Raoul Dyssell and his co-writer Allan Choi. Picture: Supplied
Cape Town - A local screenplay about a post-apocalyptic South Africa has made it to the semi-finals of the 2017 international Slamdance Competition.

Raoul Dyssell’s PreZident is an action-horror about a world that has been overrun by a zombie-like epidemic. Miraculously, South Africa survives. The president, Andile, finds out that he was unknowingly cured of the virus by a clandestine treatment. This leads him to make moral decisions that are met with derision from his own staff, and he ends up conspiring with an underground rebel faction to bring the treatment to the people.

In an interview with the Weekend Argus, Dyssell said the inspiration behind his Cape Town-based screenplay was former US senator, Bernie Sanders: “He is known for his filibusters on the senate floor in Washington and one day I had this vision imagining Bernie as president in a post-pandemic world, demanding to congress that the zombie vaccination be made universally available to the people."

Growing up on a steady diet of horror films, such as Jaws, and the literature of writers including Franz Kafka, Dyssell was drawn into a fantastic, macabre world at a young age.

“I always wanted to tell stories. When I was four or five, I used to draw these pseudo-comics with characters, inspired by whatever I was watching at the time. That eventually morphed into creative writing, which turned into screen-writing in my early teens. You never really decide that you want to be a filmmaker. It just happens when you decide you want to tell stories and movies are simply the best medium with which to tell them,” he said.

PreZident is co-written by Allan Choi, Dyssell’s long-time collaborator and friend. They began working together in 2011, when Choi was cast in Dyssell’s first film, Amiss.

“I had an idea for a film, loosely based on my encounter with Raoul, and that became the first script we wrote together. We got along very well, and we complement each other. Raoul has wild and crazy ideas, and I’m grounded. Plus, we come from different backgrounds, so we strike the right balance when crafting a story and creating diverse characters,” Choi said.

Choi is also a part of Roll the Dice Pictures, Dyssell’s company, that focuses on producing genre films, commercials and music videos.

The top 12 finalists will be announced on the Slamdance website tomorrow. The winners will be announced on October 13 at the awards ceremony hosted by the Writers Guild of America, in Los Angeles.

Dyssell and Choi are thrilled to have made it this far, after several rejections.

“I really didn’t expect it. We got sent our script evaluation in June and it was really good, but I took it with a grain of salt, as it lessens the blow of disappointment.

"When we made the quarter-finals, I was very surprised, and when we made the top 32 semi-finalists, I was over the moon,” Dyssell said.

Weekend Argus