Akin Omotoso talks Vaya

Actor Spaces | Akin Omotoso talks Vaya | Warren Masemola
BY Mandi ‘Poefficient’ Vundla |

If the Vaya trailor is anything to go by, then the country is in for one massive treat.
In 110minutes the film premiered at the Toronto International Festival and was received
with good spirit. Shot over four weeks in Johannesburg and Soweto, the drama
follows the lives of unrelated small town characters engulfed by the daunting city of gold.
We speak the Nigerian born Film Maker, Akin Omotoso about the journey to making the
movie.

Vaya was well received at the Toronto International Film Fest, how did you ensure
that this story was not lost in translation?

It’s a human story about conditions and situations that people can relate to and it has themes that resonate beyond our borders.

You mention that the inspiration for the movie came from a book which also sparked
the series “A place called Home” What is the title of the book?

Vaya is not based on a book. The film is based on true stories that came from The Homeless Writer’s Project and the story of VAYA is by Madoda Ntuli, Tshabalira Lebakeng, Anthony ‘Zaiboo’ Mafela, David Majoka, Robbie Thorpe, Harriet Perlman and Craig Freimond. The relationship that started this Project came out of having made the TV Series ‘A Place Called Home’ which was based on the book ‘Finding Mr. Mandini: Directed by Jonathan Morgan And The Great African Spider Writers’.

What is the most profound memory you have of directing the film?

The whole process was profound. From the 8 years the writers took developing the story, to the partners coming on to fund the film, the actors and the crew, shooting it last year in November, the editing, premiering at TIFF, the response. The whole process.

Movie making is a long term process, how did you manage to sustain the creative energy
for the past eight years it took to put Vaya together?

We knew it would be a marathon and everyone was on board for that. Everyone understood we would take our time so the energy was focused there.

What is the selection process for TIFF and why do you think Vaya made the cut?

Cameron Bailey, the artistic director of TIFF wrote this about Vaya: “This electrifying drama from Akin Omotoso is a masterful synthesis of big-city anxieties and aspirations. Shifting effortlessly between scenes of intimacy and of bracing violence, Vaya exudes compassion for each of these small-town characters but does not hold back from plunging them into the urban snakepit that awaits. Many filmmakers have utilized the network narrative to relay broad social commentary; Omotoso, bolstered by brilliant performances and Kabelo Thathe’s sizzling camerawork, wisely focuses on tension, character, and milieu, leaving the conclusions up to us.”

You took a risk by using first time actors in the movie, why?

Producers and Co-writers Robbie, Rethabile, Harriet and I never looked at it as taking a risk at all. A lot of the actors come from the theatre so while this might have been their first feature film, it’s not their first time acting. We wanted to have an ensemble and working with Casting Director Moonyeenn Lee we were able to achieve that. We had open calls in Durban, we had lots of rounds of casting in Johannesburg and ultimately found the wonderful cast we have and we couldn’t be happier.
“The imagery is truly the films star” This was said In a TIFF review about the quality
of the cinematography.

How did you decide on the production team?

Similarly to the audition process for cast we cast the net wide for a production team that would be able to translate the script. Kabelo Thathe, I can’t sing his praises enough. This young man has a bright future ahead of him and we were blessed to have him. Amanda Scholtz and her team from the Art Department were amazing, Bra Elliot (as we call him) as the Gaffer, the editor Vuyani Sondlo – it was just an amazing crew.

When does Vaya premier locally?

Vaya will screen at the 1st ever Joburg Film Festival in October. It will be released commercially next year.

And Actor spaces will be there when the movie drops commercially,
in support of the telling of our stories.

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NBA|Zimkhitha Nyoka

Images by: Mlungisi Mlungwana | Creative Director Ayanda Sithebe | Make-up by Phumzile Mhlongo | Editor: Mandisa Vundla   If you could choose a superpower, ...