FANS of popular radio personalities Sbonelo Mbutho, popularly known as “Sbo Da Poet”, and Linda Sibaya have long awaited confirmation that the duo are starring in a soon-to-be-released film – and the day has come.

At an exclusive preview today, media, government officials and film distributors will get to see Uhlanga: The Mark at a special screening at the CineCentre cinema at Suncoast Casino.

The film, made by popular theatre practitioner and film-maker Ndaba kaNgwane, follows three young rural teenagers through their daily struggles with prejudice, poverty and abuse; and their triumphs as they keep their heads up in the face of death and destruction.

Ngwane said that having been raised in a rural village on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, he grew up witnessing things that happen in these communities and which still happen even today – only on a larger scale, in his opinion. “I’ve seen how people have preconceived ideas of other people in communities, leading to issues of prejudice.

“There is a lot of abuse that still goes on in our communities; and a lot of hopelessness. I call Uhlanga: The Mark a tale of tales as it is one story that is made up of three,” he explained.

The movie looks at the lives of Khaba Mkhize (Sbo Da Poet), whose life is turned upside down at the tender age of nine when he watches helplessly as his father is doused with gasoline and burned to death by angry community members; then there is Mandla Thabethe (Linda Sibiya) , who starts off at the bottom of the food chain as a low-paid sugarcane farmworker who loses his job but rises above this.

The film also features young poet Nokuthula Khumalo in the role of Thuli Mhlongo, a 17-year-old girl who desperately wants to master the game of chess.

She believes this is the only way to restore her dignity. Nomfundo Dubazana portrays Prudence Ngwenya, a naïve but determined young girl who knows that there is more to life than the four walls of her mother’s mud house.

“While watching Sbo Da Poet perform I realised that I didn’t need a big star (for this film).

“Here is someone with the potential. It was the same when I saw Nokuthula reciting one of her poems on stage, a poem touching on similar issues to this film.

“I saw her and I thought, ‘There is my second character’,” said Ngwane of his cast.

He said that he at first did not have a third main character but that that changed when he saw Nomfundo Dubazana on stage: “She was so powerful that I was inspired to write a third character for her and I wrote Prudence Ngwenya for Nomfundo to play. This entire cast is making their acting debut in the film.

The talent was there, it just needed to be honed and their confidence needed to be built up,” he said.

Mbutho is popularly known as “Sbo Da Poet” by fans of his Saturday slot on Ukhozi FM. His work has also been used as the soundtrack of television drama series Zone 14 on SABC 1.

Sibiya is the host of the award-winning Vuka Mzansi breakfast show on Ukhozi FM and the host of the Gospel Classics show on SABC2.

“I’m extremely impressed by the acting and performing talent we have uncovered through this production.

I have no doubt in my mind that South Africa will see and appreciate the authenticity and commitment displayed by the young actors in this film,” said Ngwane.

Ngwane’s literary works include his award-winning Zulu novel Mhlaba Sengiyakwazi, which literally means “I’m Talking From Experience”. Ndaba has staged theatre productions including Rain, after Tears, The Red Red Rose and Ronnie’s Underwear.

His film credits include the short film Sindisiwe, which he wrote, produced and directed in 2007.

He also featured in the drama series When We Were Black, which aired on SABC 1 in 2007 and had a re-run 2010.

Uhlanga: The Mark has been submitted for participation in a host of international film festivals including Toronto, Austin, Zanzibar and Durban.

Ngwane said they have fingers crossed for positive results and that they will probably screen the film publicly after any festival runs.