Nomalanga Shabane plays Nobuhle Mthembu in the short film, The Letter Reader, which is currently available on DIFF’s virtual platform.
Nomalanga Shabane plays Nobuhle Mthembu in the short film, The Letter Reader, which is currently available on DIFF’s virtual platform.

Nomalanga Shabane on valuable lessons in DIFF’s short film, 'The Letter Reader'

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Sep 16, 2020

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Sibusiso Khuzwayo’s award-winning short film, “The Letter Reader”, is among the offerings at the 41st Durban International Festival, which runs until September 20.

Several months ago, “The Letter Reader” also walked away with a Golden Horn accolade for Best Short Film at the South African Film and Television Awards.

The short film tells the story of Siyabonga, a 12-year-old boy who moves from Johannesburg to a village in Kwazulu-Natal.

With his parents working through their marital issues, it was deemed best for him to to live with his grandmother.

Culturally, this is a huge adjustment for him until he discovers the power of words while reading letters that put a smile on the faces of the villagers.

Actress Nomalanga Shabane shed light on her role as Nobuhle Mthembu in Khuzwayo’s critically-acclaimed offering.

She shared: “I was drawn to it, kept having moments in my head before I even knew what the writer had in mind for the final product and it forces the reader to imagine the setting, landscapes, etc., and make their own conclusions because there’s not much dialogue. I loved the script at first sight.”

Of her character, Shabane revealed: “Aahh, Nobuhle, a lady in the making. Everything she says and does show her soft side, which is the only side we see from start to finish.

She doesn’t have so much dialogue but we see love, patience, care, etc., through her eyes and expressions. There’s a lot more to say about Nobuhle this is just part of her.”

She was full of praise for the director.

“I think Sibusiso did an amazing job for a first-time director, which I find so hard to believe.

“For one to take the directions well and deliver them how the director wants them the director needs to be clear about what he wants and that’s exactly what Sibusiso did with everyone on set.

“Amazing right? He was patient with us, big ups to him. I wish him everything of the best on his journey he started on a high note. Thank you Sibusiso,” she added.

Andile Gumbi was cast as Menzi in the offering.

Sadly, the actor, known for his roles in “The Lion King” and “Isibaya”, passed away from a cardiac arrest while in Israel in October 2019.

On getting to share the screen with him, the actress recalled: “I’ve worked with him before but I loved working with him on this piece in particular because we worked closely.

“I got to learn a lot from him as a thespian, a very talented one at that, and him as a person. I really enjoyed working alongside Andile Gumbi. May his soul RIP.”

As for what viewers will take away from this offering, she offered: “The importance of patience and being kind not only to the people in and around your circle, but yourself as well.

“Believing in a purpose, that what’s meant to be will be no matter the circumstances because the universe is always listening and it responds accordingly.”

The relatable humour will also strike a chord with viewers.

At the moment, the actress is priorising her safety ahead of accepting work.

She said: “I did not do and I’m currently not doing any shoots in the Covid-19 period. But I’m sure it’s quite a challenge for those who are and they should stay safe.”

Virtually, a combination of 60 feature films, documentaries and shorts, are presented for free.

On the website, audiences can rent films and will have two days to watch them. Screenings are limited, so films may sell out during the festival.

Various Q&A's are hosted on the festival's social media channels throughout the festival.

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