to the cause and says that the beautiful supermodel definitely has a future as an actress.

“It was a baptism of fire for Rosie,” he says. “But Rosie is incredible. For a start, she’s a great person to be around and has fantastic energy, which is always nice because if you are going to spend six, seven months with someone it’s great if it’s someone you enjoy spending time with.

Rosie is very diplomatic and sociable, she’s cool and she knows how to deal with life and she is very comfortable and she knows how to deal with Mike. She owns her sexuality, which is very important for a woman in Mike’s movies, she’s very comfortable with it, which is the A plus in terms of her being a Victoria’s Secret model.

“She doesn’t have any shame in being able to help the director explore her body in cinema - she doesn’t mind it because she comes from that world of modelling.”

 


Rosie Huntington-Whiteley plays Carly in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

 

LaBeouf says that the Transformers team went into the third movie well prepared and were all determined to make Dark of the Moon the best Transformers experience yet.

“The difference here was that we had more direction with our game plan when we took our first steps,” he explains. “We had a really solid script so there was no second guessing, which we had to do a little on the second film where we were sort of making it on the fly.

“On this one we had a firmer foundation at the outset and as crazy as the Transformer movies get - and we do have injuries here and there and some really tough ones to deal with - I think in the end the movie is the best movie we have made and also was the greatest journey in terms of my enjoyment of it actually on the set.

“I had more fun on this movie just in general, just being around. I think Michael has also calmed down. My relationship with him has really changed and we have such a strong friendship now and it’s nice to have that with your director. So it was a very positive experience for me.”

LaBeouf also gave a taste of what the fans can expect in terms of storyline. “Sam has found a woman, Carly, who nurtures him and wants to build him up. And that’s where they are when you meet them. And the whole thing kicks off when the Decepticons start looking for this secret artefact that the Autobots have.”

Transformers: Dark of the Moon will have strong characters – Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich and Frances McDormand joined the cast – a gripping story and those highly anticipated, hi-octane action sequences that Bay is famous for.

“It’s the best movie we’ve made so far out of the three,” says LaBeouf.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens nationally on 29 June, 2011.

Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood | 2011 PARAMOUNT PICTURES. All Rights Reserved. HASBRO, TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro. ©2011 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved

 
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