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“I remember a time when we were told we probably won’t last even a week in cinemas and probably won’t even make 200k because we are independent and weren’t funded by anybody.”

This was a reflection of actor and film producer Kagiso Modupe on the success of his debut film Losing Lerato, saying that despite initial doubts about the film, he believed it could succeed.

Losing Lerato made waves in its first weekend at the box office on September 13 and has since grossed R4.1 million in five weeks.

It overtook international films such as Fast and the Furious and J.Lo’s Hustlers in earnings in some cinemas and continued its steady rise to the top - a first for a local independent film in South Africa.

“I am so proud of what we have achieved because we didn’t open in 65 cinemas like most films. We were limited to only 39 cinemas because we were independent and were not seen as credible producers. From screening in limited cinemas we were able to achieve all this.

“Imagine if we had opened on all 65 cinemas? We would be sitting on R8m now.

“I am really excited because we really fought against all the odds and obstacles and the results are showing,” he said.

The film follows a father’s desperate journey to forge a relationship with his daughter after breaking up with her mother. The story was inspired by the real-life story of Modupe’s dad and his non-existent relationship with his absent father, which left him scarred.

“My father only found his father when he was 65 years old, after my grandfather had passed on. The most painful and toughest moment for me was watching my father being taken to my grandfather’s tombstone for the first time and weeping like a child.

“You could tell he wasn’t weeping because he finally found his father but because his dad knew where he was but didn’t fight for him. My father died when he was 70 years old, a few years after the discovery,” he said.

Modupe says the phenomenon of absent fathers has a ripple and painful effect on children and it was important for him to cast the spotlight on this touchy subject.

He is keeping it in the family and stars alongside his daughter - Tshimollo - who makes her debut appearance on the big screen.

He believes their strong bond made the entire film believable. Other well-known industry names such as Thato Molamu, Connie Chiume, Fezile Makhanya and Nolo Phiri also feature in this poignant film.

Modupe’s transition to add the producer feather in his hat comes after 16 years of acting and was necessitated by his desire to be “the change he wants to see” in the industry.

He said these included paying artists what was due to them and treating artists and crew justly on sets. This change also informed his decision to bow out of eTV’s Scandal after 13 years on the soapie.

Sunday Independent