Ernest Nkosi on why funding his film was “impossible” – and how he did it anyway

Thina Sobalili: The Two of Us is the latest local movie to hit the film-festival circuit – and it’s already been raking in the awards. Filmmaker Ernest Nkosi chatted to BONGIWE TUTU about raising the funds to follow his dreams. 

Thina Sobabili explores the strained relationship between siblings Thulas and Zanele. After witnessing the abuse of his sister, Thulas is bent on protecting Zanele at any cost. When Zanele enters into a relationship with an older man, his protective instincts are provoked – with far-reaching consequences.

THINA SOBABILI (The Two Of Us) from Ernest Nkosi on Vimeo.

Nkosi said he drew his inspiration for making the film from where he grew up: Katlego in the East Rand. “I believe in the people in my community, because in their everyday challenges they overcome and keep pushing for something better,” he told The Daily Vox.

Although Thina Sobabili is set in Alexandra, Nkosi said people there face similar challenges to those in Katlego and also maintain a strong sense of community in the face of hardship. “That is why I felt Alex would be the perfect place for the film,” he said.

Nkosi said the biggest obstacle to newcomers in filmmaking is access to funding. “Funding your dream is almost impossible – especially if you’re regarded as a nobody. As a producer, you have to have the money yourself, but as a beginner, I had nothing,” he said.

“The South African film and television industry needs to explore undiscovered talent – just because we’re little it doesn’t mean we’re nothing.”

Nkosi said he had appealed to the National Film and Video Foundation, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Gauteng Film Commission for funding but that none of these bodies had invested in his project.

Instead, he and his production team had to hustle in order to raise funds for the film. They turned their hands to coordinating comedy shows at Jo’burg varsities and clubs, and also sold T-shirts with the message: “Dreams Come True”.

It took four years, but they eventually made about R400,000 – enough to fund a shoestring, seven-day shoot.

“Today I appreciate the struggle; we were lucky,” he said. “This is no victory for us alone, but the community of South Africa as a whole.”

Thina Sobalili has since gone on to take the Audience Choice Award at Danny Glover’s Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and at the Jozi Film Festival in February. The film is set to show at the Durban Film Festival in June, but is not yet slated for local commercial distribution.

– Featured image. Crop of the Thina Sobili post, via the film’s Facebook page.