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SA film Asinamali to go on circuit next month to qualify for an Oscar

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The play made international headlines since its production in the early 80s. It is only fitting that its immortalisation takes place on the small screen

Mbongeni Ngemas film Asinamali. File imge

Mbongeni Ngema’s feature film Asinamali will be released in March next year.

Asinamali will go on limited release on September 15, along with other local titles, in order to qualify for selection as South Africa’s official Oscar submission.

South African writer, lyricist, composer, director and theatre producer Mbongeni Ngema’s film, Asinamali, was featured as the recent 38th annual Durban International Film Festival.

“We are honoured to have the veteran creative’s film close the festival this year. The play made international headlines since its production in the early 80s. It is only fitting that its immortalisation on the small screen takes place at this festival,” said Chippo Zhou, festival manager.

Asinamali is an adaptation of Ngema’s Broadway production written in 1983 and performed worldwide. It follows the story of inmates in a prison environment ruled by cruelty and fear. The prisoners are galvanised into action with the arrival of Comrade Washington, a former soldier, who inspires them to find liberation through music, dance and storytelling, culminating in a performance for the prison authorities.

The inmates tell the stories behind their incarceration. Many were comrades of Robben Island inmate Msizi Dube, who led them to demonstrate against proposed Lamontville Township rent increases, crying “asinamali”, which means “We have no money”.

Dube left Robben Island with an order from Nelson Mandela to advance the struggle on behalf of his comrades who remain behind so that they could one day join him in a free South Africa.

The film has been hailed as attesting to Ngema’s creative genius and will leave audiences thrilled by the powerful narrative, passionate performance and searing harmonies.

Asinamali is produced by Ngema and Darrell Roodt who collaborated on Sarafina.