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  • Berlinale Q&A: Ntshavheni Wa Luruli


Berlinale Q&A: Ntshavheni Wa Luruli

Exberliner asks a few questions of the director of Elelwani.

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Luruli’s 2004 Crystal Bear winner “The Wooden Camera” was seen as heralding a post-Apartheid renaissance in South African filmmaking. He came back a year later as a juror. His newest feature, “Elelwani”, revisits the theme of innocence, not from the perspective of loss but gain as his titular character returns to her Venda tribe homeland, undergoing a transformative process that leads to an embrace of traditionalist values.

Your Berlinale film is…

A small film with a big ass!

What was your original trigger, the idea or encounter that sparked the desire to make your film?

The film is based on the first Venda novel (by Titus Maumela). It’s the first Venda feature film, the first in the Venda language, from the first Venda novel.

An alternative title for your film?

The Promise.

Your favourite scene in the film?

I like the scene in which Elelwani is being dressed by her mother, preparing her for the wedding. The scene summarises Elelwani’s internal journey of change and transformation.

Why do you make films?

I just love to tell stories through the magic of light and shadows projected on a large screen.

If you didn’t, what would you do?

I’m actually a boring person. Filmmaking is my refuge.

Define a good film.

A good film stands the test of time.

What’s the worst insult you’ve ever received?

A journalist from a major local newspaper suggested that the reason why Elewani was chosen to open the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa was simply because I was black. It is hard to describe how I felt, and still feel. Sadly, certain things are still very difficult to change in my country.

Digital vs. celluloid?

Elelwani is my first feature film on digital. I filmed in the same way I would with celluloid.

Most irritating trend in current cinema?

I watch old movies. I think it is a generational thing. The art of telling a story has been sacrificed for spectacle and gimmicks.


I love Berlin. I now regard it as my second home. Berlin is civilised, and true. I know I will come back home pretty inspired.