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DIFF’s opening film ‘1960’ was a passion project for Bruce Retief

A scene from “1960”. Picture: Supplied

A scene from “1960”. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 1, 2022

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The 43rd Durban International Film Festival’s (DIFF) opening film “1960“ is a story that is filled with passion for life, family and freedom.

The period feature film is written and produced by Bruce Retief, who is first and foremost a musician before a film-maker. His love for 60s style music is what led him to create this masterpiece, which is set to debut on July 21 at a live screening at Suncoast Cine Centre.

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It tells the story of a retired singer, Lindi, whose past is bought back to life after the remains of an apartheid-era policeman, Constable Kobus Bernard, are discovered 60 years after he went missing.

She is determined to help with the investigation, telling Detective Warrant Officer Kuda Maseko the circumstances surrounding his disappearance in 1960. But how much does she know and what is she holding back?

The story switches from past to present as it unfolds.

A scene from “1960”. Picture: Supplied

“I loved 60s style music, especially the African jazz greats like Miriam Makeba. I am also passionate about artists and musicians achieving their dreams despite the odds, so when I decided to venture into writing and producing a movie, it was a no-brainer to set the story in this period and with this subject matter,” said Retief.

Working with industry newcomers spurred him on.

“Some don’t know their talents and abilities, and then seeing them blossom and flourish, and blow audiences away, is what inspired me to write this story,” he said.

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While creating this period piece, Retief had his fair share of challenges, but always kept the end goal in sight. His main objective was to keep the film setting 100 percent authentic.

“The wrong light switch on the wall or the wrong taps at the kitchen sink can immediately distract the viewer and destroy the illusion. Every detail needs to be accurate, from costumes to dialogue. Characters need to speak in a way which would fit into the period,” he said.

“1960“ is directed by both King Shaft, who work is noted on shows like ”Uzalo“, ”Isibaya“ and ”Skeem Saam“ among others, and Michael Mutombo whose work includes, ”Harry’s Game”, “Skroef ‘n Sexy”and “District 9”.

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“King has a great, gentle way of working on set. He also has an original eye for storytelling and his ideas are often unexpected and original. Michael’s vast wealth of experience in shooting all over the world has helped him to manage being a DP and director with ease.

“And he too has an eye for detail and a vast arsenal of good ideas and beautiful shots,” said Retief.

Zandile Madliwa of “The Kissing Booth” fame plays the young lead Lindi with Ivy Nkutha, known for her roles in “The Estate”, “The Queen” and “Muvhango”, playing the older Lindi.

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Other stars include Sisa Hewana as Detective Maseko, Anele Matoti as Thomas and Clyde Berning as Constable Kobus Bernard.

“There is such a vast ocean of talented actors in SA, so there was no shortage of options. It came down to a few things: our main cast needed to be in Cape Town, some cast needed to be musical and skilled at performing live and then, we needed the right look and attitude for the various characters. A command of the Xhosa language was essential to the story,” he said.

The film was shot at the Cape Town Film Studio with the 2019 sequence shot in Johannesburg’s Ekudni Film Studios, while other pick-up scenes were shot in Hermanus.

“We were fortunate to have access to the set that was previously used for the ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, and it fitted perfectly with our period. We shot the 2019 sequences in an amazing hidden gem on the West Rand.

“The buildings and surroundings were perfect for our lead’s home and fitted stylistically with the story,“ said Retief.

He said aside from the storyline, music tied the entire film together.

“The music is what links the entire story together. All the music in the film is drawn from the African jazz genre, which made the likes of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela local and international household names.

“The music was heavily influenced by American jazz as well as African beats and genres. Since the movie takes place in 1960, we chose songs that had been hits in the 50s, and we also composed some of our own songs to fit that genre,” he said.

For the score, Retief said he used a full orchestral recording, recorded in Budapest, Hungary.

“I added some African vocals to place it firmly on this continent, giving it the heart that it has. The result is a rich mix of traditional, jazzy, and cinematic music to drive the story forward,” he added.

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